Cocktail Trends Worth the Splurge at Bars, Restaurants

BY Courtney Huckabay
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Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants’ fourth annual Culinary & Cocktails Trend Forecast not only covers the cocktail flavors and ingredients bartenders plan to experiment with in 2018, but also showcases what’s next in cocktail philosophies, experiential dining and design, as well as new and innovative trends in beer, wine and coffee. The forecast findings were uncovered via an extensive survey of leading sommeliers, general managers and bartenders from 80+ acclaimed Kimpton restaurants, bars and lounges across 37 cities in the U.S., as well as Kimpton properties in Europe and the Caribbean.

Leading Cocktail Trends:

Variations on a Classic

  • Ninety-​one percent of Kimpton bartenders say they plan to use vegetables in a cocktail in 2018 – and we’re not just talking garnishes. Bartenders are embracing nontraditional vegetables like beets, carrots, green beans, butternut squash, corn and radishes.
  • Nine out of ten Kimpton bartenders say they’ll go beyond traditional Irish coffee to create coffee cocktails with a twist, from a Turkish espresso with aged rum and agave infused with cacao nibs to a surprisingly sophisticated cardamom-​coffee vermouth Manhattan.

These trends could prove to be winners for the liquor lovers! The new AudienceSCAN survey revealed 18% of Americans drink cocktails/​liquor at least once per week.

Regional Influences

  • Nordic influences will find their way onto drink menus with Scandinavian ingredients like bramble shrub, dill, rhubarb and aquavit. For a classic sour with Scandinavian and traditional fall flavors, try the Aurora Kiruna, featuring Brennivin cask aged aquavit, Absolut Elyx, spiced cranberry syrup and lemon, topped with candied rosemary.
  • A growing interest in Japanese whisky, popular with whisky drinkers looking for a lighter, cleaner, floral alternative to American whisky. There are cocktails inspired by Japanese highballs with influences of soft fruit and spice all the way up to herbaceous and smokey.

Visual Elements

  • Eighty percent of Kimpton bartenders said they would create a cocktail in part for their visual appeal on social media with vibrant colors, unique vessels and inventive garnishes ranging from elegant (a flowering herb bouquet) to eclectic (a miniature rubber ducky).

Bars can run social media photo contests to encourage picture-​taking of their beautiful cocktail concoctions. The latest AudienceSCAN study reported 33% of Cocktail Drinkers share good experiences on social media, and 45% are active on Instagram.

Responsible Practices

  • Health-​conscious consumers will increase demand for cocktails with healthy add-​ins like turmeric or ginger that provide alternatives to sugary drinks and minimize the extra liquid calories.
  • An emphasis on sustainability has led to creative upcycling of ingredients and reduced waste, with 71 percent of Kimpton bartenders noting sustainability as a key consideration for cocktail design in 2018. Examples of sustainability in action include making citrus stock from used citrus peels, using compostable straws, and using whole fruits and vegetables in cocktails – from the juice to the pulp to the skin.

Seemingly healthier cocktails will appeal to Liquor Drinkers. The AudienceSCAN study showed 45% of Cocktail Drinkers set personal goals to eat healthier this year.

New Wine, Beer Trends:

  • New ways with rosé — Rosé will continue its rise with increased interest in dry rosé, sparkling rosé and the emergence of new single-​vineyard unique rose varietals
  • The art of the blend” — taking the art of mixology to the world of wine by creating new exciting flavor combinations as well as personalized blends for every palate.
  • Alternative wine packaging for small batch and unique varietals – we’ll see interesting ways to enjoy these special wine experiences through the exploration of nontraditional vessels such as edible glassware and repurposed household items like teapots, mini flower pots and vases.
  • An upswing in German-​style Gose beers, or other sour beers, which offer adventurous beer drinkers a crisp beer with a touch of tartness and herbal sub-​tones (typically from the coriander added to most Gose beers).

AudienceSCAN data is available as part of a subscription to AdMall for Agencies, or with the SalesFuel API. Media companies can access AudienceSCAN data through the AudienceSCAN Reports in AdMall.