When it comes to beverages, 2015 was all about craft. In 2016, it’s going a step further to in-house distillation, plus culinary and cocktails will find more common ground, and whisky will longer hold the spirit crown.
1. Nitro Coffee
Coffee’s next iteration, nitro coffee—a cold brew that’s been injected with nitrogen, improving the mouthfeel and drinkability of cold coffee—is being incorporated into alcoholic and non-alcoholic coffee drinks. Nitro tap systems are available for restaurants and coffee shops. The coffee bar at Beatrix from Lettuce Entertain You serves up Caramel Cream Nitro, made with cold brew nitro, house-made caramel, whipped cream and sugar (yum).
2. Creative Gin Drinks
Bartenders are getting creative with classic gin-based drinks—martinis and gin and tonics—using gins aged in whiskey, brandy or rum barrels and infused with the tastes of botanicals or sweetened with hints of vanilla, maple or brown sugar.
3. Locally Produced Beer/Wine/Spirits
A recent trend has emerged of restaurants showcasing beverages produced either in-store or locally. One such example is Denver’s Mile High Spirits, a private label micro-distillery, cocktail lounge and tasting room. The emphasis on locally-produced drinks aims to promote and publicize the efforts of lesser-known breweries and vineyards while offering a unique, home-grown pairing with local food.
4. On-Site Barrel-Aged Spirits
Aging cocktails and spirits in barrels can add a new level of flavor to your drink and soften the harshness of alcohol. Recently, restaurants and bars have been buying their own barrels to age their cocktails/spirits in the store. This is the case at local Denver restaurant La Loma where they age their whiskey in an oak barrel for a few months before serving.
5. Culinary Cocktails
Culinary Cocktails is about looking forward. Many of today’s great chefs are pushing the envelope of cuisine by using fresh ingredients and modern techniques to create attractive, delicious, and stunningly innovative drinks. It doesn’t just stop at chefs though as at-home mixologists are moving this trend into the everyday.
6. Regional Signature Cocktails
The trend of localism is spreading throughout the United States and the same rings true for the restaurant industry. Although you may not know it, most states have their own signature cocktail, typically catering to their specific food profiles. For instance, the Smoked Salmon Bloody Mary uses local Alaska Distillery’s smoked-salmon vodka, highlighting the state’s uniqueness and love for salmon. Regional cocktails add a whole new approach to dining and drinking around the U.S.
7. Shrubs and the Tart Cocktail
When it comes to flavor, fermented foods have been a hit with diners in 2015. From kimchi to the at-home pickling phenomenon, tart flavors have found fans in adventurous and health-conscious eaters. As culinary cocktails become more prevalent (see above), look for this food trend to extend to cocktails in the form of shrubs in 2016. What’s a shrub? It’s a colonial American method of using vinegar to preserve fruit. and will be applied to cocktails as a new way to mix tart drinks. Shrubs fit all the criteria for a trend-worthy concoction: bold flavor, house-made, and reflects the desire for our vices to become a bit healthier.
8. Tap Takeover in Restaurants
Restaurants are becoming more innovative and focused on their beverage programs as a whole, including cocktails. As popularity and familiarity with pre-batch cocktails grow, look for these batches to leap from the bottle to the tap. Restaurants will begin to offer more cocktails on tap to better suit their service demands. On tap cocktails will be especially efficient for restaurants as they begin to sell more complex drinks because timing is so important in a restaurant.
10. Rum Cocktails and Sipping Rums
Tiki bars have brought rum back to the mainstream. They’ve helped elevate rum cocktails from the purgatory of vacation indulgence or captain-and-coke puerility and shown just how varied cocktails made with the sugar cane spirit can be. As the taste for regional flavors grows, look to see rum on the rise. Rum should undergo a similar arc as whiskey did during its (continuing) boom which means we’ll soon see bar patrons began ordering the spirit neat.
Want more? Find out food trends for 2016 →