Bar Convent Berlin (BCB) is over, but the massive trades show will continue to send ripples through the industry for months. Thousands of brands and industry folk combined to create a near sensory overload at the expo. However, some trends emerged. Major takeaways included one particular tonic, a saturated gin market, a non-alcoholic spirit, molecular mixology, and the Asian persuasion.
Just ten years ago, the idea of a proper tonic, rich with a actual quinine was a novelty relegated to cocktail nerds and a few elite bar programs. Fever Tree fixed that fast. The brainchild of Charles Rolls and Tim Warrillow, the mixer company built an empire quickly; in just 14 years, they gained market dominance as well as wide consumer distribution internationally. BCB provided the brand an opportunity to place an exclamation mark on their conquest. Fever Tree’s massive booth (and satellite truck) featured their signature tonics as well as an ever-growing range that now also includes three ginger ales, ginger beer, and a cola. Even more impressive was the label’s ubiquity across other vendor’s booths at the show. The product was so prevalent that it was easy to mistake some gin booths for Fever Tree’s HQ.
Speaking of gin… the gin sector is still saturated—very saturated. According to BCB, gin was the largest category represented at the expo; by our count, over 150 booths, over a third of the total booths, were hawking gin. We were delighted to see some distillers such as Denmark’s ELG and England’s Langley trying their hand at producing classic styles such as Old Tom Gin. Conversely, we were a little disappointed to learn that the trend of labeling a neutral grain spirit that is light-on-juniper and heavy-on-botanicals (essentially flavored vodka) as “gin” is alive and well. Also of note, gin is coming from some interesting places these days—expressions like Roku are leading a quiet Japanese gin breakout. Roku is a Suntory subsidiary, and they were not alone among heavyweight portfolios entering the market—Italian Luxardo now makes gin and French Maison Ferrand is also pushing their new-ish Citadelle Gin.
Zero proof cocktails are all the rage in the bar biz right now. (It’s “hospitality”; give the customer what they want, fool!) SeedLip is taking the trend beyond simple mocktails with their range of non-alcoholic “spirits.” The trait that sets the brand, a self-described “nature company” apart is quality. Their expressions taste great and the complex, botanical flavors are versatile enough to allow the bartender some flexibility to create a solid, unique drink. SeedLip’s booth at BCB was neither large nor flashy, but it was consistently packed with visitors.
The Science Scene
Stateside, the term “bar chef” is a bit of a punchline, but internationally, the moniker is thriving—albeit with a slightly different meaning. At an opening presser, Executive VP of Reed Exhibitions Brazil Paulo Octavio Pereira de Almeida declared that the next industry trend would be bar chefs blurring the line between beverages and cuisine through the use of advanced scientific techniques and equipment. His contention was supported by an educational lineup that included Micah Melton explaining his signature innovations in molecular mixology at The Aviary and Arnd Heissen, bar manager of Bar Fragrances diving into advanced coffee techniques like syphon and cold-brewing. On the floor, centrifuge clarified juices and rotovap’d ingredients were a staple in sample cocktails. And, then there was the steady crowd flocking to the Hoshizaki booth to see perfectly clear ice balls produced en masse through their patented closed-cell system.
Italy was the featured nation-partner at BCB 2018, but the hot region was Asia. The trend should be no surprise to industry watchers; just look at top-tier cocktail bars like PDT, EO, and Broken Shaker opening Asian outposts. Or, simply reference the continent’s recent record prices for wine and whisk(e)y purchases. Or, look at Heineken’s recent $3.1 billion China gamble. At the expo, the booths representing Asian products drew crowds. And, the crowd, itself, drew drew hundreds of visitors from Asia. At after-hours parties, much of the conversation centered on incorporating Asian products such as Baiju and Sochu into Euro-American programs.