Cocktail culture is increasing rapidly across the globe. Virtually 9 out of 10 millennial drinkers (88%) enjoy cocktails when they socialise. Asia, America, Australia, Europe are all featuring on World’s 50 Best Bar list, the cocktail revolution is gaining momentum. Bar staff is far more evolved and are continuously striving to bring in new ideas, techniques and cultural influences, with the result, new concepts are inspiring people to drink better around the world.
It is important to understand, trends don’t always have to be new, they can just be an adaptation of concepts and ideas that work. The base sprits can remain the same, with innovative techniques and classic recipes which can be tweaked to create newer palatable versions. These are times of communication, education, expert subject knowledge and ability to formulate informed opinions to make the right impact. The new age Bartenders and staff have the expertise to create spectacular trending change more than any other profession as it is empowering them being in direct contact with consumers on a day to day basis.
Cocktails have come a long way from being referred to as a ‘ladies’ drink and have moved to the TG of 20-35. Current trend shows the goal post is constantly shifting. There is no gender specification or any TG age criteria specific to cocktail consumers. These are being enjoyed by all genders, within age groups of 18-45, although straight drinks category is still governed by the mature drinkers over and average of 50 and above.
From Gin to Frosé, smoke-infused Rye Whiskies, Australia is witnessing the boom of local produce in their swankiest bars and watering holes. Gin is new flavour topping the spirits preference. 2018 has seen an upcoming of bars with attention to detail for theme or spirit focussed bars. These range from gin bars to Victorian-era drinking taverns or whiskey dens, dedicated to stocking local spirits. Vodka dominated bars, increasingly, regulars are preferring soda to tonic in their gin. This year, artisanal Ryes are making big news with Negroni fans opting for Rye Boulevardier, which is essentially swapping Gin for Rye or Bourbon. Interestingly, mixologists will also be opting to infusing their cocktails with fresh produce that is native to Australia with the likes of finger limes, wattle, or wood sorrel, to add a dash of fresh and bold flavour to their favourite mixers.
Similarly, bars in Singapore are innovating their own concepts to best showcase Singaporean and Asian cultural heritage using spirits and ingredients indigenous to Asia Pacific. This has led to the use of traditional spirits and Asian-Asian flavour combinations that push boundaries, such as the intriguing strawberry and kimchi.
Cocktail like King & Queen is made using durian and mangosteen, considered royal fruits in Asia, and Oh My Jasmine, is a floral twist on the Scotch Sour whereas The Little India is made with ingredients typical of Indian cuisine, like sandalwood, jasmine, curry leaf and cardamom. It is too early to comment if the bartenders will be able to stick with local, for the time being consumers seem to keep coming back for more.
Regardless of the choice of the base spirit, cocktails are the art of precise balance and clean look, a skill mastered by the Japanese. Drinking forms an integral part of Japanese socialising from formal company gatherings to outdoor picnics, where spirits flow in abundance.
Flavourful cocktails made with freshly squeezed fruit, and various liqueurs have gained popularity in Japan for those who want to avoid beer or heavy spirits. Most of the cocktails have a sour base, as the palate seems inclined towards tangy and citric base. Gin, Whisky, Fruit Liquors are the preferred base for cocktails.
Bartenders are now treated as celebrities; the bar is known by their name and thus they are under constant pressure to live up to their fame. There is more interaction with bartenders and customers than the chef and managers. Chances are if the food is average and the drinks exceptional, people will frequent the bar regardless.
For instance, Hong Kong’s Mandarin Oriental’s F&B outlets in the hotel, has a Rum Barber Pop-Up featuring high-end rums and rum-based cocktails in the hotel’s barber shop. They are continuously re-creating their menus to keep the guests intrigued.
Herbs, flowers, spices and essential oils top the list of mixers, Japanese bartenders are constantly invading the kitchen for equipment such as sous-vide machines and use them in making cocktails.
Drinks such as Jewel in the Crown (Malibu, cranberry juice and 7-Up) and Long Island Iced Teas were the local favourite classics. The current favourites are Kingsway, which is blend of whisky, honey, maple syrup, lemon juice, cinnamon and lemon oil, or the Mole Old Fashioned using mole bitters, inspired by the fiery sauces of Mexico and the Oak Whiskey Sour – French oak-infused rye whiskey, maple syrup, fresh lemon juice and egg white.
Hong Kong takes its bartending very seriously with research, sourcing the right ingredients, mastering the techniques, last but not the least on how to present the drinks to the audience.
Gin is established itself as the nectar of the year. No discussion is complete on Gin without the mention of the United Kingdom. The land of London Dry, Old Tom and Sloe Gin, UK has come a long way in Gin recall.
This year has seen an influx of flavoured gins, owing to high demand. The range of fruit-flavoured expressions with a Raspberry Gin and Blood Orange Gin alongside the existing Rhubarb & Ginger and Quince gins has been a fresh Gin revolution.
Even though, there are the huge straight whiskey aficionados, the cocktail boom is clearly visible in watering holes serving cocktails on tap as Negroni, Berry Mojito, Cosmopolitan, Espresso Martini and Amaretto Sour.
In California, the cities of Los Angeles and San Francisco are leading the cocktail culture and beverage trends on America’s West Coast. Encouraged by the eco-conscious state’s loyal farm-to-table food movement, health and wellness inspired drinks have emerged as pertinent accomplishments in the last year.
Back in the 70s, California was America’s first state to support local, and seasonal cookery. Now, half a century later, the State is pioneering the same in the drinks movement with a continuous endeavour in creating healthier recipes with fresh ingredients some of even spiked with superfood ingredients. San Diego also serves an interesting tipple mix of gin, tequila and chilli liqueur, stained midnight black from activated charcoal.
A walk through the East Coast showcases New York City as the new leader for cocktails in addition to successfully holding the baton of culinary commander. While Old Fashioned and Manhattan are still the most sought after, the current rage is Japanese whisky with Japanese-inspired bars and cocktails.
Destinations around the world, such as Mexico, the island of Tahiti, are current favourites bringing with them sotol, bacanora, and raicilla – all relatives to mezcal along with rum rich theme, reinforcing Polynesian.
What we have seen is the rise of the Rye and Gin base becoming stronger across continents. Australia has gone big on these two but also has placed their locally produced Dark Rum on their map. shown their preference to these two, Asia is focussing on localising the mixers while US and UK remain loyal to all natural and healthy classic mixers. Whatever the base spirit may be, across the world focus has shifted across the business from artificial sweeteners to fresh and healthy ingredients, making the cocktails refreshing and enjoyable.
Behind the bar and on tipple lists around the world, viable practices and anti-waste techniques are becoming the industry norm across bars. This practice is being consciously driven by bartenders who believe in conservation and customers who support anti-wastage practices.
Economies are advocating local sourcing of spirits and produce, encourage in keeping the local flavours, culture and heritage intact while allowing local business to boom.
2017 saw an increasing demand for low alcohol cocktails and non-alcoholic drinks, searches for ‘mocktails’ on Pinterest rose to 160% in 2017. It will be interesting to see on what note 2018 closes as the trends clearly suggest and promote buy local and serve local.
Slainte and enjoy responsibly!