Cocktail trends: Moving with the times

The laggards are bound by tradition. They represent 16% of the population and are resistant to anything new. By the time trends get to this group they are embraced by society to the extent that they are no longer considered innovative. This group would be resistant to cocktail bars, let alone cocktails.

But how long does it take for a cocktail trend to pass through these stages? The DOI theory uses the rate of adoption as a way of measuring how quickly something becomes a trend. It is the speed at which innovation is adopted by members of a social system resulting in an s-shaped curve. At first only a few adopt the innovation in a specific time period, such as month or a year. The curve then begins to climb as more people adopt the innovation. Then the rate of adoption begins to level off until it drops off.

Spiros Malandrakis, senior alcoholic drinks analyst at Euromonitor International, tells Drinks International: “Alcohol is moving extremely fast, much faster than it used to maybe 10 years ago.

“The rise and fall of cocktails takes five to 10 years in my understanding so it is a much longer process. It takes time for a trend to gain traction and materialise and become relevant across the board.”


While this social order of trend adoption is still a relevant framework for our understanding, social media has undoubtedly evolved the speed and direction at which cocktail trends can travel. Now bartenders and brands alike are able to use their social media channels as a platform to directly reach mainstream audiences. Millennials and Generation Z are the biggest social media users, therefore it comes as no surprise that brands would leverage this to their advantage. With access to so many key consumers they are circumventing the order of trends and are using celebrities or influencers to appeal directly.

A great example of a cocktail that gained traction from social media is the Aperol Spritz. The hashtag has more than 800k posts on Instagram and has been placed on the menu of bars all around the world as a result.

Malandrakis says: “The rise of the Aperol Spritz shouldn’t make sense in the context of the generations that have grown up on massive amounts of sugar and Aperol is quite on the bitter side. But it gained popularity on Instagram so there is a visual element of how cocktails look and how this becomes part of social media personas.”

The Aperol Spritz is the perfect storm – a cocktail that became popular in the 1950s and therefore connects well to the classic cocktail movement. It is 11% abv, which appeals to the trend of low abv and had a highly marketed lifestyle campaign by Campari. These attributes appealed to early adopters who then harnessed the cocktail and, as a result, it proliferated through Instagram – a great example of exploiting factors to create a wider trend.

Social media has given bartenders a platform too. They are now the independent leaders of taste and are the early adopters/trendsetters of the industry who are looked upon by the early majority. The likes of Rich Wood (@the_cocktailguy) with 64k followers and Ryan Chetiyawardana (@mrlyan) with 28.1k followers on Instagram are some of the rising stars from the bartender/influencer group.