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Top drinks trends to watch

Hot new drinks trends to look out for in the next five years include cocktails that take culinary inspiration, hybrid styles, the revival of ‘70s classics, the rise of “healthonism” and demand for theatrical wine rituals, predicts a new report.

Culinary cocktails are on the rise.
© Giles Christopher – Media Wisdom Photography Ltd

The Future of Food & Drink report for 2015 by the Innovation Group, a division of J Walter Thompson Intelligence, has analysed fresh ideas and technology coming out of the drinks industry and combined these with the interests of today’s generation of consumers to identify changes we can expect to see emerging within the category.

Consumers’ wider interest in regional, seasonal food is translating into the drinks scene through the use of unusual flavours.

Trailblazers include high profile mixologist Tony Conigliaro, who has created a savoury drinks list for Grain Store restaurant in London, which features a Champagne cocktail that uses a home-made Smoked Poacher cheese liquor. Across town at SushiSamba, a Culinary Cocktail range includes an Old Fashioned washed with Kobe beef fat.

In other bars such as Bulletin Place in Sydney, drinks are made using seasonal ingredients and are available in limited quantities, with options struck off the chalk board as they run out, similarly to a food menu.

Duncan McRae, global ambassador for Hendrick’s Gin, tracked consumers’ evolution to become more adventurous in their choices, saying: “Bartenders have been indulging themselves for almost a decade, exploring things like bitters, amari and mescal, which not all consumers have got on board with.”

However, he continued: “With this heightened appetite for fresh and seasonal, though, consumers can relate and appreciate the concept as it’s all around them – from their lunch sandwich to their evening meal – and this means they’re willing to experiment more.”

This growing acceptance of more complex, unusual flavours has encouraged a spate of hybrid drinks offerings. Among the early examples are Jacob’s Creek, whose Double Barrel series uses barrels that previously housed Scotch or Irish whisky. This year saw American whiskey brand Whistlepig invert this idea with the launch of rye whiskeys finished in Sauternes, Port and Madeira casks.

At the time, Whistlepig’s master distiller Dave Pickerell told The Spirits Business: “We want to up the game of rye whiskey. The Old World Series offers more variety within the category; we are tired of consumers having to leave American whiskey for a full-bodied taste.”

Other hybrid initiatives have seen brewer Innis & Gunn launch a Bourbon-infused beer, while Espolòn Añejo Tequila finishes its maturation in former Wild Turkey Bourbon casks.

Over at Del Maguey, a mescal producer that is already swapping the region’s traditional chicken breast flavouring finish to experiment with other types of raw meat, there are further trials taking place with alternative cask expressions

“Connoisseurs of fine spirits are becoming more interested in exotic finishing treatments – just look at Scotland,” said Steve Olson,
partner at Del Maguey. “We’re even working with a distiller that wants to finish their scotch in a Del Maguey barrel, and they’re sending us a barrel that we can age mescal in.”

Time for a ’70s revival? Photography by Amanda Koh

Alongside these modern flavours, bartenders are revisiting cocktails from the ‘70s and ‘80s, such as the Grasshopper, Tequila Sunrise and Sex on the Beach, revitalising some of those that fell out of favour due to their cloying taste.

Pioneers include Dale DeGroff, a US bartender who has revamped the Grasshopper by swapping commercial crème de menthe with a higher quality version coloured with natural rather than chemical dyes.

Other bars such as The Underground Experiment in Melbourne, are creating a sense of fun around the unabashedly unsophisticated image of these cocktails by adding wind up swimming fish to the Blue Lagoon or edible sand to a Sex on the Beach.

Drawing a contrast with the “medicinal and bitter” flavours of the earliest cocktails, US bartender Joe Carroll highlighted the fun appeal of these ‘70s classics. “They’re slutty, you know what I mean?” he commented. “Let’s not be coy about why you drink cocktails.”

Another trend crossing over into the world of drinks is the health conscious outlook of many millennial consumers. Rather than abstain from alcohol completely, this demographic is embracing a “healthonist” approach via a growing number of “exercise-drinking” events.

In London’s Bonbonniere Club, revelers arrive at 7pm for an hour-long class of “Voga” – a combination of Vogue-inspired poses and yoga – before drinking and dancing through the night. Across town the nightspot Mahiki has teamed up with fitness club Equinox to host a night of yoga classes, DJ sets and cocktails.

A similar manifestation is the use of nutritious, low calorie mixers, such as the range created by US brand CleanDrinking, which has names like RaspberryAddict Vodka Cleanse and PineappleLove Kids.

Ace Hotel in London has created a collection of low calorie cocktails such as the protein rich “Filly Flip”, which contains Nikka whisky, homemade almond syrup, a whole egg and bee pollen.

“It really is all about balance,” commented Ace bar manager Nathan Merriman. “People enjoy a night out but are also health conscious,” he observed. “Shoreditch is now brimming with gyms, run clubs and dance classes, as well as restaurants, bars and clubs.”

On the wine front, the rise of the millennial consumer has brought with it a more casual approach to wine. The report quoted Stephanie Gallo of E&J Gallo Winery as saying that this demographic is “willing to do things previously unexpected with wine, such as use screw-top bottles, serve premium wine from a box, and make cocktails with wine.”

This mindset is also opening doors for rosé, once considered too frivolous, and natural wine, with a Nielsen survey from January 2015 suggesting that 65% of 21 to 34-year old respondents were interested in this latter category.

At the top end of the category, millennial consumers are focused on wine as part of a wider experience. According to the report this is leading to a revival in theatrical rituals such as using Port tongs or sabrage.

“It’s an element that adds another layer to the dining experience for people,” Patrick Cappiello, wine director of New York restaurant Pearl & Ash, was quoted as saying. “People like knives and explosions.”

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