In the first of our 3-part cocktail trends 2018 series, we look at the year that was and present the spirit and cocktail trends that dominated in 2018.
During 2018, we’ve noted the continued growth of the non-alcoholic spirits category, Frosé paving the way to Pink Gin and sustainability moving beyond the bar. What trended in 2018?
Top 10 Cocktail Trends 2018
1. Sustainability & Zero Waste
For some, sustainability in bars is no longer a trend but an ethos and a way of life as sustainable bartending and the zero waste drinks movement continue to grow. Looking beyond the straw, new bars such as Tandem in Newtown and Births and Deaths Bar in Wollongong have a focus on reducing waste by reusing and repurposing ingredients that otherwise would have been discarded. Yet despite the increased awareness towards single use ingredients and the anti-plastic straw push, drinks served with double plastic straws continue to be seen.
2. Locality & Native Ingredients
While Australian native ingredients are commonly found in spirits, their use as cocktail ingredients is becoming more mainstream with the likes of lemon myrtle, finger lime, riberries and wattleseed commonly found on cocktail lists. Furthermore, several cocktail competitions in 2018 have included Australian native ingredients in their criteria including the Sydney Cider Cocktail Competition, Patron Perfectionists, FAIR Cocktail Competition, Monin Cup Australian Championship and Opihr World Adventure Cocktail Competition Australian Final.
More fermented ingredients are creeping into cocktails with the likes of kombucha, fermented lemonade, tepache and fermented fruit wines. The use of fermentation is adding a textural element and another flavour dimension be it tartness, sourness or fizz to cocktails.
4. No and Low Alcohol Drinks
Not only does the No and Low alcohol trend continue to gain momentum, it is now here to stay. 2018 saw the pioneering Seedlip extend its range of non-alcoholic spirits with Seedlip Grove 42, partnering with some of the world’s best bars in a No-Lo Pop Up Bar and releasing a cocktail book later in the year. Pernod Ricard has ventured into the non-alcoholic category by distributing South African/Swedish brand Ceder’s while Funkin brand owner has also moved into zero-alcohol ‘spirits’ with Stryyk Not Rum, Stryyk Not Gin and Stryyk Not Vodka.
In Australia, Brunswick Aces in Melbourne has released two non-alcoholic botanical spirits made with native Australian ingredients. ALTD Spirits in NSW has also released a trio of non-alcoholic spirits inspired by the tastes and sounds of the Australian Bush.
While some bars may be reluctant on the uptake of non-alcoholic spirits, the low ABV movement continues to grow with more bars moving closer towards aperitivo culture and offering sessionable options on cocktail lists. The re-branded Mister Pocket in Sydney offers one quarter of their cocktails in a non-alcoholic option.
5. Gin, Pink Gin & Flavoured Botanical Spirits
With frequent new releases to maintain consumer interest and cash flow, the use of local ingredients and what seems like endless collaborations, the gin boom shows no signs of slowing down. Riding on the popularity of Frosé, we’ve seen the emergence of a new gin subcategory. Pink Gin with brands such as Beefeater Pink and Gordon’s Pink Gin is proving popular with millennials and on social media.
While some new gins are moving away from juniper and towards a flavoured spirit profile, others such as Australian distillery Never Never Distilling Co made a statement with their juniper-heavy gins such as the Juniper Freak Gin. Flavoured gins continue to grow with the likes of Tanqueray Rangpur and Sevilla, with botanical vodkas following suit.
Last year we predicted the growth of Japanese gin and more brands became available such as Wa Bi Gin, Roku Gin and Nikka Coffey Gin, now Taiwan joining the trend with Kavalan releasing a craft gin made with botanicals sourced from the area of Yilan, just outside Taipei.
Has gin reached saturation point? We asked Desmond Payne, Master Distiller at Beefeater during his recent visit to Sydney. “I don’t think the bubble will burst but it will deflate a little and lose momentum”.
6. Dark Spirits & Cask Finishes
If the trend in the gin category is the use of local and unusual botanicals, cask finishes are the focus of dark spirits. Drink enthusiasts no longer bat an eyelid if a single malt, whiskey or rum is finished in the likes of Madeira, Sauternes or Cognac casks, or any combinations of casks. It’s all down to flavour.
According to Brian Nation, Head Distiller at the Jameson Distillery, we have not reached saturation point but the story and relationship between the liquid and the cask play an important part. Such is the case of Green Spot Château Léoville Barton, a pot still whiskey finished in finished in French oak wine casks from Château Léoville Barton, Bordeaux, an expression that represents the coming together of two historic families and two stories of Irish enterprise.
The legalisation of hemp as a food product in Australia has led to a number of brands releasing hemp-based spirits. This emerging trend has given rise to various Australian hemp gins such as The Myrcene Hemp Gin, Hemp Gin and Giniversity Smoked Hemp Gin. In the UK, Funkin brand has released Funkin Pro Hemp Syrup designed to impart herbal and green tea notes.
Coffee continues to play a key part in cocktails beyond the ubiquitous Espresso Martini, whether it’s in the form of cold brews, coffee liqueurs or the humble coffee bean grated over a drink as garnish. Cascara, the discarded fruit of the coffee berry is making its way into gin such as Memo Gin by Melbourne Moonshine. In the UK, William Grant & Sons launched Discarded, a sweet vermouth infused with cascara.
While savoury cocktails are still a little slow on the uptake, the use of salt in cocktails to enhance flavour is on the rise. Whether it’s a saline solution applied from an atomiser spray or salt crystals added directly to the drink, salt is taking a place as a cocktail modifier.
10. Wellness in the Bar Industry
Whether it’s a follow on from talks around sustainability of self, the low ABV drinking culture or influential personalities bringing the issue to the fore, the wellness movement is gaining impetus within the bar industry with dialogues around self-care, wellness and mental health starting to take place.
Future Cocktail Trends
What will the future cocktail trends be for 2019? Now that the wellness and the no and low movements are here to stay, will we see a conscious effort towards reducing sugar in cocktails and mixed drinks? Will botanical vodkas make vodka great again? Will the burgeoning Mini Martini become a global trend? Will we ever be rid of mini pegs on cocktails, pink fairy floss garnishes, gins that taste like perfume, and click-bait articles that claim that drinking <spirit> can cure <illness>?
Next in the cocktail trends 2018 series… Best and Worst Cocktail Trends 2018 According to Bartenders, Cocktail Trend Predictions for 2019 by Bar Industry Professionals
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