This week on the “VinePair Podcast,” Adam Teeter, Zach Geballe, and Joanna Sciarrino discuss which drinks will dominate summer 2021. While the Margarita had its moment last year, our hosts discuss the newest wave of trendy sippers that listeners can expect to see on menus throughout the warm months.
While Sciarrino surmises that the Midwest hard seltzer smoothie trend — a mash-up of between of hard seltzers, smoothie beers and fruit-forward IPAs — will take over the nation, Teeter is certain that the Cosmopolitan will be this season’s biggest hit. Finally, Geballe believes that we will see the return of large-format and visually stunning drinks this summer.
Tune in for more.
Or Check out the Conversation Here
Adam Teeter: From VinePair’s New York City headquarters, I’m Adam Teeter.
Joanna Sciarrino: And I’m Joanna Sciarrino.
Zach Geballe: And in Seattle, Washington, I’m Zach Geballe.
A: And this is the “VinePair Podcast.” And Zach, now you’re back to being the only one who’s working from home.
Z: As it always has been.
A: I mean, look, we’re still hybrid until September, but this feels good, man. It’s nice to be back in the office in Manhattan, just hanging out. What’s been going on with both of you guys, though?
J: Just keeping on, you know?
A: What else? What have you consumed that is in liquid form since last week?
J: Since last week? Let’s see. This past weekend, we had a few friends over to our roof. It was about 100 degrees and 100 percent humidity, so it was quite hot. And we had some Cynar Spritzes, and they were very, very good.
A: Look at you. You’re totally on trend.
Z: Not to spoil our topic, but is that a big trend right now?
A: I’m seeing a lot of people posting about it: “If you like Aperol and you like Campari, you’ll like Cynar.” It’s very funny with a lot of drinks influencers, people now want to show you that they’ve discovered something new. Nonetheless, Cynar is delicious. What was your recipe, Joanna?
Z: Oh, olives? Interesting.
J: It’s a nice switch up from the Aperol Spritz.
A: Totally. That sounds really delicious. Zach, I think I told the story before about an olive and a spritz that resulted in Naomi never wanting to ever drink spritz ever again. Correct?
Z: Oh, my goodness. I don’t know the story. It sounds tragic, though.
A: Oh, it’s the best. For those that are regular listeners, you know that my wife has been a vegetarian since she was five. Basically, we were in Barcelona. And I think it was the first year that the spritz was really big. Aperol had pushed massive campaigns. A bunch of people told us about this amazing tapas restaurant on the beach owned by, I don’t know, one of these famous chefs who actually had a really fine-dining restaurant in Barcelona. You couldn’t get a price fixe, but he had this great tapas restaurant on the beach. We walked down to the beach in Barcelona. We’re sitting on the beach, and we thought to order spritzes because that was the thing that everyone is doing these days. We ordered them and they came with olives. And I’m enjoying my spritz and Naomi says, “Oh, I’ll eat the olives.” She puts the olives in her mouth and she says, “Adam, can you please eat one of these olives?” I said, “Why? I’m just enjoying my spritz. I don’t want to eat the olive right now.” And she said, “Please, right now, do it right now!” So I take the olive off the stick and I’m eating it. And I say, “Oh yeah, there’s definitely anchovy in this.” She literally got up and puked. Now she doesn’t trust a single spritz with an olive in it. Anyways, that’s my funny olive story.
Z: You see all kinds of weird shit with olives in Spain. It’s true.
A: Joanna, I mean not to be a creeper, but I also saw on Instagram that you seemed to have gone to a really nice restaurant recently and had some delicious cocktails as well, correct?
J: Yes. I was also going to mention that I went to dinner with my brother the other night at a restaurant called Dr. Clark in Chinatown. It’s a Japanese Hokkaido restaurant. And we had their house Martinis, which are made with Nikka Gin and Bermutto, which is this Japanese vermouth that I think Tim has spoken about on the podcast before. And it was really citrus-forward and really, really delicious.
A: Wow, that’s awesome.
J: Yeah, I’m not a huge gin person, but I know Tim really loves the Nikka gin.
A: Yeah, Nikka is delicious.
