It’s pretty safe to say that 2016 was quite a year, in more ways than one. And while most of us are more than ready to move on to 2017, there were many things that happened this year that impacted the way we enjoy a daily drink. We’re happy to say that elitism and snobbery seem like they’re on the way out, and more people than ever before are sitting down to a great cocktail, a nice glass of wine, or a terrific beer, with confidence and an open mind.
Here are 10 things we learned about drinking in 2016:
Craft Cocktail Bars Can Break the Rules
With the emergence of craft cocktail bars over the past decade came a set of rules for both patrons and bar staff to abide by. These rules, made famous by Sasha Petraske, created an ambience in which the drinks were to be respected, conversation was supposed to be at a hushed tone, men were not to approach women without permission, and the music was to be light and soft. Fast forward to 2016 and many of the erstwhile apprentices of the Petraske era have thrown those rules out the window, creating craft cocktail bars you actually want to party at with great music, good food, and fantastic drinks. There is still a time and a place for cocktail temples, but fun bars that also have great drinks and don’t require you to know the location of the secret entrance or to speak to a doorman to gain entry are a welcome addition.
There Is No Excuse For Not Drinking Great Beer
Before Prohibition, there were 4,000 breweries in the United States. In 2016, for the first time, the U.S. finally surpassed that number. That means good beer is more accessible than it has ever been before. It also means that rising competition makes everyone a better brewer, so drink up and discover a new beer to fall in love with.
Wine Cocktails Are a Thing and They’re Great
Whether is was Frosé or Red Wine Hot Chocolate, this year more people than ever drank their favorite wine mixed in a cocktail. This populist attitude helped make wine even more accessible; more people got excited about the #winelifestyle, throwing elitism out the window and mixing things into their wines.
Tequila Is the Next Bourbon
Sure, mezcal is having a moment. But it’s still too obscure for nationwide dominance, while tequila is being taken more seriously than ever. It’s being used in fantastic cocktails, or just sipped straight. So invest in a good bottle and get in while there are still quality bottles to be had for affordable prices.
Mexican Beer Is More Important Than Ever
One thing we united over as Americans in 2016 was our love of beer from Mexico. We overwhelmingly embraced this beloved beverage, making it our crushable beer of choice. Brands such and Modelo and Corona continue to find their way into our hands at backyard barbecues or other social functions. While all of these beers are also made by macro producers, the products took on a much more populist appeal than their American counterparts. In 2017 we can only expect the love for these beers to continue to grow.
Wine Is Complicated
Let’s face it, wine can be intimidating and hard to understand. But for many of us, that’s what makes it so interesting. Admitting that it’s complicated allows you the freedom to explore, to ask the dumb questions, and to find wines you’ll truly love.
Restaurants That Don’t Have Great Cocktail Programs Are Doing Something Wrong
For a restaurant to truly be taken seriously in 2016, it wasn’t enough for it to have a great wine list. A great cocktail list is a must as well, and many places across the country stepped up to the challenge. Now you can go out to dinner almost anywhere and have a great cocktail to start the meal. Embrace it.
Great Wine Is Made In Lots of Places, But Don’t Discount the OG Regions
As U.S. drinkers, we are incredibly spoiled. Almost every wine maker and wine region wants to sell their wine on the American market. That means we get to drink it all, including wines from emerging regions like Eastern Europe, Africa, and even Texas. But the emergence of these new exciting regions doesn’t mean we should turn our backs on the regions that made us fall in love with wine in the first place. You can still find killer and affordable Bordeaux, Rioja, Chianti, and Barolo. Don’t disregard these regions just because it’s what your parents drank. They helped teach the world to love wine.
Beaujolais Is the Accessible Region Of Burgundy
Burgundy is the only major wine region that continues to be out of reach for most people. With wines that are insanely expensive, Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays from this region solidified their position as a special-occasion-only kind of wine. That is, unless you’re drinking the wine from Beaujolais, the area in the south of Burgundy known not for Pinot Noir but for Gamay. Cru Beaujolais is incredible, exciting, and relatively affordable. Looks like Burgundy isn’t closed off to the masses after all.
The IPA Is Still King
Despite the emergence of more beer styles than ever before, when it comes to craft beer, our love of hops seems to have no bounds. Still, while IPA continues its run as the real king of craft beer, brewers are doing more interesting things with it, like brewing it with lower alcohol, mixing in other flavors, and really pushing the limits of what IPA is. And that’s a good thing, because the more the gateway drug of the craft beer world is experimented with, the more likely it is to become accessible to a larger group of people.