Thank cocktail innovators like Think Food Group’s Juan Coronado for the aged cocktail trend. He’s taken to aging Scotch cocktails in things like leather for a “velvet-like and rich sensation that is incredible.” Expect cocktails like the Negroni to get the leather treatment, too. In London, hotspot bars like Silk & Grain have dedicated an entire cocktail list to drinks that have been aged or made with a spirit that has been, like rum matured in oak barrels.
Mezcal makes the move up the ladder from moonshine to artisanal this year. New Mexico-based artist Ron Cooper's Del Maguey mezcals started the trend years back. New energy in the segment has arisen more recently on the West Coast, with one San Francisco bar manager explaining that “if you don’t have mescal, you’re not really a bar,” and it has made its way east. The slow takeover includes handcrafted batches with tasting notes that rival a winemaker's any day. (Tobola mezcal, made from a variety of agave grown at high altitudes and bottled by several producers, is one to watch.)
In 2015, craft cocktails will have make room for good old beer. The New York Times recently published a full-page ode to a “boilermaker.” If you loved the hot sauce in your beer last year, you’ll love the addition of the micheladas — sauced up beer cocktails — to almost every outdoor drinking den this summer. Alex Stupak’s recently opened Empellón al Pastor has a slew of chef-driven micheladas by Wylie Dufresne and Andrew Zimmern.
Cider — the "hard" stuff, typically around five percent alcohol — had a big 2014, and the next 12 months are on track to be even bigger. The cider category has posted 100-percent gains each year for the past three years, making it the fastest growing beverage sector in the U.S. John Gessner, owner of Far Afield brewery in Bend, Oregon (aka Beertown, USA), says the flavor profile of cider is expanding and that’s good. “I think we’re gonna see an expansion beyond the typically sweeter types of cider… an expansion of people’s palates.”
Vinspire says that gin’s popularity is at a “fever-pitch” this year. Gin sales were up 26 percent last year and Jacob Ehrenkrona, chief executive for Martin Miller’s Gin, explains that it’s only going to get better. “In the past two months, a significant number of establishments in New York have switched up to more premium gins such as Martin Miller’s. It’s a trend we expect to follow suit in the U.K. this year as consumers become more aware of the quality of gins now available.” Expect more experimentation with gin cocktails and garnishes like chile and cilantro. It doesn’t hurt that artisanal tonic waters are increasingly popular, either.
Beer lovers will be giving Germany even more love this year. Gose, a tart German-style wheat brew, had a hell of a 2014 and it’s only going to get better for them in 2015. A result of the sour and sessions trends of previous years, Gose is showing up all over the country, with American craft breweries like Anderson Valley and Westbrook leading the pack. The salty, tart flavor pairs great with foods like oysters (also everywhere in 2015), lobster, and grilled fish, so it will be summer’s favorite beer.
Distillers, winemakers, and mixologists all want you to drink more this year. The best way to do that is to push lower alcohol content your way. That includes low-proof cocktails like an Aperol Spritz made with Campari and cynar and low-octane wines including Txakolí from Spain, Vinho Verde from Portugal, and many Gewrman rieslings.
The desire to keep anything artificial out of our diets is getting bigger, especially when it comes to booze. The demand for clearer labeling and organic adult beverages is growing. Wine expert David White explains that consumers are seeking “producers who eschew fertilizers, herbicides, insecticides, and fungicides in their vineyards and refuse to utilize sugar…or other additives — like oak chips, sawdust, or grape concentrates — in their wineries.” Along with organic and natural wines, expect to see organic spirits like vodka, gin, whiskey, and tequila get top billing on cocktail lists.
Hotspot locales like New York City’s The Dead Rabbit put punch on the brunch map last year. This year, the communal booze trend is going to get bigger. International food and restaurant consulting company Baum + Whiteman listed punch cocktails as one of the trends to watch for hotel and restaurant dining this year. “Expect to see punch that can serve multitudes and with no limits on pricing or ingredients. Ice cream is also coming on strong,” the report says. And diet-be-damned, expect to see some ice cream floating in that bowl, too.
Rosé wines are no longer reserved for summer. They will be showing up to the party year-round in 2015. Sales of pretty pink wines went “through the roof” recently, thanks in part to the versatility of rosé from France, Spain (in whose Navarra region, renowned for its rosés, the wine is widely considered the perfect sip for autumn), Italy, and the U.S. It delivers the structure of a red with the refreshment of a white, so expect it to replace your regularly scheduled varietals — or mix it into a cocktail.
Tea is on target to become a staple behind the bar. William Hinkebein, vice president of marketing for American Beverage Marketers, says it’s a no-brainer, since “green tea makes a delicate, exquisitely refreshing cocktail.” He shared his thoughts with BigHospitality, saying that as tea drinkers grow in number, they are eager to experiment with flavors and recipes, including spiked cocktails.
Oak is out when it comes to chardonnay. Gone is the lust for vanilla-laden wine that tastes more like pastry cream than vino. Instead, look for unoaked chardonnays that are citrusy and vivid from California, Chile, Australia, Spain, and even South Africa.
Whiskey is where it is at in terms of brown spirits in 2015. According to The Spirits Business, there is a “soaring demand” for both American and Irish whiskeys as well as some from Japan. In fact, Beam Suntory — maker of Jim Beam — is looking at their overseas production heavily this year. “Japanese whisky is now next on that list because of the size and importance of the Japanese market to the business.” It wouldn’t be a trend without some kitsch, so enjoy the influx of odd flavored whiskeys like Butterscotch Moonshine and pecan pie-flavored whiskey liqueur.