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.
Who knew there were so many different ways to do this? As in, quite literally tossing it around, whether from bottle to cup, cup to cup or even from vessel directly to thirsty, open-mouthed consumer. Here’s exhibit A:
Dave Wondrich, demonstrating the “Blue Blazer” technique he has re-popularized. You can’t tell from this image, but he takes a flame to high-proof hooch, and pours the flaming liquid from one pewter mug to another, and back again, increasing the distance between the two until he has a thin blue flame streaming from one mug to the next.
This pitcher-like vessel, called a porron, is sometimes used to serve (and share) wines in Spain. Here, it’s used for pisco (this was at the StarChefs International Chefs Conference a couple of weeks ago). Bottoms up!
And finally, here is a pourer in action during cider week, at Tertulia. Apparently, this is part of the culture of the Asturias region in Spain: the cider typically is held up high above the pourer’s head….
…and poured in such an elongated stream that I couldn’t capture the action in a single shot. The more experienced pourers don’t even look down while they pour.
This good-lookin’ crew was my panel from Tales of the Cocktail. We had assembled to talk about “Low Octane Libations” — and although I’ve long been a fan of lower-alcohol cocktails, there’s nothing like hearing the gospel straight from the bartenders. In retrospect, I think this topic hit a sweet spot, sandwiched among seminars and tasting events that focused on vermouth, sherry and other lower alcohol options, and I’ve been tickled to see post-Tales roundups listing “lower alcohol” as a trend in the making.
Although I was preoccupied with moderating the panel, I did manage to scribble down some insightful comments from the panelists. Highlights included:
The Manhattan Cocktail Classic has officially drawn to a close. This is one of those epic events where bartenders serve hundreds — in some cases thousands — of cocktails at a go. There were plenty of mediocre offerings, to be sure. But there were a great many memorable drinks too. And this was perhaps the most memorable drink of them all.
Likely, I was particularly attuned to this drink because of the Cocktails for a Crowd book. No doubt I was paying closer attention than ever before to how batched drinks were presented, ranging from the punch served in painted ceramic punchbowls at Dead Rabbit to colorful pink and orange Palomas decanted into swing-top glass flasks and arrayed on silver platters during a seminar.
But Campari topped them all, offering wee cans of Negroni Sbagliato cocktails. It’s a relatively simple classic cocktail: Campari, sweet vermouth, and dry sparkling wine, like Prosecco. I first heard of it after Frank Bruni wrote about it a couple of years ago; it started popping up on drink menus shortly thereafter, though it’s still lesser-known vs the Negroni (Campari, sweet vermouth, and gin). The cans were handed out at the splashy MCC gala, as well as at a party thrown by the brand a couple of nights later.
Apparently, the genesis of this canned cocktail began at last year’s gala, where Negronis were pre-batched, carbonated and bottled. At the event, bartenders merely popped off the bottle caps and inserted a straw. It was on-trend — arguably, ahead-of-trend– fun to drink and speedy to serve. The canned cocktails had been floated for the 2012 gala, a PR rep told me (as we sipped Sbagliatos, natch), but tabled until 2013.
Apparently, a great deal of effort went into those canned cocktails. They had to be specially made, the cocktail had to be made in large quantities, and they had to be shipped over. The red-and-white striped plastic straws (not paper, which disintegrate quickly), were sourced from Etsy.
Everyone noticed them. From a drinker’s perspective, it was a good cocktail — truly, the most important part of this equation — and it was fun to drink, so people actually walked around and drank from the cans. It wasn’t too big and it wasn’t too boozy, so it was one of the few cocktails I actually finished at the Gala. From a marketer’s perspective, it was clearly branded — no mistaking the distinctive Campari red, and it was labeled in big letters anyway, identifying the brand and the name of the drink. It was memorable and everyone asked where to get one. It was clever and not too ostentatious. Even the straws reinforced the branding, but in a tasteful way.
Now here’s where things fall apart. Despite this marketing coup, no one can buy this product. And I heard many people say they would gladly purchase a six-pack of Sbagliatos (I was one of them). You can buy a cans of Pimm’s at convenience stores in the UK, yet in the United States, the Ready-To-Drink category is limited to pouches of awful slushy Margaritas made with fake lime flavoring. If Campari brought the canned Sbagliato product to market, I would consider it to be an outright marketing success. If not, it was just a clever flash-in-the-pan that will need to be topped again next year.
