The most popular cocktails from the past are coming back into fashion and barmen are playing safe with menus that represent a kind of port in the storm of spirits, while bars are extending their food offering alongside shots and long drinks.
And this is just part of the story regarding new emerging cocktail trends among the world’s most acclaimed liquor mixologists who have been invited to predict how they will be operating in 2016.
With an underlying leitmotiv: exaggeration is out, lower alcohol contents are in and it is perfectly admissible to let the imagination roam with the design of glasses and decorative garnishes; the idea is to enjoy drinking (responsibly) with the right dose of light-heartedness and conviviality.
An unusual ingredient for cocktails: red beetroot helps those who like to play with colour, and adds a touch of elegance to the drink. It can be used in layers, cut into fine slices, and artfully mixed with orange juice or Campari to exploit the effect of bright colours and a remarkable flavour. Many barmen prepare syrups from its juice and keep them on hand for their cocktails.
In the UK, gin tasting sessions are a widespread phenomenon, as indeed they are in big United States cities. At the same time, small theme venues are springing up where gin is the outright protagonist, the equivalent of “gin bars”. So one of the trendiest experiences to try in 2016 is that of going into a bar and choosing your favourite liquor from dozens of different labels
There are very few producers in the world of this special rum (the sweetest versions, those coming from Reunion Island, are the most sought-after) made by infusing pineapple in dark rum for at least three months. But despite its limited production, demand is sky high: possibly owing to the fact that Charles Dickens used to be fond of sipping a glass of it every evening?
Alongside Pineapple Rum, another trend that is raging in the United States regards the lesser known Mexican liquors. They are now being used, along with the already popular mescal, as the basic ingredient for sotol and bacanora cocktails.
Bar or restaurant?
Forget the time when it was not possible to order anything substantial to eat with your cocktail, the 2016 trend is for a sort of mingling between the two types of venue: on one hand, restaurants tend to serve increasingly well prepared cocktails and on their side, bars are starting to offer well structured and varied menus. Yes, in 2016, you may even dine as you sip your favourite cocktail.
Even the cocktail lists presented by bars are undergoing a transformation and, in some respects, becoming more substantial, with an offering of more traditional and universal drinks, of consolidated success.
Barmen believe, in fact, that after years of extensive experimentation and constant change, customers now tend to make safe choices. And the widely known evergreens are perfect as part of a permanent menu, allowing customers to rediscover them and enjoy the nuances deriving from a particular barman’s expertise.
Unexpected Frozen Cocktails
Frozen cocktails (the most common of which are daiquiri or pina colada) have always played the role of perfect Caribbean holiday drinks, coupled with appearances on beach club menus. However, in 2016, bartenders will be crossing these boundaries to start presenting this type of icy drink in cities and even in cold climates.
Without forgetting the frozen versions of other more classical cocktails: have you ever tried a gin & tonic with shaved ice?
This is the age of umami: the fifth taste, now that it has seduced the chefs, is all set to conquer the world of spirits. Hence, some experts are trying to interpret this on-palate experience in drinks as well, by creating some highly savoury cocktails.
What about the new ingredients? Most unusual: spinach, algae, mushrooms.
Highly alcoholic cocktails are no longer in great demand; on the contrary, since the beginning of 2015 experts have noticed a return to non-alcoholic or slightly alcoholic drinks that will be confirmed in 2016. Hence the name mocktail, deriving from the verb to mock, used to describe the preparation of drinks that are just as interesting, even without the addition of alcoholic ingredients.
More in general, there is a growing tendency to offer drinks for sipping at any hour of the day: an end of the morning or afternoon aperitif, for instance. So, to meet the tastes of a wider spectrum of customers, the alcohol content – if it exists at all – is lighter to facilitate its consumption.
From the bourbon and bitters of the Old Fashioned to the classical Martini cocktail, not forgetting the whisky-based Manhattan or a refreshing Mojito... The on-trend choices of 2016 point to the timeless cocktail bar classics.
Following #foodporn, here is a hashtag that is growing in popularity on the beverage scene: the presentation of cocktails is more and more important and, after years of minimalism, ever greater attention is being focused on glasses, now available in new shapes.
At the same time, the cocktail itself expresses the creativity of the bartender, who garnishes and decorates it with unusual elements. Don’t be surprised to find flowers, sweets or even tiny slices of red meat in your glass.