In the first part of our cocktail trends 2019 series, we reflect on the year that was and present the cocktail trends that dominated in 2019.
We’ve seen collaborations and bar takeovers continue to boom, the popularity of coffee in cocktails soar, seasonal gins showing no signs of abating and sustainability become an every day word. Here’s what trended in 2019.
Top 10 Cocktail Trends 2019
1. Wellness in the Hospitality Industry
With sustainability becoming an integral part of bar and cocktail culture in the last few years, the phenomenon has evolved from its beginnings to sustainability of self and work culture. Conversations about wellness in the hospitality industry are becoming more increasingly mainstream. This year’s Bar Week events included daily yoga and mindfulness practice with sessions Camille Vidal, Founder of La Maison Wellness. She calls it “an awakening rather than a trend” as the society we’re living in is fast pace and people want to live well and drink well. The wellness movement may be a by-product of sustainability but it has more than raised awareness of mental health issues and and has let individuals know that “it is okay not to be okay”.
2. Non-Alcoholic Spirits/Low ABV and Mindful Drinking
The Non-Alcoholic spirit category continues on its trajectory growth with more brands entering the Australian market. Seedlip paved the way back when it launched internationally in 2015 and with the rise in non-alcoholic cocktails, 2019 saw the launch of Lyre’s non alcoholic spirit range and other brands such as Ceder’s alt-gin and more recently Dutch brand Fluère. While the price of non-alcoholic spirits remains hefty around the $50 mark (similar to some popular gin brands), more transparency is needed in the non-alcoholic category as consumers question why a premium price is being paid for what is essentially flavoured water.
The low ABV trend is arguably growing at a faster rate than the non-alcoholic with long drinks gaining more popularity. More bars are dedicating a sizeable part of their cocktail list to aperitif style drinks and brands are releasing low ABV spirits such as the range of Smirnoff infusions. Mindful Drinking is slowly building momentum, whether it’s being mindful of how much we’re drinking but also how much sugar is in our cocktails and mixed drinks.
3. Technique & Presentation
Cocktail theatrics and liquid nitrogen are relics of the recent past now that has fermentation, clarification and carbonation techniques continue to gain popularity among bartenders. The real theatrics now are in the prep work that takes place behind the scenes. Cocktail presentation has become beautifully minimalist with simple yet elegant glassware, clear ice (sometimes branded) as garnish and clarified drinks that capture the light.
4. Less Theatre More Flavour
To name flavour as a trend may be counter-intuitive to an industry premised on taste but we are seeing less emphasis on elaborate garnishes and theatre and more on creating unique flavours that can’t be found in other bars. Examples includes Scout Sydney‘s fruit wines, Nikkei with their Peruvian-Japanese flavours and Dulcie’s with their all-Australian ingredients in cocktails. With more people making cocktails at home, bars are creating points of difference to ensure consumers get a unique experience.
5. The Rise of the Highball
Following from the growth of the low ABV trend, more bars and brands are embracing the Highball in their drinks menu. Not just a simple combination of spirit, soda and citrus, whisky brands such as Glenfiddich and Johnnie Walker are partnering with key bars to bring tall, refreshing, sessionable drinks with a dash of creativity. The Highball isn’t limited to the whisky category as the Gin & Sonic, gin with half soda half tonic is also gaining popularity.
6. The Gin Boom
When speaking with some gin experts around the world, many say that we are still in the midst of a gin boom with no signs that the bubble will soon burst. Flavoured gins are – dare we say – the flavour of the day. As gin moves away from juniper and more into the flavoured category (with the likes of rhubarb, quince, berries), we may even see the the return of the once shunned flavoured vodka category.
7. Whisk(e)y with a Sense of Place
While different cask finishes have become the norm (and the whisk(e)y equivalent of flavoured gins), we are seeing more variety in independent bottlings and single cask releases. More interestingly, there’s a shift in emphasis placed on raw ingredients such as the strains of yeast, the types of barley and grain, their provenance and how they’re utilised (roasted malt, malted rye), to create whiskies that convey a sense of place. We’re yet to see the impact of precision distilling in the whisky category and whether whiskies created using an artificial intelligence (AI) programme stand up to consumer tastes.
8. Mini Cocktails
As we predicted back in our 2018 trends article, we’ve seen several bars embrace the mini serve. These mini cocktails are smaller versions of popular cocktails, often classics or spirit-forward. While they’re at the opposite end of the no-low category, they allow a boozy tipple to be enjoyed pre or post dinner, and the opportunity to sample a range of drinks without getting wasted.
9. The Return of the Martini
We’re (finally) seeing the return of the Martini to cocktail lists, and not just hidden under the banner of “classics available on request”. The Barber Shop in Sydney offers the largest gin collection from which to choose your Martini. Moya’s Juniper Lounge in Redfern offers a Martini Club on Wednesdays and Dulcie’s in Kings Cross dedicated an entire month of Dry July Martini to which we contributed a bespoke Martini recipe.
10. Ready-to-Drink Cocktails
A new generation of premium ready-to-drink cocktails is blurring the lines with the classic RTDs as more craft spirits enter the scene. Curatif Cocktails offer cocktails beautifully packaged in a can such as the Four Pillars Negroni as well as technology that provides a good foam for their Archie Rose Espresso Martini. Other premium brands that have jumped on board include Tanqueray Flor de Sevilla and Soda, and Bombay Sapphire Gin & Tonic. Looking internationally, Seedlip has also tapped into the ready-to-drink market with the recent launch of a bottled Nogroni cocktail. With this new generation of RTDs, quality cocktails can easily be enjoyed at home or on the go.
Future Cocktail Trends
What will the future cocktail trends be for 2020? Will we have transparency and a price drop in the non-alcoholic ‘spirit’ category? Will we have the 2020 vision to stop calling someone ‘Master Distiller’ when they’ve only been distilling for a few months? Will we see more emphasis placed on service and hospitality whether we’re drinking at a local pub or a high end cocktail bar?
Next in the cocktail trends 2019 series… Cocktail Trend Predictions for 2020 by Bar Industry Professionals