J: Give it a try. It was really great.
A: That’s awesome. What about you, Zach?
Z: I think the two things I’ve had recently that I really enjoyed was a bottle of some Chardonnay from a producer in Oregon. That’s Brickhouse, which is up in the Ribbon Ridge up in the Chehalem Mountains. And I probably have said this on the podcast before, but I’m a real believer in the current concept of Chardonnay in Oregon. For a while, the Willamette Valley was really pushing Pinot Gris as a white wine that they produced, even though for a variety of reasons, I think it’s in some ways better suited for both Chardonnay and Riesling. Then, there’s been a big resurgence in interest in Chardonnay. Some of it has to do with just getting better about where they’re planting it, which clones they’re using, etc. What’s great about Willamette Valley, Chardonnay occupies a unique position from what I’ve experienced on the West Coast, where it isn’t, generally speaking, going to get to the levels of ripeness that you find in much of California or here in Washington. The best ones are not made purely in lean, stainless steel. They’re not afraid of some oak, at least used oak, if not new oak. They want to get texture in the wines but because it’s not as hot, you’re not getting the tropical fruit notes that you find in a lot of West Coast Chardonnay, but more of the apple and citrus fruit that you can also find in Chardonnay, so that was really great. I also think about the other thing I had recently, and it’s funny because we’re all in a spritz mode. My wife — I guess I haven’t announced this on the podcast — is pregnant.
Z: Thank you! We’ve been playing around with some low-ABV options for her, because as with our first kid, definitely not not drinking at all, but got to be more cognizant of just how much. She’s a big Aperol Spritz fan, and she would certainly eat the anchovy-filled olive, just to note. I would say that one of my favorites of late is that I’ve been trying to make livened-up, diluted versions of classic cocktails. So I’ve made a Paper Plane that I served her long. More recently, I did essentially a Last Word. Actually, I take it back, it wasn’t really a Last Word. It just had lime juice and green Chartreuse as well a little bit of absinthe in it. It was really good, and I actually made one for her. I was going to have something else, but I ended up just having one of these for me, too. It was very tasty. If we’re moving past just Aperol in our spritzes, then Chartreuse is another great classic liqueur that fits that format really, really well and offers a different set of flavors than Aperol. What have you been having, Adam?
A: Thanks for asking. I was waiting. First of all, we had a staff party on Friday of last week, which was pretty awesome.
Z: I saw you sabering a bottle with an Amex.
A: First of all, I only did it because I saw that a friend of ours, Philippe, who’s a friend of the podcast, do it, and I just want to see if it could be done. I feel like I looked like a real jerk on Instagram when it was posted. But it was cool.
Z: I mean, it worked. That’s awesome. That’s all that matters.
A: Yeah, it was cool to know that you could do it. I was like, really? A credit card will actually saber a bottle of sparkling wine? And it did, so that was cool.
J: It was for the people.
A: It was research. But we had some delicious things there. Josh’s favorite beer, Grimm, made an appearance, of course, one of their IPAs. We had some really delicious rosès, Ameztoi Txakolina. Is that huge in Seattle or is that just a huge one here?
Z: Txakolina rosé?
A: No, the specific producer Ameztoi. They’re on our list.
Z: I don’t recognize the label on the top of my head, so let’s go look at the top 25 list you’ve been talking about, and I will let you know if I’ve seen it.
A: Interesting. We also had some really cool Beaujolais. Then, after Joanna, you left. Basically all day long, Tim McKirdy had a flask of Cynar with him, and he was convinced he was going to get people to pizza luge. For those who have not read Aaron Goldfarb’s article on our site about pizza luging, basically it’s this new phenomenon. People are taking it from “BoJack Horseman,” where it originated, I think. It is where you take a shot of Cynar and you run it down with a slice of pizza, and you drink it.
J: Well, it evolved out of the bone luge.
A: Yes, express fat washing. Tim is convinced he’s going to get people to do it. Finally, enough people had left where I thought, “If I make a fool out of myself, it’s OK.” Because apparently, it gets all over you. We figured out a way to do it where it doesn’t. Actually, you eat the tip of the pizza first, the pointy end, and then you make a luge. I did it, Josh did it, and Tim did it.