Julia Child splashed French vermouth into much of her cooking. James Bond added Italian vermouth to his famous “shaken, not stirred,” martinis. But American-made vermouth is what’s now taking the cocktail world by storm.
So on April 8, it was my pleasure to moderate a panel of West Coast wine and vermouth producers, “Fountain of Vermouth,” at the International Association of Culinary Professionals conference in San Francisco.
The three panelists- who jokingly refer to themselves as “vermouth-kateers“- were Neil Kopplin, a former bartender and current partner of Portland, Oregon’s Imbue Cellars, who makes his Bittersweet Vermouth with Willamette Valley Pinot Gris; Carl Sutton, owner of Sutton Cellars in Sonoma, Calif.; and Andrew Quady, a Madera, California-based winemaker who also produces vermouth under the Vya label.
Quady first provided the attendees with a definition of the aromatized, fortified “wine-but more than just wine,” including an overview of some of the botanicals used to flavor it.
That was followed by a lively debate between Kopplin and Sutton, who have divergent philosophies about what makes for good vermouth. Sutton said he starts with both wine and brandy that is “absolutely neutral” in character: “I want a completely blank canvas, something I can project onto.” He then adds as many as 17 ingredients for flavoring.
Kopplin, for his part, insisted that since the wine makes up 75-80% of what’s in the glass, it should be “the bright shining star” that the botanicals are selected to complement. He fully expects his vermouth to change from year to year, he added, since he switches up the base wine with each vintage. This year, he’s using local Pinot Gris; next year, the base will be Sémillon.
To cap it all off, Sutton mixed up a round of Bamboo cocktails for the crowd – here’s the recipe:
1½ oz. Lustau amontillado sherry
1½ oz. Sutton Cellars dry vermouth
2 dashes orange bitters
1 dash Angostura bitters
Stir together all ingredients with ice, and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon peel twist.
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 2012 predictions?) So….here’s what might happen in 2013:
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.
Is Cognac for chicks? (This seems especially relevant today, as it’s International Women’s Day.)
That was one of the assumptions at the International Cognac Summit I attended mid-January, in France’s Cognac region. In fact, the event, hosted by the BNIC, revolved around how to persuade more women to take up Cognac.
It’s taken me a while to organize my still-scattered thoughts about this trip, and it seems best to post them in three tranches — a few general ideas, then a look at the “big 3″ Cognac houses, and finally, some snaps from an independent Cognac maker.
A few takeaways:
The French don’t drink Cognac. “In France, this is a digestif for old men,” we were informed by Elise Gartio, a sociologist with LadyVin (yes, that’s the name of the research firm). When we met with reps from the Cognac houses, they underscored this point: most Cognac is exported to the United States, followed closely by the United Kingdom. Physician, heal thyself?? Considering how women around the world follow French fashion, perhaps it’s time for French women to become Cognac ambassadors.
The cocktail is regarded as the savior for Cognac, particularly to attract female drinkers. This makes sense; most spirits are consumed in this format. There was a lot of talk about how to do for Cognac what “Mad Men” did for whiskey and gin. I suggested resurrecting the Japanese Cocktail, but I don’t think I sold anyone on that idea.
We had a cocktail making “competition” – the winner was the Lady Coeur (team led by Willy Shine): VSOP Cognac, Carpano Antica, lemon and orange juices, brut Champagne, dusting of cinnamon, orange zest). It’s a good cocktail, although I still can’t shake my misgivings about creating a cocktail “for the ladies.” This is a good cocktail. For human beings. Whatever (eye roll).
Packaging matters to Cognac drinkers. Frankly, I think this is true of all spirits categories. Lest you think this was just another cushy press trip, let me assure you that we had to sing for our supper: for every Cognac tasted, we were expected to fill out a lengthy form evaluating the appearance and packaging, aroma and flavor profiles for each product. (Nearly 1,400 forms were collected from the group of about 30 people…you do the math!)
After the survey dust settled, the bottles that ranked highest among women (or among men who thought they were predicting for women) were generally XO Cognacs (the oldest and most delicious) housed in perfume-like bottles described as “luxury, rounded, original” and featuring soft/round aromas with “tasty” notes (the charming French translation for food-like aromas such as vanilla, spices, fruit or dried fruit, or pastry-like aromas). Sommelier Dominique LaPorte summarized that women “are looking for elegance, not power, in Cognac aromas.” I suspect that’s true of drinkers of any gender, though.
