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What’s on tap for cocktail hour?

3 min read


Creative bartenders are feeling free to get more innovative when it comes to infusing vodka, gin and even rum with more exotic fruits, one of the many reasons consultants Baum + Whiteman led off their latest forecast with bars’ role in developing new alcoholic beverage flavors.

The consultants released their 2013 food and beverage trends forecast for restaurants and hotels, which paints a picture of mixologists on a quest to create the next perfect cocktail, using herbs, spices and other ingredients that you would expect to find in the kitchen but not necessarily behind the bar. “You tell the bartender alcoholically what’s on your mind, and he
fashions a drink from these ingredients.  It’s happening across the country,” says the report, which urges chefs to look to the bar for new flavor inspirations.

In some quarters, cocktails aren’t just getting more exotic — they may also be getting more fattening, as bars and restaurants including some “better burger” chains add shakes, floats and smoothies that get their kick from sugar as well as the bourbon, peppermint rum and liqueurs with which they’re laced, the report says.

Artisan cocktail recipes can be complicated and take time to reach optimum flavor, facts that are driving drink prices higher and fueling the trend toward barrel-aging the drinks to ensure a sufficient supply.

Zagat also had some news in the booze category this week, with the release of its 2012 Mixology Survey, which found that 33% of cocktail fans prefer whiskey while 27% opt for vodka as their favorite spirit. People reported having a cocktail or two an average of 3.1 times per week, with men imbibing a bit more often than women.

Cocktail prices are on the rise, and 54% of the 1,000 people surveyed by Zagat said the top price they’ll pay for a drink these days is $15, while 20% said they’d go as high as $20. And, along with higher drink prices come higher tips — a dollar per drink is out in favor of a tipping a percentage of the tab, respondents said.  Also, despite the nostalgia generated by “Mad Men,” only 8% say they enjoy a tipple at lunch.

Zagat also released its list of Top 10 Most Annoying Cocktail Trends this week, a roster that actually starts with a complaint about the very trend that leads Baum + Whiteman’s list of hottest beverage trends — ingredients. Chiefly, Zagat’s surveyors grew increasingly annoyed at the number of ingredients bartenders are using and the length of time it takes to mix them all together.

Soft drinks come on stronger

It’s not only bartenders who will be pushing beverage innovations next year. Quickservice chains including Dunkin’ Donuts, Starbucks and McDonald’s will continue to rev up their competition for soft drink customers with an intoxicating new array of non-alcoholic drinks. They’ll also be finding new beverage-selling opportunities  throughout the day as Americans do more snacking, the Baum + Whiteman report says.

As the Golden Arches continues to build on the success of its espresso-based coffee drinks and Dunkin’ Donuts continues its geographical expansion, Starbucks is building part of its growth plans on its Evolution Fresh juice bars and planned Tazo Tea salons.  Meanwhile, upscale eateries are creating their own in-house artisan sodas using fresh, locally grown ingredients, the report says.

More 2013 beverage trend predictions from Baum + Whiteman

  • A rise in bars specializing in bourbon, rye and other “brown booze”
  • Higher-proof spirits and beers beer-based cocktails
  • A shift away from colas toward drinks seen as healthier
  • More permanent and pop-up juice bars