Z: With different slices of pizza or the same one?
A: No, different. You do it, and then you’re supposed to eat the slice of pizza. Basically, all it actually does is infuse the flavor of Cynar onto the pizza. It doesn’t do anything to the Cynar. It’s really just for the fun of it. Then, the pizza does have a flavor of Cynar, which was nice, but I did it. So that was the most exciting thing I did since I last spoke to you guys. I pizza luged.
Z: Somehow that video didn’t make it to Instagram.
A: No, I refused to allow anyone to have their phones out. I would not do it again because I don’t see the point. But now, I can at least say that I have done it.
Z: Adam, I looked up the Txakolina rosé and yes, this one is big. The Getariako one. It’s funny because Txakolina is one of these weird things where for me personally, I enjoy the rosé a lot. The whites, I can’t do because they’re just too crazy acidic for me. Some of those wines that you call the “enamel scrapers” are so high on acid. The rosés I really like, they’re delicious.
A: Cool. Let’s move on to the conversation we get to have every year but is always fun, which is: What do we think the biggest drinks of the summer are going to be?
Z: Cynar pizza Luge?
A: No. So you’re hearing this after Memorial Day. It’s always a really fun thing to reflect on. And since Joanna’s the newb, I think we should start with her.
J: All right. All right. We recently published this article about hard seltzer smoothies. It’s a trend coming out of the Midwest. It’s a mash up between the hard seltzer and smoothie beers and fruit-forward, hazy IPAs. I think that’s going to be a big trend this summer. Along those lines, I recently saw a sangria slushie made with sour beer and have been seeing a lot of beer slushies, too. I saw one at Torch & Crown, which is a brewery in Manhattan made, with IPA, fruit juice, and served with a Fernet floater.
Z: Whoa, that sounds like an adventure.
A: Yeah, that sounds like the most hipster drink you could possibly have. And to be fair, the Fernet is actually Faccia Brutto, which I love but is also like a Brooklyn Fernet. It’s all the things. Very, very funny. I could see those, potentially.
Z: Can you explain to me Joanna, because I read the article, but it was a couple of weeks ago now. What exactly is a hard seltzer smoothie? How does that make sense? Are they blended, or what?
J: There’s real fruit juice in hard seltzer, and it’s canned. It remains effervescent still and fizzy, and it’s kind of thick, as I understand. I haven’t had one. I think it’s the bottled smoothies that you might get at the grocery store. That type of consistency.
A: It’s similar to the smoothie beer trend, which was also really thick. A lot of the time they use lactose to give it this consistency. They’re starting with the base which is basically the same base you would use to start to make seltzer. Yeah, I don’t know. It was an interesting article to me. I don’t see the appeal. I think it’s this other way to deliver flavor in an interesting way. It’s for people who are looking for that really big fruit flavor and that mouthfeel that you do get with a smoothie beer, but you’re not getting the beer-type stuff. You’re getting more of the clean, pure fruit you get when you drink a seltzer, if that makes sense. Whereas when you drink smoothie beers, a lot of it is like the smoothie IPAs where you’re getting the mango and the guava. Then, you’re also getting the hops and stuff like that. And that’s not happening here. It would just be mango-guava seltzer smoothie. You would taste mango-guava, and there would be that thicker mouthfeel.
