19 for ’19, Pt. I: Cocktail & Spirits Trend Survey

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2018 is at an end and 2019 is dawning. Neat Pour asked 19 experts in spirits and hospitality about what trends they’ve seen over the past year and those that they predict are coming in the year ahead. Below is the first installation of the three part series.

• “You know I’m all about that low ABV. I think the rise of lower proof cocktails will continue, and I’m thrilled about it. There are a plethora of well made Sherries and Wine-based products on the market to act as a base and support higher proof spirits. It’s a lovely thing to be able to offer your guests elegant and thoughtful cocktails that are lower in proof. The Aperol Spritz has become one of our most called for drinks and those requests are coming from the same guests that would typically order a Vodka Soda.” Kellie Thorne — Empire State South

• “If I could predict the future, I would be retired on an island in the Caribbean. Let’s just hope the quality and innovation of drinks continues to rise.” Brian Miller — The Polynesian

• “Maybe it’s a  reaction  to the social discourse right now, but I see the trends getting more sophisticated. For years we have talked about aperitifs, and now the Aperol spritz has gone mainstream.  That is good news for other  interesting  aperitif  wines coming not just out of Italy, but France, Spain and even islands like Corsica and Sardinia.   Manzanilla and  Fino ,  bone dry sherry, and  Pineau de  Charentes, a sweet wine fortified with cognac au de vie, are  popping up on a lot of menus. Making  classic drinks, like a Collins, spritz, or even just tonic with these lower abv spirits means the guest can drink more, the bar can lower the cost and it all goes better with food.   The cuisine here in Seattle is familiar to this Nola gal with its bounty of seafood and oysters.  I am seeing oyster shell washed Martinis spiked with briny dry sherry, a style that the bartender elite has favored for a while, going mainstream in the upcoming year.” Abigail Gullo — Ben Paris Restaurant at the State

• “I think we’re going to see a breakout in the understanding of why cocktails work. Not just in terms of sugar/acid/alcohol or bitter/sweet/sour, but in terms of flavor interaction and perception at different levels of sweetness and dilution.” Jake Parrott — Haus Alpenz

• “Every year I saw that brandy will really take off, but I think it might actually happen in 2019! Traditional Old World producers like Reisetbaueur, Rochelt, and Capovilla really turned more heads this past year; while domestically, Bertoux, Rhine Hall, and Neversink Spirits are leading the charge with really high integrity.

As our collective social conscious continues to grow, I’m hoping that more women in the greater beverage industry get recognized for their work — for example, woman-led coffee coops, femme distillers (like Joy at Appleton) and wine producers, photographers (sup Allison Weber and Shannon Sturgis), educators, and other leaders and contributors who make our world go round.

I know everyone is tired of hearing about single-use plastic straws, but so many of y’all are still using them. This isn’t a trend; it’s a necessity! It’s 2019 — get with it already!” Claire Sprouse — Hunky Dory, Tin Roof

• “Making the complex seem simple and exalting the guest will become fashionable again in ‘19. Our business is fundamentally about serving others, so as the cocktail landscape gets more and more crowded the best bars will differentiate themselves by concentrating on making all guests feel welcome and making drinks that consistently deliver.” Neal Bodenheimer — CureCo, Tales of the Cocktail Foundation

• “I think in the year ahead, more bartenders will join the sustainable movement to implement eco-friendly and zero waste programs at their bars. In turn, consumers will become more conscious about what they drink. Bartenders are becoming important educators for spirits brands. Sustainability is not a trend, it is a meaningful movement that is here to stay.” Hanna Lee — Hanna Lee Communications

• “There are more new products to ever and the clutter can be very challenging to muddle through from low/no ABV drinks to a range of coffee-based liqueurs to the continued output from distilleries large and small.

For the new year there are certainly some fun and exciting trends afoot! Citrus-free batch cocktails for trade and at home is becoming very popular. The batch can last for weeks! Equally so, Draft Cocktails for non-traditional cocktail spots is gaining traction as once recipes are tested and proofed, re-batching and service are easy as can be…and very profitable. Every menu in the universe now seems to have a non-alcoholic ‘cocktail’ featuring distilled herbs or berries. They can be tasty but they can also be very expensive. The trend is being led by bartenders. It will be interesting to see if consumers catch on and grow demand. On the Craft level, there is increasing stock of reasonably to well-aged whiskey that is finally ready for prime time. It will be interesting to see if more than a few can find a good route to market and if they will be offered at reasonable prices. Finally, retro cocktails seem to have found there way back to being a standard offer…but with authentic ingredients. The popularity of coffee and cold-brew has ignited a fancy for the Espresso Martini and the result is several high quality coffee liqueurs.” Allen Katz — New York Distilling Company

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