The #instagrammable cocktails
The saying, 'You eat with your eyes' definitely applies to bars today.
In the last couple of years, we are seeing bars and restaurants embracing the idea of a beautifully garnished cocktail with edible flowers, intricate fruit zest designs hanging on the glass, and even using smoke as a presentation piece for the cocktail. One look through Instagram or Facebook and you'll see this trend is still going strong and likely to continue and strengthen in the year ahead.
As you create your cocktail menu, think about ways to create a visual impact without bogging down service. Pre-batched garnishes, bright colours and creative glassware are great ways to liven up your drinks and make something eye-catching and 'instagrammable'.
Brandy (in all its glory)
Brandy has been simmering in the background for most of the now-twenty-year-old craft cocktail revival but finding a quality brandy or Cognac at an approachable price point was always a challenge. Thankfully, in recent years, there have been some new and old producers embracing the challenge and offering good products priced specifically for cocktail menus. Expect to see Cognac, Armagnac, Calvados, American Brandies and Apple Brandies more frequently on cocktail menus in 2019 and 2020.
Looking back on 'Tales of the Cocktail 2018', one of the things that caught my eye was a growing push from Genever producers to bring their products into the United States and trying the same for the rest of the world. 2020 may be the year that we see more education and interest in this classic spirit category. (Or maybe I just hope it is!)
Sustainability has been a conversation that has been happening for years in the craft bar community. In 2018-19, we saw some major progress as the issue of plastic straws hit the mainstream consciousness. As a result, in certain cities and States, laws have been put into place to limit the use of single-use straws. That said, waste is still a huge problem in bars and hospitality as a whole and in 2019 I think we can look forward to more conversations and ideas being exchanged around environmentalism and sustainability for the industry.
Going 'Spirit Free'
I had the good fortune of spotting Julia Momose last year about her 'Spirit Free' movement, and I'm very happy to say the movement is starting to really take hold. Offering low-ABV or non-alcoholic drinks on the menu gives you the opportunity to increase check averages while improving the guest experience for folks who can't or don't choose to drink alcohol. I am personally excited both as a consumer and a mixologist to see this taking hold!
Consider adding some creative non-alcoholic cocktails to your menu. The food cost is low and your non-drinking patrons will be thrilled to join in the experience of tasty drinks!
A few other trends they are seeing in their local markets, but which aren't quite taking hold yet:
Is hand-cut ice a staple in the industry now? There's no question, the presentation and experience are truly memorable, but I think it's still too early to say whether the trend will go mainstream. Many high-end craft cocktail places have instituted ice programmes to produce and serve clear ice and/or hand-cut. But the labour and cost around setting up and maintaining an ice program remains prohibitive. I could definitely see specialized ice programs remaining limited to highly "craft" cocktail bars.
Are you ready for mushroom cocktails? What about turmeric, tarragon, or garlic? If you go to mixology bars in large markets like San Francisco or London, you are likely to see a couple of 'Umami' cocktails on the menu. But I'm not confident the public is ready for a Mushroom Flip or Tarragon Sour. Time will tell.
There's no doubt that cannabidiol cocktails are making headlines. It's still the wild west out there for this now-trendy ingredient. While many argue it has positive health effects, there is very little (if any) regulation on its use in cocktails. I think this trend will continue to grow – but I think regulation is coming quickly. We'll have to see to what degree government intervention nips this trend in the bud. (See what I did there?)
Focus on the guest
Overall, I'm very excited to see the continued dedication to innovation and creativity in craft bars. And with our industry getting more creative, customers are also becoming more willing to try new things.
The most important thing – as always – is to remember the focus on the customer and providing great experiences. If that's our primary goal, then I don't think we can go too far wrong.
- Gunjan Pal, Head Mixologist, Sly Stories