Top 5 Cocktail Trends of 2019

Photo: Mixology Ice via SevenFiftyDaily

If you're a nerd like me, you're probably wondering what new and exciting themes are happening in the cocktail world this year. I'm no expert, but I do scour the interwebs quite a bit, so I thought I'd share what I've seen so far.

5) Superfood takeover

Photo: The Rookie Barkeep

You totally thought a "wheatgrass shot" involved alcohol anyway, am I right?

This trend turns cocktails into multitasking wonders, benefiting everything from your metabolism to your gut. Think kombucha, cold-pressed juice, and superfood infusions.

A few recipes to get you started:
Back in the day, I used to add vodka to my protein shake (combining post-workout and pre-party activities saved so much time!), but I'm not sure that counts.

4) Mouthfeel and texture

Photo: Gordon Ramsay Restaurants

This one is a little bit of a catch-all, but how the drink looks and feels in tactile terms is also getting some attention.

One example is incorporating the concept of umami to make the mouthfeel experience more interesting. Some folks are calling this trend "savory," but I think it's more than that given the prominence of foods like truffles, mushrooms, and seaweed – all of which add a meatiness that is difficult to describe but delicious for those who are into such things.

Another trend is carbonating drinks – as in carbonating the whole cocktail, not just adding soda or tonic. Unlike umami, which contributes to taste, carbonation actually changes the way the liquid feels, while also inviting your other senses to the party. The sight of bubbles leaping from the surface, the sound of them popping like fireworks, the feel of the fizz on your tongue and tickling your nose... all of these serve to make cocktails a more interesting experience.  Check out PUNCH's guide to carbonating cocktails to get started.

The last example I'll share is what's happening with ice. Sure, serving an old fashioned over one giant cube of ice to slow down dilution isn't a new concept, and even serving drinks through a branded ice sculpture has added flair to corporate events for decades. But the size, shape, texture, and clarity of ice has become so central to mixology that cocktail bars like the Aviary have developed dedicated "ice programs" to innovate and oversee the quality of this critical ingredient. The technology necessary to bring this trend to home mixologists is still emerging, but it's likely only a matter of time.

3) Farm-to-bartender

Photo: The Rookie Barkeep

Cocktails featuring fresh produce and house-made ingredients have been around for awhile, but there's a sustainability angle to it now that feels pretty new. From selecting organic and sustainably produced base spirits to finding tasty, creative ways to incorporate cast-offs from the kitchen to reduce waste (did you know the gross sludge in your can of chickpeas can be whipped into a froth resembling egg whites?), bartenders are increasingly incorporating principles from the Slow Food Movement in cocktail making.

I'm happy to see this... fresh mixers, homemade syrups, and fruit- and vegetable-infused spirits make a big difference on both taste and carbon footprint, and they're not too intimidating for rookie bartenders with access to a farmer's market.

2) Hold the sauce

Photo: Seedlip

Driven by Millennials, many of whom have chosen not to partake in the bacchanalian traditions of their predecessors, alcohol-free spirits and low- and no-alcohol concoctions already started catching headlines in 2018, but 2019 may be their year to go mainstream.

If you are like my Gen X wife, you are probably wondering why anyone would waste calories on such a thing. Mindfulness, a healthy lifestyle, and a preference for "natural highs" are among some of the reasons. I am a Millennial and don't count myself among those in the sober camp (I'm sure this comes as a shock), but I do see mixology more as a creative outlet and less being specifically about getting hammered, so I'm bought in.

1) Drink like Snoop

Photo: FOHNYC via Food & Wine

In 1999, Lagunitas Brewing Company in California started throwing its 4:20 parties, and as the name would imply, these parties involved some substances less legal than the beer it brewed. These parties – and the bust that ended them six years later – have inspired a number of offerings, from Censored to The Waldos' Special Ale and others.

Now that more derivatives of the cannabis family are finding their way into legal distribution channels, it's likely a surprise to nobody that Lagunitas is at the forefront of the early beverage offerings featuring the drug, including last year's CA-only release of Hifi Hops, a sparkling water infused with hops and THC.

Cocktails aren't far behind. Bartenders who reside in states that allow it are infusing spirits with hemp, fat-washing spirits with CBD oil, and garnishing drinks with edibles, among other techniques, according to this article in Food & Wine.

Drink 'em if you got 'em.


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