Cocktail trends: Moving with the times

Carla Rivera, mixologist for Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits, believes bartenders have more influence on trends than even some brands. “Cocktail trends start with bartenders and influencers – people who create great content and can then draw a following. Brands try, but are sometimes one step behind. It really depends on each particular brand and how savvy they are with their marketing and trade engagement. Bartenders, however, have the direct influence on the consumer.”

Kurtis Bosley, group bars manager at Public House Management Group, Sydney, became an influencer on Instagram. He has 43.5k followers on his account (@cocktailsbykurtis) but still believes human interaction is as key as ever to the growth of cocktail trends. “The biggest influences I’ve seen that allow trends to grow are bartenders. They are very much at the forefront when guests come into their space – they interact with them and, in some ways, educate them on what they are drinking at that current time. People are more receptive of this interaction than ever before.”

This interaction creates an acceleration of trend adoption and with bartender social media accounts, consumers now have more access to the industry than ever. But is this helping them become more discerning? Bosley said: “The past three to five years have seen consumers becoming more educated drinkers. On a consistent basis we are seeing the average drinker more knowledgeable than ever when they step inside a bar.

“In turn we are seeing more obscure liquids being drunk and bartenders experimenting with more exotic ingredients. Over the past year or so I’ve seen some of the coolest flavour pairings ever – places such as Scout in London and PS40 in Sydney are well ahead of the curve when it comes to this.”

But with the early majority picking up on trends so quickly, brands now have less time to exploit trends we see among innovators and early adopters. So let’s look at the emerging trends now, which will all too quickly be hitting mainstream.

JJ Goodman, owner of LCC says: “I think vodka is on the rise after a long hiatus. This may tie in with the health-conscious folk, given its reduced calories compared to other spirits. But also it’s a great spirit and versatile for mixing. The quality of some of the brands these days is just outstanding.”

So what will we see next year? Ben Branson, founder of non-alcoholic ‘spirit’ Seedlip simply wants to see more of the same: “I hope next year we’ll see more of what happened in 2018, just on a greater and more meaningful scale.

“No and low, increased focus on sustainability, food techniques, flavour and provenance rather than a whole load of new fads.”

Egor Polonskiy, mixologist for Southern Glazer’s, thinks we could see the rise of some niche spirits, along with some continued favourites. “I think bartenders will be mixing more aquavit, sotols, agricoles, navy strength gins, American brandies, as well as low-proof cocktails.”

With such a fast-moving industry, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what the next cocktail trend will be. But the best bet would be on an innovator starting it, an early adopter sharing it and the rest being up to the majority.