Following from our Top 10 Cocktail Trends of 2019, we asked bar industry professionals from Australia to share their cocktail trend predictions for 2020.
Running for the third consecutive year, Cocktails & Bars invites a group of leading individuals from the Australian bar industry to look into their crystal ball and have their say about the future cocktail and spirit trends. What originally started with brand ambassadors has since expanded to include industry professionals such as bar owners, venue managers and brand specialists.
Cocktail Trend Predictions for 2020:
Natalie Ng – Owner-Operator of Door Knock in Sydney
I believe we are still not done with the rise of fermentation and clarification techniques, but I think we we will be seeing more cocktails moving over to using fruits and herbs as nature intended in 2020. Getting fruit at different times of years for its different flavour and sugar yields, for instance using strawberries in season when they would be super sweet and juicy as opposed to when they might be watery or acidic. Both flavours could lend something unique to a cocktail without us having to mess about the produce too much to get a particular result. We will also see more incorporation of wines/vermouths (already there are many bars fermenting and making their own natural wines such as Scout), and Mezcal will hopefully have more prominence on menus as opposed to tequila.
Charlie Ainsbury – Head of Creative ANZ, Proof & Company
I believe we’ll see the hotel bar retake its traditional role as a leader in the bar community. Across Asia-Pacific, there has been significant investment into the hotel’s Food & Beverage offering so it’s only a matter of time before we see that being reflected in Australia.
Brandon Martignago – Owner, Dulcie’s Kings Cross
I personally think we’re still on a ‘spirit forward’ trajectory wherein drinks are more classic and focused on the provenance of the ingredients rather than a gimmick or glassware. We as bartenders have a continued responsibility to encourage new discovery’s and flavours within our customers. I know how hard it can be to introduce customers to new products. Dulcie’s is Sydney’s only 100% Australian produce cocktail bar, so almost everything we offer is completely new to our customers. We made sure that our drinks were spirit forward and striped back garnishes and frills in order to allow the punter to focus on the amazing produce this country makes. We still meet resistance (“Australians can’t make good whisky”, “Do we even have an Aussie vodka?”, “Come on mate, you can’t just sell me Bundaberg”), but the more chance we have to connect people with the hero of their drink; through flavour, versatility and first hand experience of distilling practice the more people’s minds change and they open themselves up to new beverage experiences.
On that note, in 2020 I feel we’ll start embracing more local or boutique products and become more experimental with simpler and mid strength ABV cocktails. Distillers are really aware of a health conscious market as well as price point and are producing a heap of more European style lower ABV SKUs. Think more spritz’s and stir-downs with a focus on these amaro/aperitifs/liqueurs. Personally I’m currently really into cooling down the summer days with what I’m calling a ‘south australiano’ (Imperial Measure’s Ruby Bitter, Adelaide hills sweet vermouth and soda).
Alex Dahlenburg – Mjølner, Venue Manager
I believe what we’re going to see next year in spirits is a further rise in Irish whiskey, different use of grain and inventive finishes as the whisky industry evolves from tradition and the rising cost of goods to make something different as whisk(e)y drinkers are further seeking the usual drams. I also see a lot more Australian whisky brands popping up as we’re at the 3-5 year mark from the beginning of the craft distilling boom. From a selfish side, more Aquavit and Agave Spirit please, especially Mezcal.
In cocktails, I see from a business side of things, the re-emergence of the speed bartender over the chef bartender, the simplification of drinks with brands desiring cocktails using their spirits more easily replicable, especially in competitions and death to the rotary evaporator, ant farms and clarification, focusing on the skills of the bartender and turnover in our venues. I believe we (industry and consumers) have all been flooded with information and got super geeky for a while there (I’m guilty of this) and now we just want to go back to having a good drink and a good time.
What I would really love to see in the next few years is organisations and maybe even brands start teaching the business of bars. Talking profit strategy, the tactics of marketing, budgets, payroll, leases, contracts and negotiation so we evolve and set our future bar owners up for success not just going in on a dream and a few competitions under their belt, but solid knowledge of business and a strategy.
Roderick Boerma – Director of Outlets, Four Seasons Sydney
The main cocktail and spirit trends that have been developing during 2019 will continue in 2020, such as the use of more sustainable resources. Sustainability isn’t just a vague, general term we are striving to work towards, but something more concrete we incorporate in our daily bar practices from using paper straws to taking a step forward by going completely strawless. We are also creating cordials or sustainable garnishes by turning citrus skins into edible garnishes like candy.
Another trend that is quickly gaining importance is the focus on the sixth sense of our guests. Trends will come around flavour and texture. The era of Instagramable drinks although still very popular now, is less of a trend and we are slowly beginning to focus more on bringing back core flavours and triggering senses. The atmosphere and the exchange with the people behind the bar has become more of a focus as people start to look for an experience rather than just a drink. The bartender of 2020 needs to be down to earth with the ability to read the guest and inspire them through creative quality drinks.
Lastly, hotel bars are beginning to take on more importance in the Sydney bar industry and this is likely to be a big trend in 2020. More and more, hotels are investing in renovating their bars so as to create iconic destinations.
Katie Nagar – Diageo Scotch Whisky Ambassador, Australia
My trend prediction for 2020 is more inclusivity around the spirit category of whisky. It’s a trend that is already underway and one that I am happy to report is increasingly gaining momentum. For a long time whisky was a spirit that was being stifled by perceptions of rigidity. The general belief was that whisky drinkers were represented by a homogenous population, a view that was only further perpetuated by narrow-minded marketing materials. Thankfully that is all coming to an end as we now celebrate whisky aficionados as a group as vibrant and diverse as the whisky category itself.
