The global cocktail trends brought on by Covid-19

While the pandemic has been felt universally, the unevenness of lockdown restrictions has lent wildly different experiences to bar owners and cocktail drinkers around the globe.

Broadly speaking, there was an east-west divide, with the more proactive governments, typically in the eastern hemisphere, reacting faster and enforcing intense lockdowns that ultimately allowed for longer periods of relative normality throughout the year.

Some things were global. Many bars, unable to serve guests on-premise, took to selling bottled cocktails. Where local restrictions prohibited the sale of pre-batched alcoholic drinks, cocktail kits enabled customers to recreate drinks from their favourite menus at home. Whichever creative pivot was taken, most bars had to streamline or simplify their offer in some way to keep the lights on.

The result has been an avalanche of innovation, born out of necessity, and manifested differently based on circumstance and environment.

As anyone who tried to buy toilet roll in the spring of 2020 will remember, the reliability of the supply chain came undone spectacularly in the panic of the initial lockdowns. The solution for many bar owners, faced with uncertainty around sourcing ingredients, was to look closer to home for produce and inspiration.

“People have started to think inwards,” says Vijay Mudaliar, co-owner of Native in Singapore. “All of our clientele is local now, so they appreciate what we’re doing with local and regional produce.” 

In Hong Kong, a city that reacted quickly to the pandemic, bars responded in a similar way.

“There’s been more of a focus on local ingredients, not necessarily because of sustainability,” says Holly Graham, managing editor of Drink Magazine, based in Hong Kong. “The coronavirus has really forced everyone to look at the doorstep and see how they can support their people, their farmers, their needs, their local clientele.”

For Luke Whearty, who opened his Melbourne bar, Byrdi, just six months before the pandemic hit, local and seasonal was always the mantra, but the lockdowns cemented that strategy. “Our whole ethos is local and |seasonal and really zeroing in on producers that we’re using,” says Whearty. “I took that model from the restaurant world.

“I’ve always seen the restaurant world as being ahead of the drinks world. You see what trends are going through the restaurant world and the food world and nine times out of 10, a couple of years later or five or 10 years later, that’s what the drinks are doing.

“Everyone likes to think that they’re eating or drinking or purchasing ethically these days, so it just makes it a much easier decision for them. If they’re going to part ways with their money, they want to make sure first that it’s quality, but second, they know where that money is going. Covid really highlighted that. People are even looking in their own backyard for their next holiday.”