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 2011 predictions?) So….here’s what might happen in 2012:
1. Rum will be the new “it” spirit. Although in 2011 whiskey was the belle of the ball, for 2012 rum seems to be on a speedy ascent. I’ve tasted some utterly amazing aged rums in the past few months. Online magazine Got Rum? relaunched in 2011, and a new rum advocacy group got off the ground during the year as well. And rum-soaked tiki drinks and punches continue to have legs. Let the rum-running begin.
2. We’ll let them eat cake. File this one under trends I wish would go away, but just won’t: cake-flavored vodka. And marshmallow fluff. And whipped cream. Oh, and I just saw an ad in Cheers magazine for a Swedish fish-flavored vodka. Can some mixologist/dentist please pull this sweet tooth, and soon?
3. Cocktail conference overload! It’s official: there are too many cocktail festivals for me to keep up with all of them. Just when I had the MCC/Tales thing down, festivals (and good ones, too!) popped up in San Francisco, Portland, Vancouver. Tales of the Cocktail keeps taking Tales on the road – I think most recently, roadtripping through Texas. I hear Scottsdale, Arizona is hosting a cocktail conference in February. Not to mention festivals devoted to whiskey, rum (see above), indie spirits, etc. etc. etc. I suspect there will be more to come.
4. We’ll roll out the barrel. Barrel-aged cocktails have become a certifiable international bar craze. Add to that extra cask-aged spirits (i.e., whiskey “finished” in sherry barrels) and even barrel-aged beer. I’m waiting for someone to debut barrel-aged appetizers to pair with any of the above.
5. Tipplers will get it on tap. Wine. Americanos. Vermouth. Barrel-aged martinis. I’ve seen ‘em all spouting from a tap in recent months, and expect to see still more.
6. Lushies and slushies. Can you believe the frozen Margarita was invented 40 years ago? And now, four decades later, they’re back, in the slightly more sophisticated guise of “Sno-Gronis” (frozen Negronis) at the Tippling Lounge in Chelsea or Moonshine-spiked blackberry sno-cones at The Ritz-Carlton in Atlanta. Alco-popsicles and spiked milkshakes abound too.
7. Bitter will be the new black. Not just cocktail bitters (and there’s a new one every minute, right?) but also spirits and cocktails with bracingly bitter flavors, from Fernet to Cynar. I’ve been wild about some new cocktails with a bitter edge, many of which are compiled into Brad Parson’s groovy new book, Bitters.
8. We’ll all be Ready-To-Drink. The RTD category, as the trades abbreviate, is on the upswing. Some of them aren’t half bad, but I’m hoping that the bar can be raised beyond premixed Margaritas and Mudslides. Can we get the Pimm’s Cup in a can, like they have in the UK?
9. Carbonated Cocktails. I’m blaming crediting Jeff Morgenthaler with popularizing this one too. Every bartender with a Perlini will be adding a bit o’ bubbly to drinks in the year ahead.
10. “New Gin.” New-style gins have been rolling out at a fast and furious clip. Some are “New West” style, such as St. George – which went as far as releasing THREE new gins at a go, including “Terroir,” infused with Douglas fir. Others are what I’ve been thinking of as “Anything But London Dry” gins – the profile isn’t that far from a London Dry, but the base spirit hails from Ireland or Scotland. And then there’s the “Florals” – I can’t count how many new gins seem to be packed with a florist shop’s worth of pretty botanicals, from rose to lavender. Now…is anyone drinking all these new gins?
11. You’ll make Your Own Damn Tonic Water. You can use one of the three new ‘tonic syrups” which debuted on the market within the past few months (Tomrs, Jack Rudy, Commonwealth from Bittermans). New gin, why not new tonic? (NOTE – the “bittering agent” gentian also gives tonic syrup a brisk bitter edge, so this might go hand in hand with prediction #7.)
12. Cocktail books will become e-books. Have you been to the bookstore lately? The cookbook section has shrunk considerably, and cocktail books have taken the worst of it. (my Barnes & Noble now allots one measly shelf to the cocktail genre). More narrative-driven wine books and “food lit” books seem to be holding up OK, as are more general cookbooks. But cocktail books — essentially, smallish recipe collections– seem destined for e-book territory sooner rather than later. Frankly, I find this terrifying. (Have I mentioned that I’m writing another cocktail book, due out in 2013? How the heck will book-signings work without books or for that matter, bookstores?) Personally, I will go kicking and screaming, but I can see that it’s coming whether I like it or not. The good news? Your vintage copy of The Savoy Cocktail Book just became more valuable.