10 cocktail and spirits trends for 2014

crystal_ball

It’s that time again…time to gaze into the old crystal ball and predict what we’ll all be drinking in the year ahead.  (I tried this last year as well – how did I do with my 2013 predictions?) So….here’s what might happen in 2014:

1. Fun will make a comeback at the bar. I suspect the goofy fun factor of places like Golden Cadillac (retro 70s) and Butterfly (retro 50s) will start making its way into the mainstream – like the way tiki used to be fun. It’s not a coincidence that cereal is now a hot (if silly) drink ingredient. After years of super-serious mixology, we’re ready for some fun and decadence again.

2. The Nordic food trend will spill over into cocktails. I’m waiting to see smoked hay and sea buckthorn in my glass.

3. The bartender will become obsolete. Okay, I’m exaggerating for effect. But in terms of format, definitely seeing more pre-batched kegged drinks (lookin’ at you, Derek Brown)  and bottled & canned & other “batched” cocktails – even high-end Ready-to-Drink cocktails that are actually worth drinking. And I’m not the only one who sees this trend on the horizon.

4. We’ll fortify our drinks with sherry and other fortified wines (but mostly sherry). Sherry cocktails in particular are ramping quickly. But port, Madeira and others are not far behind.

5. Low abv and even no abv drinks will go mainstream. I totally admit to lobbying for this trend. But I’m hearing more about lower proof drinks, and seeing better and more interesting low-alcohol and no-alcohol drinks on menus. I foresee this going mainstream this year.

6. We’ll find hard cider cocktails in our glasses. Buzz is building. I think I was too early with this one last year.

7. Flavored whiskey will continue to expand at a rapid-fire clip before burning out altogether. And – what the hell – I’m already calling flavored tequila as a trend for 2015.

8. We’ll develop a heated affection for Asia whiskeys:  some of the best products I’ve tasted this year have been whiskeys from Japan and – much to my surprise – Taiwan. Yeah, I’m as surprised as you are.

9. Consumers finally will wake up to coffee cocktails. Some of the craziest, most euphoric, no-holds-barred experiments I’m seeing now all seem to involve coffee-cocktail hybrids in some way. (I’m still thinking about the experimental cold brew coffee made with White Pike Whiskey seen at the Dizzy Fizz Holiday Spirits Bazaar a few weeks back – and that’s just the tip of the highly caffeinated iceberg.) I suspect we’re not quite there yet, since the coffee flavor still seems to dominate the drinks in a clumsy way- but man oh man, we’re getting closer to something wonderful.

10. Vodka will develop character.  Usually, vodka bores me. Most have been distilled and filtered to a very limp death. But lately, I’ve been seeing growth among new and interesting vodkas — no longer “odorless and flavorless.” Some have been single varietal vodkas, others (like Karlsson’s, for example), have introduced new vintages each year, reminding me of whiskey or wine. I predict that we’re about to see variety in vodka explode in coming months.

Okay, folks. Have a happy happy and a very merry. See you back here next year.

13 Cocktail and Spirit Trends for 2013

crystal_ballIt’s that time again…time to gaze into the old crystal ball and predict what we’ll all be drinking in the year ahead.  (I tried this last year as well – how did I do with my 2012 predictions?) So….here’s what might happen in 2013:

1. Cider-tails. We’ve seen plenty of wine- and beer-based cocktails. But given all the excitement around hard ciders now, I predict that 2013 will see the rise of cider-based cocktails.

2. Vermouth will be the new bitters. By that, I mean that we’re going to see a spate of new products coming on the market, including hyper-local variations and fun, unique vermouths from bartenders and commercial producers alike.

3. Vintage in the glass. Look for more well-aged vintage spirits and cocktails ahead. 2012 brought lots of vintage whiskeys (30, 40, 50 years old); Karlsson’s released their second single-year vintage vodka; I’ve been invited to a tasting for 60-year-old gin (I’m skeptical….details later); bars like Pouring Ribbons in New York and Bellocq in New Orleans are making names for themselves with old bottlings of Chartreuse and other spirits.  I’m even coveting this “Antique Manhattan.” Clearly, this is a trend.

4. We’ll put a bottle on it. I’m not bold enough to suggest the demise of glassware, but expect to see lots of cocktails served in bottles. One of the hits at the Manhattan Cocktail Classic was the “Bottled Negroni,” and bars like the Experimental Cocktail Club have been serving drinks that are carbonated and bottled. But that’s just the start:  for example, Germain-Robin has been experimenting with bottled drinks like the Saratoga and the St. Nick, to wonderful effect.  And there are home-entertaining applications for this trend too (self promotion alert!!) – I have a book coming out in May (Cocktails for a Crowd), and yes, I’ve devoted a whole damn chapter to DIY bottled cocktails.

5. Low-Alcohol Libations. If 2012 was the year of cask-strength, overproof, seriously high-octane spirits (and cocktails to showcase them), expect a backlash in 2013 to kinder, gentler drinks.

6. We’ll drown in a sea of whiskey. There seems to be so much of it coming to market in the year ahead.  New Japanese whiskeys. Earnest local grain-to-glass bourbons. Fiery white whiskeys. Canadian whiskeys in wacky flavors.  Scotches with backstory.  So. much. whiskey.

7. “Stunt spirits.” Speaking of backstory — now maybe I’m imagining this, but it seems like there’s an increase in spirits (particularly whiskeys) that are garnering attention because they are recovered from deep within arctic ice (Shackleton’s) or launched into space (Ardbeg Galileo). Luckily, both have yielded fine whiskeys. But I suspect the rule of diminishing returns applies:  from here on in, the stunts will get sillier, and the spirits less notable.

8. Gin will get exciting. This is an extension of my “new gin” prediction from last year.  There’s more envelope pushing in the gin area:  barrel-aged gins. savory gins. gin-based liqueurs. weird and wild gins.  Can’t wait to see the cocktails that result, either.

9. Canadian whiskey will get flavorful. I’m less optimistic about this trend, but it’s coming, all right:  Canadian whiskeys will increasingly become vehicles for flavorings — maple, blueberry, cinnamon, and so on.

10. A barrel on every bar. The barrel-aged cocktail trend is going mainstream this year. Look for a (small) barrel on a bar near you by the end of 2013.

11. The line will blur between wine and spirits. It’s not just that fortified wines, wine-based vermouths and aperitif wines like Lillet have become more interesting. It’s not just that more cocktails now feature fortified wines like port and sherry.  It’s not just that cocktailians are using wine’s methode champenoise to carbonate drinks. It’s not just that we’re seeing vodka-wine hybrids or cognac-wine hybrids coming to liquor store shelves. But put it all together, and it has the potential to steamroll, with nary a tired “wine-tail” in sight.

12. Asia will provide drinking inspiration. Hard to say whether that will come in the form of the growing ranks of affluent drinkers in China (hey, Wine Enthusiast even launched a Mandarin edition in 2012! – plus, I’m hearing of more spirits producers making special, often sweeter bottlings just for the growing Chinese market) having a greater say in drink trends or an influx in Asia-made tipples like baijiu coming to U.S. bars.

13. Glassware gets more attention. Whether that means antique cut-glass coupes for cocktails or specially shaped snifters for Scotches, I’m anticipating that the form and function of the glass itself will get as much attention as what’s in the glass.

So there you have it – 13 possibilities for 2013. Please feel free to add your opinions — and predictions! in the comment box below.