Cocktail Trends for 2014

Cocktail trends in 2014Looking for the leading cocktail trends for 2014? Be prepared to turn your head in a few directions – there doesn’t seem to be a single clear cut answer. Depending on which experts you turn to, you’ll get a different answer… or answers in many cases.

Simplicity

Returning to simplicity seems to be a start, according to Forbes.com, “8 Ways You’ll Be Drinking Cocktails Differently.” Cocktails with a laundry list of ingredients look like they’re becoming passé with simpler, classic cocktails making a resurgence that let the flavor of the alcohol take the leading role. (Also see Classic Cocktails Making a Comeback.) “Once you get past five or six ingredients, the drink will become murky and disconnected, lacking direction,” said Beau du Bois, Corner Door (Culver City, CA) head bartender (as quoted in the Forbes article). Going hand-in-hand with the simplicity concept is a shorter time to make a good cocktail. Patrons are losing patience with waiting ten minutes to make a complicated, multi-ingredient drink.

While there may be a push toward simplicity, the idea of ready-to-serve cocktails is losing favor. According to Jim Beam in a recent quarterly report, this category is showing a weakness, indicating that buyers would rather make the drinks themselves from scratch or have a bartender do it for them.

Craft is In

The craft beer industry has exploded, and now it looks like craft distillers are going to follow suit. According to “Spirits: Bartenders give some spirited predictions” by the Pittsburg Post Gazette, there are now 600 distilleries in the country while there were only 70 a decade ago. Most of these are finding success competing against the giants in the same way that craft breweries carved out a huge niche in the beer industry. The number of distilleries could jump to 750 by the end of this year. These small distilleries are experimenting with assorted liqueur flavors that are gaining favor as well as crafting rum, gin, and aquavit in small batches.

Craft beer continues to take center stage with American tastes changing toward more robust flavors. The Brewers Association contends that American craft brewers are revered around the world for their innovation, and the organization has now defined more than 100 beer styles. Additionally, most Americans live within 10 miles of a brewery, and with a push across the food and beverage industries to think and support local, don’t overlook the brewery that’s probably in your own backyard.

Boldness and Bitters

With palettes changing, there’s a move toward bold and bitter flavors. Bitters are used in small amounts, sold in tiny bottles and last for years but give a big flavor to cocktails. Some bars are turning to making bitters themselves, and promoting house-made bitters has been a growing marketing ploy. However, you may not need to go to the trouble. The rise in craft distilleries brings with it a rise in craft bitter producers that are getting licenses to sell their products commercially.

Smoky flavors are also trending up. Certainly, smokiness is the essence of whiskey, but it’s showing up in other places now as well. How about smoked ice cubes? At Restaurant Kelly Liken in Vail, CO, bartenders place ice cubes in the meat smokers, then refreeze the melted water. The flavor, according to Ian Tulk, lead bartender, is very clean with a campfire smell.

New Zealand rum maker, Stolen has also introduced a coffee and cigarette flavor. This spiced rum, according to the maker, is infused with roasted coffee bean and smoke flavors for a unique style of spiced rum. It imparts a sweet coffee aroma with a smoky but smooth mouth feel.

While there’s no clear cut, easy-to-follow trend for 2014, think simple, think local, and throw in a dash of bold and bitter.