Monday, 5 March 2018


[This article previously appeared in Barlife Magazine.]

by Jared Brown & Anistatia Miller

Radical trends have swept through the drinks industry over the past few years. “Craft” and “small batch” have become mainstream as global brands—particularly beer—have steadily lost business to companies not trying for international or even national success but solely focussed on regional markets. It is a trend set to continue and even rise this year.

Drink went so deep into the fussy and quirky side of speakeasy mixology over the past 16 years that there had to be an eventual swing of the pendulum in the other direction. Look for the return of the rock-and-roll dive. However, unlike the rock dives of past decades, look for a much higher standard of drink offerings.

Vodka drinkers are set to become a bit less embarrassed and apologetic, although it won’t have the slightest effect on the continued rise and rise of boutique gins. There’s no cannibalism among these categories, All these emerging identities are chipping away at the mountainous profits that once poured into the multi-national beer companies’ coffers. 

Mescal has hit an unforeseen snag, becoming a victim of its own success. Look for bartenders to cut back on pouring and customers to be a bit less wide-eyed as it becomes apparent that the trend is endangering rare agaves rather than helping to save them as it would at smaller volumes.

Look for age statements to vanish from the brown spirits as such whiskies, rums, and brandies as higher demand pushes producers into finding new flavours and marketing positions in younger blends.

We would love to see Guillaume LeBlanc’s coconut fat-washed Daiquiri that’s served in Dirty Dick’s in Paris hit Gin Basil Smash levels of international penetration. It’s phenomenal drink, but may be held back by the level of skill and amount of prep time required. However, this drink does represent another trend: the return of signature drinks. More and more, bars are becoming known for a particular drink and that drink is becoming a substantial part of the bar’s sales. Look at the Working 9-to-5 at The Shard in the Gong Bar.

Bottled cocktails have been touted as a coming trend for years. However, last year saw a number of known innovators and trend setters make headway with this wonderfully streamlined service. Will it become a major 2017 trend? More likely, we will see more early adopters join in, moving it closer to trend status in 2018. 

Ice. Ice has been so talked about for so many years that it has reached average bars and big chain operations. This is the year to be shocked if a bar doesn’t have a flawless ice program.

Brace yourself for the start of a flood of craft whiskies from enthusiastic newcomers. Remember all those new gin companies that emerged about three years ago? Most of them were making gin just to pay the bills with white spirits until their first whisk(e)y was mature enough to sell. Is it mature enough in only three years? Don’t expect the next Van Winkle or Whistle Pig to emerge from these. However, there are sure to be some interesting and even category challenging entries among them. 

America is going to see a bit of shrinkage in their global drink influence over the next few years. A nation headed by an outspoken non-drinker, its political and social climates are entering a time of upheaval and temperance. Watch for far greater European and Asian influence on global drinks in 2017. 

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