We caught up with bartenders from all over the country, attended various engaging seminars with key industry professionals and learned about the latest trends in drinking culture.
Here are the top 10 trends we learned at Sydney Bar Week 2017:
1. The diversity and popularity of the gin category was evident at the Indie Tasting, from gins that put the focus back on juniper to those using foraged native ingredients such as green ants. Speaking with Lesley Gracie, Master Distiller of Hendrick’s Gin prior to the Innovation Tasting seminar, she attributed the growth of the category to gin’s versatility. “Scotch whisky is tied down to tight regulations. Gin lends itself to creativity both in the manufacture and in the drink angle, and in cocktails. It’s so much more accessible to do great things with. I see infinite possibilities with gin”.
2. Locally produced gins are a growing trend locally and internationally. According to Duncan McRae, Hendrick’s Global Ambassador, distillers with their own local and native story instantly have a market in their home area. The challenge will be for the brands that have aspirations to break internationally, from not just being local but being a key brand in bars where provenance doesn’t set them apart.
3. At the Business of Bars panel discussion on the World’s Best Bars, a uniquely Australian trait that makes a successful bar is the sense of fun in service along with good banter. However, there is a limit of having too much fun and that is when it stops being inclusive and when the customer is no longer part of the joke.
4. In bar trends, themed bars aren’t necessarily a bad idea but they need to have a defined vision and clear concept and not necessarily a theme that seems cartoonish in a way but one that brings a guest experience. They need to give guests something to talk about and “be a spot in the customer psyche”. In short, a bar need to find its brand and be true to its brand and its strategy.
5. Sustainability may have started as a buzz word but is gaining traction in bars. While its application may seem daunting at first, bars can start small simply by choosing not to use straws when tasting cocktails but by using a bar spoon on the back of the hand.
6. Native foraging and indigenous produce is featuring heavily in locally produced gin, vermouth and other spirits. Building on sustainability, at the Native Foraging seminar run by Adelaide Hills Distillery, Daniel Motlop of Something Wild explained that all their native produce has permits which prevents over harvesting and builds sustainability. Regulations exist about how much to harvest, how to harvest and how to minimise for diseases as well as ensuring the business has a positive impact on indigenous communities from providing jobs and education to health.
7. The shift away from the speakeasy bar continues. Speaking at the The Barbershop X Atlas Masterclass, Jason Williams, Creative Director at Proof & Company said that for the last 15 years, we’ve been celebrating the speakeasy with moustaches and secret entrances. Atlas bar in Singapore is the antitheses of all that, a celebratory bar with 1010 different gins, 280 champagnes and cocktails offering a much more relaxed guest experience than what its grandeur implies.
8. While Japanese gin is an emerging category, Old Tom gin is not on trend as bars are looking at sugar alternatives in drinks. This is complemented by the implications of having a sugar tax in the UK.
9. While the path to creativity in bars can be attributed to many factors, the rise of the home bartender with people making cocktails at home has a major role to play, Luke Whearty of Operation Dagger in Singapore explains. Consumers go to bars for the guest experience they can’t have at home.
10. In summing up what makes a great bar: hospitality, the bar team, the atmosphere, the first impressions that last. As Jeremy Shipley, Group Bars Manager, Solotel puts it, “Offer a guest experience and hospitality. When you’re making a drink, pretend you’re on the other side and have the polish to be nice and spoil people, and make sure they remember why they were here”.
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