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.