Z: That is very interesting. It actually feeds into one of the trends I wanted to talk about. I think we are in the middle of a resurgence in, for lack of a better word, thick, rich mouthfeel drinks. I think it’s cyclical. This is the kind of thing that just comes and goes. And I think we are coming back to this era of wanting body in whatever we’re drinking. You’re seeing these smoothie hard seltzers as an example. I think you’re seeing a lot of talk about egg white cocktails again, which had a big moment in the early days of the craft cocktail surge, but then fell out of favor because they are a pain in the ass to make. We’ve done a number of interviews with producers of RTDs, and I have a couple more coming up. One of the things that we’ve talked about is that one of the crucial things to try and get right in some of these cocktails is the mouthfeel that you get when you stir a cocktail or shake a cocktail that you can’t really replicate if you’re just drinking it straight from the can. How they try and match what we expect texturally from some of these drinks, especially things like citrus-based drinks or even things that just tend to have more viscosity to them. I think that you’re even going to see this again and maybe we’re already seeing it with wine. Typically, we think of summer as exactly what you were talking about before, Adam. Rosé and stuff like that. I really do think we are in this period where we’re moving back away a little bit from super-lean, super-low-alcohol, crisp wines as the only white and rosé that people want to drink in the summer. And I think that there is a way in which — whether it’s because they’re using these wines as complements to food where you do want a little more body in some cases — I think it ties into what the mood that people are in, which is that austere wines are great for austere times. This is a weird, jubilant moment in this country where people are going back to their lives and they want to do fun shit and they want to be with each other. And I think there’s a way in which these wines with more texture, and drinks in general, feel a little more celebratory. I don’t know, that may just be a projection on my part, but that’s what I’ve seen of late, which is interesting to me.
A: I definitely think we’re seeing a return to richness. We’ve talked about this before, but we are seeing a return to things that were big in the ‘90s and early ‘00s. And a lot of that is being driven by Gen Z. One of the biggest jokes that millennials have about what’s happening on TikTok right now and on Instagram as well, if you follow those two platforms, there’s been a lot of these specific posts of, “Let me show you the secret place that you need to know about in x City.” It’s like PDT. We knew about PDT years ago, but it’s cool that you just discovered it. There was one really funny one last night that someone sent me that someone posted: “Oh, my gosh, I don’t want this place to blow up but you need to go to Vinegar Hill House now.” Someone said, “That restaurant’s been around since 2008.” It’s cool that you just found it, and we’re happy for you, but that is a very successful restaurant that’s been around for a very long time. And I think we’re going to see a return of people rediscovering cocktails that maybe aren’t really hot right now but that were hot 10 to 15 years ago. They are bringing them back, and one of the cocktails that I am convinced is coming back in a big way is the Cosmopolitan.
J: I’m seeing it on a lot of menus now.
A: A ton. This isn’t just me. Our data is supporting it if you start looking at the trends of what people are looking for in cocktails. I did an interview earlier today with the people who own Tattersall Distillery in Minneapolis, which I didn’t realize they’re doing 40,000 cases in sales after only six years of their spirits, which is insane. Their fastest- selling RTD is this new one they just came out with that’s a Cosmo. It’s in a full 750-milliliter bottle. And I asked them why they decided to do the Cosmo. They said a lot of these local distilleries have a cocktail bar connected, and it’s the No. 1-selling cocktail in their bar besides the Old Fashioned. Also, I’m sick of the genderization of drinks. Can we just get over it? If I want to drink a pink drink, it’s cool, man. No one’s saying you’re less of a man for drinking a pink drink, but what they’ve done is they make what they call a Cosmopolitan Bianco so it doesn’t have the pink color. He said it’s ordered even more by men than women, which I think is really interesting. And all they did was take the pink color out of it.
J: It’s just cranberry juice.
A: Yeah, they’re still using a cranberry flavoring, but they got rid of the pink. Also another thing that we talked about on this podcast before that he reiterated in the conversation is that they have a really hard time getting men in their bar to order any cocktail that is served in a coupe. I f*cking love a coupe, so I don’t care. Dante in the West Village in New York was the No. 1 bar in the world in 2019 and has an entire menu devoted to the Cosmo and Cosmo riffs. On the Rocks, which is probably the biggest RTD brand right now, they’re definitely the fastest growing, and Beam Suntory fully bought them out recently. One of their most popular skews is the Cosmo, another well-made one. You also have the return of “Sex and the City” and all this other stuff happening, and I think the Cosmo is going to be huge and we’re going to start seeing it a lot more. I think the brands that jump on it now are going to be really smart. Everyone else could think back and say, where were we? How did we miss this?
