Every summer brings with it a hugely important question: What will be the drink of summer? In 2019, all we could talk about was hard seltzer. The summer of 2020 is looking a little different, though, because it will be tempered by the Covid-19 pandemic.
As many, if not all Americans are still practicing social distancing through the summer months, this may change not only where we drink, but the very drinks we turn to throughout the season.
Will fruity drinks be in high demand? Will blended cocktails make a comeback? What beer will people be drinking? And should we still expect to see rosé’s summertime surge?
These are the questions posed — and that Adam Teeter, Erica Duecy, and Zach Geballe attempt to answer — on this week’s episode of The VinePair Podcast.
Listen Online, or Check Out Our Conversation Here:
Adam: From Brooklyn, New York, I’m Adam Teeter.
Erica: From Connecticut, I’m Erica Duecy.
Zach: And in Seattle, Washington, I’m Zach Geballe.
A: And this is The VinePair Podcast. Before we get rolling with this topic today which I’m excited to talk about, Erica I do want to mention one thing. I am super, super, super craving your husband’s new dishware line that is a special edition. These oval plates that he came out with are pretty dope.
E: Oh, the ombre!
A: They’re pretty dope!
E: People are freaking out about those.
A: People probably don’t know what your husband does, but he is a very skilled potter. You want to give him a little plug?
E: Sure! He’s Jono Pandolfi designs, so you can follow him on Instagram. He just hit 50,000 followers the other day. It’s @jonopandolfi, and he makes dinnerware for restaurants and hotels — which isn’t a great part of the business to be in right at this moment — but also for consumers. He does direct-to-consumer, so check out his dinnerware if that’s something you’re into.
A: I am. They’re awesome. But, besides that, how are you guys doing?
E: I don’t want to start off on a down note, but I’ve been having a bit of a tough week. I looked at my April bank statement and all I bought last month was groceries, alcohol, and stuff for my kids. That felt sad. Now here’s why: None of the stuff that I love to do, which is going to restaurants and bars, and traveling to wine regions, and going to distilleries, and attending drinks conferences, all of that which is 80% of my life is on hold, and the reality is, we don’t know when it’s coming back. This week it really hit me. We talked with Jack McGarry, the founder of one of the world’s best bars, Dead Rabbit, for an article, and he said he doesn’t know if he’ll be able to re-open until 2021, and that was sobering.
A: Yeah, it’s a pretty big downer. What I thought was really interesting is this data that we were sharing in Slack today, Erica, that came out on CNN which shows that there’s this massive divide in this country politically, amongst who thinks that we’re ready to open now and is saying that restaurants should be fully open and bars should be fully open. And many are saying no, we don’t have this kicked yet and we need to wait… 70% of Republicans believe that bars and restaurants should open and only 5% of Democrats.
E: It was shocking.
A: Until that divide comes together and we can all agree, this is also going to be this really haphazard thing happening across the country… depending on where you’re listening to us, you may be in a place where stuff is opening. I’m in a city where I have no idea when it’s going to open again. That’s also going to be really weird to watch, as both journalists as well as consumers, to see who is going out and who isn’t. I have to say, right now if stuff opened, I say I want to go, but I don’t know if I would because I don’t know if I trust that we’re making the right decision at this moment to open and that we would all be safe.
Z: Well, I’m in a good mood because I just got three dozen oysters on the half shell delivered to my door.
Z: About an hour before we started recording.
A: That’s pretty awesome.
Z: So, I know what I’m having for dinner. Friends of mine, a couple of people in the industry, were saying one of the big suppliers around here, one of the big shellfish farms, is doing door-to-door delivery basically. If you order three dozen or more, you get free delivery and… well, my wife and I will eat three dozen oysters, no problem.
Z: They’re in the fridge getting ready for this evening. That is my little bit of sunshine.
A: I know how you stand with oysters, too. You’re a real snob about ‘em, real snob.
Z: You have yet to come out here and see for yourself. We’ll talk when you come.
E: Are they from Taylor’s Shellfish?
Z: They’re actually from Hama Oyster Company.
E: Oh, Hama, Hama! Oh! Jealous!
A: Are you also a “West Coast oysters are better than East Coast oysters person,” Erica? We know Zach is.
E: One hundred percent, strong yes.
A: I like all oysters equally, but I will admit for the most part West Coast oysters are better.
E: And Hama’s are the best.
Z: I’ll send you guys some pictures.
Z: Erica, come on. I was going to say, you might be surprised. Maybe not in Connecticut, but I’ve seen some stuff about especially seafood purveyors looking to be able to deliver to homes and get to the consumer market. Seafood in particular and shellfish maybe even more than regular seafood, other kinds of seafood is so restaurant-dependent for so many of these things. How many people in a normal day or normal course of life will get raw oysters and eat them at home even if they love them out? So you might be surprised at what you guys could get delivered or listeners where they are.
E: It’s a good idea! I’m going to try.
A: Are you shucking them yourselves?
Z: Oh yeah, absolutely.
A: I don’t know how to do that. That intimidates me. Godspeed.
