1. We’ll drown in a sea of whiskey. It seems like not a single week passes without another new whiskey: Bourbon, rye, Scotch, American whiskeys, Irish whiskeys, small batch, cask-aged, etc etc etc! Someone’s gonna have to drink all this stuff. I’ve also noticed that some marketers are betting that “someone” will be women.
2. Luxe will stage a comeback. At some point, the economy is going to rebound. And that’s when the pricey Cognacs, Scotches, and other high-end spirits are going to find their way back to bars and stores. Expect to see the obligatory crazy-expensive $1000 cocktail revived too.
3. Millennial drinkers will be courted. If the Four Loko kerfuffle (followed by the alcoholic whipped-cream fallout) taught us anything, it’s that college-age drinkers….like drinking. (Shocking!) There’s 70 million Millennials out there (born between 1980 and 2000), including 20 million who have yet to come of legal drinking age. Clearly, this demographic represents a tremendous amount of purchasing power. Distillers and marketers will be aiming new spirits and cocktails directly at the whippersnapper generation. Pray they have good taste.
4. Flair bartending will make a comeback. And craft bartenders will weep. Albert Trummer, we’re lookin’ at you!
5. Bizarre bitters will hit the mainstream. This past year, we’ve seen an influx of small-scale bitters rolled out in increasingly wonderful, bizarre, and inspirational flavors. Chocolate mole bitters from Bittermen’s. Sriracha bitters. Tiki bitters from Trader Tiki. Apple Pie bitters from Modern Spirits. The list goes on and on and on. When will a large-scale national distributor pick up some of these beauties and land them in Wal-Mart or BevMo?
6. Umami, umami, umami. Savory cocktails have been gaining traction for some time. First it was the all-bacon revue (now, like, soooo 2007). Now, mushrooms and bell peppers appear to be the frontrunners. I don’t want to ever see a huitlacoche or truffle cocktail set before me….but apparently, it’s only a matter of time.
7. Cherry will be the new pomegranate. Distillers are rolling out cherry- and berry-infused spirits at an alarming rate. (Bacardi Torched Cherry. Red Stag. Infused vodkas. and whiskeys. and liqueurs….) We need some great cocktails to fuel the fire, though.
8. Tiki will continue its explosion….before flaming out. I say the first half of 2011 is going to see tiki bars, tiki cocktails, and tiki culture continue its rapacious, raucous expansion. By the second half of the year, it will be considered over-exposed and played out.
9. A new crop of cocktail cities will claim their rightful place. Beyond to the usual major metro areas known for strong cocktail culture (NY, by which I mean Manhattan, San Francisco, New Orleans, etc.) we’re going to see other cities taking center stage with risk-taking cocktail culture that is hard-pressed to thrive in the larger, more expensive cities. Brooklyn has become impossible to ignore if you love a good drink. Expect to add Vancouver (which is getting its own Tales of the Cocktail soon!), Portland, OR, Louisville, KY, and yes, Kansas City, MO to the up-and-comer cocktail list.
10. Sweeteners will reach beyond simple syrup. Maple syrup, honey, agave nectar, Demerara sugar and other alternatives will sweeten your cocktail. I’m waiting for the “corn sugar” lobby to dip into the cocktail market.
11. Look for a second wave of molecular mixology. This time, it wil be driven by tools (I actually received an ad touting the PolyScience “smoking gun” as a perfect holiday gift!) and more accessible techniques. It will also yield more accessible drinks — say, agar-agar jello shots rather than fussy liqueur-infused “pearls.”