Z: I wonder why it stopped being taken seriously. A well-made Cosmo is a f*cking delicious cocktail. I don’t know, maybe because it’s vodka, maybe because it got gendered because of “Sex and the City.” I don’t know. I definitely went through a long stretch where people were afraid to order it. They’re saying, “I don’t want a Cosmo. What else do you have?” I would say, “Why don’t we make you a Cosmo? It’s a great drink.”
J: Aren’t there a lot of really badly made Cosmos, though?
A: Yes. I think we’ve talked about this before, but maybe we haven’t talked about it with you Joanna. I think what happened was that Cosmo was really popular, and Toby Cecchini, who made it famous. It’s still debatable if he invented it, though. Some people say he did. He’s a great bartender, and he invented it at the Odeon. Now he owns Long Island Bar in Brooklyn. He had a great drink, but then it spread across the country. There started becoming poor man’s iterations, including vodka with cranberry juice. It went from a drink that was really balanced with obviously the cranberry, the Cointreau, and the vodka. It’s really a delicious sour, right? All of a sudden, it converts into this crazy thing that’s just easier to make and not that good. People are squeezing lime into it and then it just became synonymous with bad bars and just getting wasted. I think that it was almost the reaction to the vodka cranberry. Then, it was reverberated up to the Cosmo, and it disappeared. Then, there was just the backlash of everything, especially ‘90s drinking culture in general. There was a time where it was the only cocktail. It was all you saw. What I think is funny is that they’re really, at this point in the country, two main cocktails, right? The Margarita is No. 1 and the Old Fashioned is No. 2. I mean, how many times do you walk into a top cocktail bar — and a third, I would say, of the drinks, you hear ordered are Old Fashioneds. There’s no backlash against those. I don’t know, I think it got unfairly targeted and also it got wrapped into the whole hatred of vodka and vodka not being a serious spirit. That fueled the hatred of the cocktail for whatever reason.
J: Speaking of pink drinks, what do we think about the color-changing spirits? They are everywhere now. Empress Gin. I’ve seen a lot of these color-changing gins.
Z: Yeah, that’s a fascinating one. I think that is something Adam and I talked about a while back when we were thinking about ways in which the bar scene might return post-Covid is, I think, the show will be a big part of it. There’s no doubt that color changes, or spirits that will noticeably but not as dramatically change color as you add ingredients or dilute them, will be very popular. I also think you could feed into this with the idea of the visual. I was in a restaurant that I might be working at going forward that serves several cocktails that are essentially smoked and served under a bell jar of smoke. All that stuff was popular beforehand. But again, it’s this idea in general of supporting an $18 cocktail on a list, and you have to have that visual flair component. Also, it’s a thing that very few people are going to do at home, but at a bar can be put together in a way that is maybe not easy, but is a lot more manageable than it is at home. I think that you’re right; that is going to be a big deal in these settings. You think about how cool that looks, not just to you, not just to the people at your table, but the people next to you. Bars rely on that as a big way to sell the next thing. I think we saw this, too, and we might see this again coming back: large-format drinks. Another area where that visual impact of that landing on the table or on the bar top is a huge thing. I think when we’re talking about drinks in bars, in particular, we’ve forgotten a little about them because most of us haven’t been in bars lately with those big, showy displays.
A: Yeah, I think we are definitely going to see large formats. I don’t know about you both, but I’m already seeing a snapback where there were things I think people were worried about, such as being at crowded bars again. Already I’m seeing people being more than willing to be in crowded spaces. I’m hearing about big events and stuff. The large format, especially the ones that are just really showstopping where you and your friends can all split this flamingo filled with some crazy cocktail, are definitely going to come back in a big way because, again, that’s just what people are looking for. And I do think that people are going to be looking for drinks that feel extremely celebratory this summer. The other thing we haven’t talked about, which obviously is the big elephant in the room, is Prosecco rosé. It’s just hitting the American market, and unfortunately for them, they already realize they probably didn’t make enough of it this year, so I think it will sell out pretty quickly. You combine bubbles that feel celebratory with pink, which is what has always been everyone’s favorite, and it’s just going to be this massive behemoth on the market this year. Some people are going to poo-poo it and say it’s stupid. But the majority of people are going to love it and are going to think it’s absolutely delicious. They’re going to buy tons and tons and tons of bottles of it because it just feels like what you should do right now. You’re getting together with people and popping bottles. I think that’s the one that is almost stupid for us to talk about, because if you haven’t realized that’s already going to be a trend and you listen to this podcast, then I would assume you’re interested in the drinks business and you just haven’t been paying attention because it’s going to be everywhere.
