In the first of our 3-part cocktail trends 2017 series, we reflect on the year that was and present the cocktail trends that dominated in 2017.
We’ve seen collaborations sweeping the cocktail world, be it bar takeovers, visiting industry professional or distillery collaborations. We’ve noted blue drinks making a comeback, Negronis becoming the new Frosé, the slow demise of barrel-aged cocktails and an ever-growing thirst for premium spirits and knowledge among consumers. Here’s what trended in 2017.
Top 10 Cocktails Trends 2017
There’s no doubt that sustainability in bars has trended in 2017, be it reducing waste, refusing plastic straws or dehydrating by-products of a cocktail to be used as garnish. Sustainability is no longer just a buzzword, and while some bars are slow on the uptake and it may be a long way to go towards zero waste bartending, conversations are taking place and that can only have a positive impact on the industry.
2. Resurgence of Tiki
According to Jeff ‘Beachbum’ Berry, Tiki Expert and Historian, we are in the midst of Tiki’s second golden age. Not just an international phenomenon, the resurgence of Tiki is evident in Tiki bars opening across Australia such as Jacoby’s Tiki Bar in Sydney, Tiki as FK in Perth, Palm Royale in Melbourne and more recently, Lost Luau, a summer Tiki pop-up in Sydney.
With more non-Tiki bars serving Tiki drinks, the rum category is growing from strength to strength. Blue drinks are making a comeback and they’re a far cry from the disco drinks of the 70’s.
3. The Gin Explosion
Gin continues to explode on the drink scene with new emerging distilleries, existing distilleries launching seasonal and limited edition gins, and the plethora of collaborations with bars, lifestyle brands and custom-made gins such as our collaboration with Ironbark Distillery for the Gourmantic Birthday Gin 2017.
As Australian native botanicals continue to feature in many local gins, obscure botanicals dominate headlines worldwide be it green ants, collagen, spruce tips from Christmas trees, gin infused with “possessed” apple and mint, and pechuga gin distilled with an organic turkey breast.
An interesting category to watch is the rise of Japanese Gin due in part to the worldwide shortage of Japanese whisky. Japan’s new-found interest in gin has led to brands such as Wa Bi Gin by Mars Distillery, Nikka Coffey Gin and Ki No Bi from The Kyoto Distillery.
Whisky continues to grow in popularity spreading across a new and younger generation eager to learn and discover new flavour profiles. No-age statement whiskies are improving in quality thereby gaining more acceptance as consumers realise that flavour is not dependent on age. And with a distillery claiming to produce 10 Year Old ‘Whisky’ in 10 Weeks, the future is looking intriguing to say the least.
5. ‘Low to No’ Alcohol Trend
The ‘Low to No’ alcohol trend continues to build on the popularity of spritzes, low ABV drinks and reverse cocktails. With the emergence of non-alcoholic distilled spirits, more bars and restaurants are embracing non-alcoholic offerings, some dedicating a section of their menu to non-alcoholic cocktails and providing sophisticated beverages that are far removed from sweet, sugary concoctions.
6. Fun Drinks & Menu Simplicity
Gone are the days of the cocktail menu spanning several pages. Cocktail menus are back to being concise, one page lists making it easier and simpler for the consumer to make an informed choice. Some bars are doing away with cocktail names and putting the focus on the primary flavour, others are putting the fun back into drinking with slushies made with quality ingredients, or offering tasty drinks with fun garnishes like liquorice all sorts.
In terms of menu design, GoGo Bar at Chin Chin Sydney applied the triangular food pyramid approach to their menu, Whirly Bird‘s cocktail list is hidden inside old vinyl record sleeves and we had the spin-the-dial pizza shaped cocktail menu at Maybe Frank Surry Hills.
7. Ice, Garnishes & Aesthetics
Be it a perfect cube or a hand-chiselled sphere, the trend for clear ice continues. The stamped ice trend is becoming more prevalent with bars branding their ice with logos or initials using a custom-designed ice stamp. The stamp is easily transportable which means bars can take them abroad and use them for collaborations, takeovers and pop ups bringing a personalised touch to the experience.
Ice is also seen served in stirred cocktails served up. Citrus and other garnishes are getting smaller, often reduced to the size of a 20 cent coin. Not only is it economically sound, it adds beautiful aesthetics to the drink.
8. Cocktails at Home
There’s no doubt that the popularity of cocktail instagram accounts plays a key role in transforming cocktail culture by demystifying cocktails and making them more accessible. Cocktails at home, a trend we documented in early 2016 was a key point in this trends article, with home bartenders and cocktail enthusiasts having a positive impact on bars and creativity.
As drinkstagram accounts continue to grow, more global initiatives such as Amaro Week and #WeHaveTheLastWord will spread among the home bartending instagram community.
9. Bartender and Barista
The merging of bartender and barista has gone beyond the ubiquitous Espresso Martini as brands build upon an existing relationship. Tia Maria launched the Tia Maria + Coffee Project, a global initiative bringing together coffee culture and cocktail hour. Mr Black Coffee Liqueur brought American Bar senior bartender and recent ‘World Coffee In Good Spirits’ champion Martin Hudak to Australia for a series of masterclasses and bar takeovers while Johnnie Walker launched the new Johnnie Walker Blenders’ Batch Espresso Roast expression under the theme of “Barista meets Blender”.
10. Vocktails, Technology & Virtual Reality
With virtual reality rapidly becoming part of the mainstream, a virtual reality headset alongside a cocktail or a spirit is no longer an object of curiosity. VR goggles can transport drinkers to Islay in Scotland where they can experience the 360 degree sights of Lagavulin, along with the scents and sounds of the working distillery. Bars such as Jason Atherton’s City Social are offering an augmented reality experience where guests can hold their phones up to the cocktails, see them surrounded by artwork for an immersive drink experience.
Vocktails, or virtual cocktails claim their high-tech hardware can transform a flavourless liquid such as water into a tipple that looks, smells and tastes like a complex drink as subjects perceive salty, bitter and sour flavours.
Future Cocktail Trends
What will the future of drinking hold? Will vocktails made of water be the next no-alcohol trend, will we be happy with drones serving us drinks, and will we see more outlandish pop up bars such as Alcotraz, a prison themed BYOB bar where guests wear orange jumpsuits and smuggle booze?
Next in the cocktail trends 2017 series: Best and Worst Cocktail Trends 2017 According to Bartenders
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