Furthermore, there is a shift towards more open perceptions on how and when whisky can be consumed. The after dinner neat dram is all well and good, but there are so many more possible formats and occasions for enjoying whisky. I think that in 2020 we will see whisky and more characterful spirits frequently taking the place of vodka and gin as the go-to selections when it comes to long and lighter style cocktails, delivering low abv drinks that are still big in flavour. Also in this vein, I think we will see more bars offering pre-batched carbonated cocktails. Bottled / canned cocktails have been popularised over the years by beloved bars such as Heartbreaker in Melbourne and Continental Deli in Sydney. In the past, these pre-batched drinks mostly featured traditional, stirred-down classics like martinis and negronis. With the rising demand for longer style, low abv drinks, I think we will see a transition to some bright and bubbly numbers offered either on tap, via PET bottles, or even in custom cans.
Cameron Pirret – Spirits Ambassador with The Exchange, Beam Suntory
Based on what I’ve seen from competitions and the top cocktail bars at the moment, I expect the trend of lighter more approachable cocktails to continue. Bartenders have been more frequently using techniques such as clarification, fermentation, forced carbonation and washing. Although these techniques take a little more work behind the scenes, they allow bartenders to create lighter, more session-able drinks with speed. I expect the preference for gin and whisky to make their way into these drinks to persist into next year. One things for sure the future of cocktails looks as bright as ever.
Georgie Mann – Brand Ambassador, Bacardi-Martini Australia
It’s always so hard to predict because there are so many factors but I think it’s important to look to eating trends to gain insight. With more and more people choosing to be vegan, keto, raw, etc. it means that our palates are changing. What we once saw as bitter mightn’t seem that way anymore. This affects “balance” in a cocktail and will lead to more interest and appreciation towards vermouth and bitters either by itself or in a cocktail. This opens up the opportunity for new categories of vermouth to be created as well as premiumisation. The MARTINI Riserve Speciale range is an perfect example with Rubino and Ambrato sitting in a category called Vermouth di Torino along with Martini Riserva Speciale Bitter made with botanicals including Saffron and Columba.
We’re also seeing a decrease in bottle-to-table service globally and instead, a greater desire for late night cocktails and food. Everyone loves a late night snack and the standard that is available is continue to improve. Look at Big Poppas! You can feast down on Lamb Ragu Pappardelle and Burrata with Heirloom Tomatoes til 3am every night of the week… Better food means better drink and that pull for a venue can work both ways.
Wellness is a topic we talk about regularly when discussing drink trends and although I’m not entirely convinced on consumers actual desire for low abv, it’s something that shouldn’t be ignored. Maybe it’s the Australian stigma of not wanting a low abv drink? Either way, higher quality across the board from the spirit to the mixer to the locally foraged ingredients that are brought together to create a cocktail that maybe looks like a glass of wine… we want to drink better with more knowledge and sometimes that just means drinking less.
Alice Newport – Brand Specialist, Les Nouveaux Distillers
I think it will be a continuation of a couple of things that start to present this year. The growth of agave spirits, and an understanding and interest is something that we will continue to see from consumers, and a growing respect for the craft around making good tequila and mezcal. I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw people in similar climates experimenting with growing blue agave.
In bars, I think we will see a rise of simplicity and a reduction in people taking themselves so seriously. Looking at cocktails around the world, I mean the Porn Star Martini is probably the highest selling cocktail in the UK.
That will trickle down to the Aussie market and I think we’ll see an influence of old school “fun drinks”. I was at a bar in Brisbane last week and they were so excited for a bottle of bubblegum liqueur to arrive. Bartenders want to make great drinks, but they want to have fun with it. Gone are the days where drinks are so complicated and out there that customers don’t understand what’s going on or feel ostracised by the menu and the service. While that mad and out there creativity has its place, I think that will stay more in the comp space which we’ll see influence menus, but not necessarily translate straight to menu.
Simple drinks and a reduction in perishables items in menus and drinks too. Sustainability isn’t a fad and the way we use produce across the board will reflect that.
Daniele Pirotta – National Bartender Advocacy & Engagement Manager, Campari Group
We’re seeing a shift in global drinking culture with consumers opting for premium spirits, and bars serving products like Aperol and Campari for cocktails and aperitivi. Our Brand Ambassador for NSW and ACT, Tristram Lilburne-Fini predicts, “Highballs, using products like Glen Grant and Wild Turkey, will continue to grow and the uptake in the very simple, ‘Spirit – Seltzer/Soda Water – Citrus’ formula reflects a growing preference for a more convivial, light and refreshing experience over higher ABV and heavier cocktail options.”
Nicole Reid – Brand Manager, THINK Spirits
In 2020 I believe we are going to see some rum producers and brands challenging our ideas about rum and how it should be defined and consumed. Producers are becoming increasingly aware of the need to help consumers understand the production, aging and flavour to expect, and bartenders as a community are really pushing this agenda as they help guide their guests towards rums that fit their preferred tastes. Flavoured and spiced rum will continue to grow in 2020 with new exciting premium expressions, I expect to see innovation in aging and finishes in rum along with new lighter and brighter examples of how to enjoy rum that can also fall into the aperitif occasion starting to flow onto cocktail lists.
Perhaps inspired by the rise of the Spritz and a back lash against the seriousness of some bar programs, colour is in. Pinks, oranges, purples, Mediterranean blues, vibrant colours on spirit bottle labels that make them visually pop off the shelf as well as in our cocktails, brightening our Instagram feeds.
In the No-Alcohol / Low Alcohol category, there is a growing list of the world’s best bars who now take their No-Alcohol program just as seriously as their alcoholic cocktail offering. If you’re arguing that there is no place for a No/Low Alcohol program in your venue or on your bottleshop or back bar shelves, you’re likely going to find yourself on the wrong side of history and missing out on a trick!
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