Z: I did an interview with Jessica Tomei, the winemaker for Cupcake, and we definitely talked a lot about Prosecco rosé and how much faith they have in that category as being a huge source of growth for them. They’re not alone, obviously.
A: Yeah, they’re not. Anything else? Do you guys have any other drinks? Any sleeper hits?
J: I don’t know. In this conversation that I was having with my friends over the weekend, we were talking about a bit of Aperol Spritz fatigue. That was the impetus for the Cynar Spritz, but maybe even more inventive Spritzes, as we mentioned earlier.
Z: I think that’s a great one. I think it’s very true. I also think that we talked a year ago during this podcast about fruit. That in cocktails, whether it’s fruit juices, fruit purées, things like sangria or infusions, are all going to remain really big because, again, it comes back to this notion of celebration, which is always a big part of summer every year. But it’s going to be tenfold this year. I think that so many people have a lot of stuff. They bought a lot of booze over the pandemic and might not know exactly what to do with it. Things like punch become like the natural outlet for that. That’s basically why it was invented. We’ll dump a bunch of shit in a bowl, add some fruit, and it’s good. I agree, most of the time it is. It’s hard to screw up punch. You can do it, but you’ve got to try. My wife and I have been joking for years about this because we’ve got a punch bowl as a wedding present, which is one of those things that you only ever get as a wedding present. I think we would never go out and buy one ourselves. We keep saying this will be the year, but we actually made plans to have people over to have punch in June. This will actually be the year that punch bowl will get used.
A: Nice. I keep thinking if there is going to be any indie stuff that’s going to be happening. But again, I think there’ll be a lot of Champagne drunk this summer. I agree with you, Joanna. There’s going to be a little bit of people looking for alternatives to the spritz while still wanting the spritz. I think we’ll see the Daiquiri continuing to be popular. The Margarita as well. But I’m pretty bullish that the biggest drink will be the Cosmo.
Z: There you go. That and everything lemonade-flavored, right?
A: Oh, yeah. That’s another given. It’s just going to be more and more lemonade. More lemonade than you can handle. There’ll be some more fruit punch stuff because now you’re seeing that coming out from some of the seltzer producers like Truly.
Z: More ‘90s nostalgia. Fruit punch. Oh my goodness.
A: Again, it all comes in waves.
Z: Is Hi-C going to make an RTD?
A: Dude, maybe. They always say culture in the United States is either influenced by the West Coast or the East Coast. Right now, it really does feel like we’re still in a West Coast moment. I believe the East Coast is going to push back pretty soon, and then maybe we’ll go back to again, the dimly lit cocktail bars and the Old Fashioneds and the Manhattans, which could be any month now, but not yet. Oh, and this goes without saying: tequila. Come on. Lots of tequila. Well, this has been great. Joanna, I know you’re off next week because you’re on vacation. I know that we’re a little annoying, but to already have to take a break after only two episodes?
Z: Well, you have to come back and tell us exactly what you drank on vacation.
J: I’m going to keep a list.
A: And Zach, I’ll see you next week.
Z: Sounds great.
Thanks so much for listening to the “VinePair Podcast.” If you love this show as much as we love making it, then please leave us a rating or review on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, or wherever it is you get your podcasts. It really helps everyone else discover the show.
Now for the credits. VinePair is produced and recorded in New York City and in Seattle, Wash., by myself and Zach Geballe, who does all the editing and loves to get the credit. Also, I would love to give a special shout-out to my VinePair co-founder, Josh Malin, for helping make all this possible and also to Keith Beavers, VinePair’s tastings director, who is additionally a producer on the show. I also want to, of course, thank every other member of the VinePair team who are instrumental in all of the ideas that go into making the show every week. Thanks so much for listening and we’ll see you again.
Ed. note: This episode has been edited for length and clarity.