Just as in the culinary industry, the world of cocktails is constantly evolving in response to new techniques, ingredients, and consumer tastes. The following are some of the most prominent trends we should expect to see in 2016, as predicted by the industry’s leading bartenders and brand ambassadors.
Tapastails offer a new way to imbibe.
In recent years, flights have become a popular way for guests to sample multiple varieties of one spirit, such as whiskey or rum, or several different kinds of beer. London Cocktail Club founder JJ Goodman predicts that this trend will evolve into a widespread affinity for tapastails: smaller cocktails at lower prices. Tapastails will take beverage tasting beyond the somewhat rigid “flight” format, allowing guests to sample a wider selection of spirits and flavors during one outing. Tapastails are typically served in 75 mL glasses and are becoming especially popular in the Asian bar scene.
Scotch will lead the whiskey sector.
Bourbon recently experienced a huge surge in popularity, generating new whiskey enthusiasts and a slew of creative new cocktails. Cocktail consumers are now more accustomed to drinks that prominently feature one spirit, with other ingredients playing a supporting role. As the bourbon trend slows, experts such as Andrew Milne of the Whisky Exchange expect much of this enthusiasm to transfer to Scotch. We should see an influx of Scotch cocktails, including both updates on old classics and innovative new drinks.
Amaro takes the stage.
Italian for “bitter,” Amaro is a class of Italian herbal liqueurs commonly enjoyed before and after meals as an aperitivo or digestivo. Cocktails featuring aromatic bitters or vermouth have become more common, and this trend has inspired a growing demand for Amaro. One sign of this emerging trend was clear at Tales of the Cocktail 2015, where Amaro di Angostura took home the prize for best new product of the year. While Amaro di Angostura follows the customary flavor profile of Angostura bitters, Amaro is an extremely versatile ingredient, offering a wide range of flavors that make for more complex, aromatic cocktails.
Gin will maintain its popularity.
Gin experienced what many have called a “renaissance” in 2015. This is especially true in the United Kingdom, where the spirit has defied its reputation as a drink for older, suburban crowds and surpassed £1 billion in sales. Gin’s time in the public eye has created a more informed consumer base, and bar patrons will benefit from their gin knowledge as the spirit’s popularity inspires new distilleries and fresh offerings from existing brands. Experts expect bars to offer more craft varieties, and this trend is also likely to drive the development of new, premium tonic waters.
Mixologists will harness Latin flavors.
Mexico is home to several unique spirits, but for several decades, tequila was the only variety of Mexican liquor commonly served beyond the country’s borders. In recent years, bartenders and guests alike have come to discover mescal, a smoky Oaxacan spirit distilled from the maguey agave plant. Now, lesser known Mexican spirits such as bacanora and sotol are also on the rise.
Classic cocktails continue to delight.
Bartenders around the world have recently found themselves serving more traditional cocktails, such as the martini, Old Fashioned, and Manhattan. They expect this trend to grow in 2016, when it could even expand to include the sweeter, more colorful cocktails of the disco era. It’s expected that 1970s staples like the Grasshopper and Harvey Wallbanger will benefit from updated recipes and a focus on fresh ingredients. We’ll also notice more variations on these classics; for example, the Moscow Mule has been repurposed into the tequila-based Mexican Mule.
Savory drinks are on the rise.
If sweet or fruity drinks aren’t your style, 2016 may be your year. As bartenders take a more culinary approach to mixology, often searching their restaurants’ pantries for inspiration, they’re expected to experiment with more savory ingredients that combine for a “umami” flavor profile. Mushrooms, spinach, seaweed, celery, and even beer will make more prominent appearances in your cocktails and will open the door to a whole new world of cocktail-food pairing possibilities.
Frozen cocktails aren’t just a gimmick anymore.
No longer associated solely with tropical getaways or trips to New Orleans, frozen daiquiris and piña coladas will become more common fare at bars around the world. Tales of the Cocktail’s Anne Tuennerman has noticed an influx of bars offering craft frozen daiquiris, but has also discovered New Orleans bars innovating the frozen gin and tonic, while others have encountered frozen mules.
In 2016, bartenders will likely sharpen their focus on crafting cocktails with refined flavor profiles, without the need for unusual presentations. Rather than use crazy garnishes, flashy serviceware, or elaborate flair bartending, mixologists will strive to deliver excellent flavor and consistency. This falls in line with what consumers are looking for when they head to the bar, as an industry survey found that 87 percent of guests find it important for cocktails to be served consistently. In this vein, mixologists will also strive to craft more accessible drinks with high quality, easy-to-understand ingredients.
Cocktail culture heads home.
As cocktail culture continues to grow, more people will attempt to make their favorite cocktails at home and experiment with more ambitious recipes. We should expect to see home bartenders investing in high quality spirits and bartending tools. Going forward, cocktail books will likely offer a wider breadth of information on advanced bartending techniques and the science of mixology, fueling a more widespread interest in the craft.