With the start of a new decade, Chilled looks at the industry’s most anticipated trends.
Check out what’s about to hit bar menus in 2020.
First, the ingredients.
The quest for exotic flavors continues. Last year’s obsession with yuzu and ginger stays put with added citrus and herbal flavors like blood orange, shiso, and hemp-based products coming to the forefront. Tea-infused spirits and syrups and the use of bitter vermouth or sherry wine are other contenders on the list for most sought-after ingredients. While natural wines, foraged beers, and other earthy flavors continue to linger, wood-fired elements will also get bartenders rediscovering fire-enhanced flavors as grilled, roasted, and fire-blasted fruits and vegetables climb to the pinnacle of popular ingredients. The plant-based trend will translate from food to drinks, as beverages exclusively derived from plants such as alternative kinds of milk, drinks based in fruits and vegetables, and the use of Chlorophyll water are expected to increase in popularity for their perceived health and sustainability attributes.
Also, in terms of garnishing ingredients, aromatic (inedible) types are thriving as bartenders look forward to experimenting with these sensory ideas in 2020. Examples include spice sachets with cloves and allspice, burning sticks of wood, or even absorbent, scented squares of paper attached to glassware. “I’ll smoke a glass or the liquid. I’ll light things on fire and garnish extravagantly. I love to make something aromatically special,” says Joshua Coates, Beverage Manager of Notch Modern Kitchen & Bar.
CBD continues to gain significant ground.
Speaking of hemp, as cannabis consumption continues to become more socially acceptable, it’s no wonder that consumption habits are evolving practically overnight. Jeff Maser, CEO of Tinley Beverage Co., predicts that 2020 will be the “year of the canna-beverage,” understanding that as consumers explore new types of products, the industry must innovate to keep up.
The “everything can be transformed” mentality takes control as bar owners, bartenders, and consumers continue to pay attention to a product’s “footprint.” Discarded products are being used in new, sustainable, and creative ways to elevate drinks.
“Being sustainable can be a very scary word,” says Jen Le Nechet, MILA, Miami mixologist. “But it’s actually very easy to be more concerned about our environment. As bartenders, we are trying to be very creative, and to do so, we try to push the boundaries of the use of a single product with old school or modern culinary techniques. At MILA, we work very closely with the kitchen and exchange different leftover ingredients. Being sustainable is very ‘trendy,’ but as business owners, we try to be sustainable by first not feeding the trash bin and throwing money into it. As long as we can extract something from ingredients, we will use it until the end.”
The nitrogenation of cold brew.
Experts are predicting coffee spritzes as the go-to drink of 2020. Other top coffee trends to consider include nitro coffee on tap, cold brew alternatives, and CBD coffee. According to Nation’s Restaurant News, a recent study with S&D Coffee & Tea claims nitrogenation (permeating liquid with nitrogen) is gaining popularity among coffee drinkers for its smooth and creamy mouthfeel and is beginning to pop up everywhere from independent coffee shops to convenience chains. In addition to coffee, tea is also being nitrogenated with increasing frequency. Expect to see bartenders follow suit.
Low ABV and Spritzes will continue to reign supreme.
Low ABV and No ABV cocktail menu options continue to rise, along with better-for-you booze made with no alcohol. These options are found on most of today’s bar menus, driven by the “sober curious” movement to make it easy for bar-goers to still join in socially without partaking in alcoholic beverages.
“Low ABV and non-alcoholic cocktails are on the rise as health and wellness are more important than ever,” adds Zachary Gross, Beverage Director of Sen Sakana. “It’s extremely important for me to include zero-proof cocktails on my menus because everyone should be able to enjoy creative libations. Also it’s a chance for me to be extra creative because I can’t rely on booze.”
“For me, zero-proof cocktails are about inclusion and warmth,” continues Joshua Coates, Beverage Manager of Notch Modern Kitchen & Bar. “With people choosing to abstain from alcohol for one reason or another, we have to, as professionals, be searching for a way to connect with those people! Since I work with liquid specifically, I choose to put as much love and attention into a no ABV drink as I would into something boozy.”
Botanical infused sparkling drinks also hop aboard the non-alcoholic trend train in 2020. Zac Adcox, beverage director, co-manager, and house sommelier at indo, St. Louis adds that we should be on the lookout for light, refreshing, and low-alcohol spritzes. These low-sugar, crisp cocktails are the next evolution of the Spanish Gin & Tonic, which took over bars not too long ago. He also has his sights set on vermouth as a perfect low ABV sipper. “The versatility and enjoyment of sipping some vermouth on the rocks makes for an exquisite lower proof drink. Low proof and non-alcoholic cocktails are on the come-up and can be found on cocktail menus everywhere.”
“Switching” from frozen rosé.
The frozen rosé craze gives way to a new frozen mixology technique called “switching.” When you freeze a spirit and let the spirit melt, the alcohol will naturally melt before the water content in which high-proof spirits are frozen to super-cold temperatures to separate the water. The frozen water is then replaced with a different liquid, which allows new flavors to be added to a spirit without diluting it.
“At indo, we freeze mezcal overnight,” explains Adcox. “Then let it sit at room temperature and melt. Before the ice melts, the mezcal will. Once we have our higher proof mezcal after a couple hours of thawing, we let the ice melt and that water should have smoky elements of mezcal, but no alcohol. Reversely, to make the mezcal a low alcohol, you can add water content back. Say you clarified some grapefruit juice down to the point that it was just water and sugar–it tastes like grapefruit. You could add that water to the mezcal and have a new flavored mezcal.”
Menus will be offering drinks to help shift your mood in various directions. Mindful drinking is very trendy nowadays. Drinking less, drinking better, with better quality ingredients is critical to the best possible experiences. “When we create cocktail menus, we try to think about every drinker’s option,” says MILA Miami Mixologists Mido Yahi and Jen Le Nechet. “We create a guest experience with playful (instagramable) cocktails enticing all the senses with special attention to every detail. We create a conceptual menu—the drinking experience is not only about the taste of the drink, which is only one of our senses. All the senses are going to create an experience.”
The majority of Chilled bartenders surveyed are embracing the no and low alcohol culture as part of their overall bar experience in the New Year. Also, as a result of technological advancements coupled with innovations in manufacturing and the rise of social cafes, the cannabis-drink business is giving other titan industries a run for their money. Bartenders will most likely experiment with this branch of beverages, followed up by alcohol-free spirits, and up-leveled coffees and teas along with a push toward more exotic fruit flavors like guanabana, lulo, and passionfruit.