Z: It’s actually not that hard. You need an oyster knife, if you’ve got one of those, which is a $10-$15 dollar piece of equipment. With one of those it’s actually not that hard.
E: I don’t know… It’s tough.
A: I’m not in the position to do anything right now that would wind me up in a hospital.
Z: Fair enough.
A: And I could see this going straight through my hand and then all of a sudden, we’ve got to go to the emergency room. It would be a really, really big mistake. But you enjoy them!
Z: That’s true. I will. I use a towel. Don’t worry, I protect myself.
A: Before we get started, one of the things we wanted to talk about is this amazing new part of the VinePair website that we launched, that is a project of Erica’s, which is VinePair Pro, which is aimed at the industry. Erica, before we jump into the topic today, I thought we could take some time to chat a little bit about VP Pro.
E: Absolutely! We have been reporting on the pandemic and its impact on the industry from the earliest days. We were the first publication to spin up a live blog and consistent coverage of Covid-19 and how it’s been impacting the drinks industry. We do almost daily podcasts talking with leaders in the industry about how they are pivoting their businesses or grappling with the new reality, and we really realized that there is a gap in the market among publications, for someone like us, VP Pro and VinePair to come in with its data-based insights and fresh ideas from leaders from throughout the industry to develop an entire content program. So, that’s what we’ve done. This platform is totally free, and it’s designed to help our listeners who are in the drinks trade find a new path forward. We’ve gone from reporting on the pandemic, and now we are shifting our focus to the rebuilding. And that’s the very best thing we can do. We can help the drinks trade rebuild, and we are doing data-focused articles and reports every week. We will have a first look for our subscribers at our VinePair Audience Insights, which is our consumer insights product, and we’ll have recaps of all of our industry-focused podcasts — so that’s everything from this podcast you’re listening to right now to out Covid-19 Conversations, and a forthcoming Industry Night Podcast, which we’re really excited to introduce. That will be profiling different leaders from throughout the industry. Anyone in the industry, whether you’re a producer, an importer, a retailer, a sommelier, a Cicerone, etc. — anyone in the industry can benefit from subscribing to this platform.
A: And how do they do that?
E: They go to VinePair.com and in that top navigation there is a link that says VP Pro. When you go to that homepage for VP Pro, you’ll find an easy way to sign up and you’ll find all of our coverage already there.
A: Awesome. Zach, anything to add? Any questions?
Z: I was just going to say that… I will be doing that as soon as we finish recording, and I wish this existed when I had a restaurant to work in. But I will in the future, so, that’s good.
A: Yes, you will. You will.
A: Cool. Let’s get into today’s topic which is summer drinks from home. Every year around this time we make predictions for what we think the big drinks for the summer are going to be. Last year no one could have predicted it would have been seltzer. Well we did, but a lot of other people didn’t really see it coming. The thing to really focus on today is what do we think the big drinks are going to be and especially how is drinking going to change this summer because so many of us will still be at home and if we are drinking, we’re drinking in our backyards more than we’re drinking out at bars. We’re drinking in parks. If beaches are open where we live, we’re drinking at beaches, etc. So guys, what are your predictions?
Z: I’ll start. Some of what I’m expecting is an acceleration of trends that we’ve already been seeing over the last couple of years. Adam, you and I have talked about this a couple of times and we’ve all talked about it. Hard seltzer is one category. I really expect that anything that comes in a can to continue to grow besides maybe beer. And a lot of that is, we talked about this a few weeks ago. I was struck yesterday. We’re recording this on May 6, so yesterday was Cinco de Mayo, and I couldn’t believe the number of people I saw walking around my neighborhood with either beers or what appeared to be Margaritas. Full disclosure, my wife and I were two of those people walking around our neighborhood with them. It was also a really beautiful day in Seattle, so it made a lot of sense. Anything that allows people to get into these quasi-permitted spaces that are really suitable for enjoyment, that you can maybe be safe in terms of keeping some distance or at least not being in an enclosed area. And something that you can grab-and-go and obviously that’s been a huge trend for years now is the thing that I expect to see everywhere. The other venues for summer drinking as Adam mentioned introducing the topic, are not going to be available or may not be available everywhere and certainly not for some or all of the summer.
A: That’s right. Yesterday I walked into my park, and it was crazy. It was nice here, probably not as beautiful as it was in Seattle… Tons of people on blankets, socially distancing, and all drinking what we call ready-to-drink RTDs. Or they had one of these kinds of cups: The manufacturers of these sippy-to-go-cups that you used to ask, “Who drinks out of those? Wine moms?” There are these cups where you can fill basically a bottle of wine in something that looks like a tumbler and seal it. There’s tons of people drinking out of those, too, and you’ll see a lot more of that. That’s a pretty solid prediction.
E: One trend I’m really excited about that we’ve been seeing result in a ton of traffic on VinePair’s recipe database is people making cocktails at home. And this can be any type of cocktail but really, we’re seeing a lot of people make the simple classics. Margaritas right now are off the charts. And we in general are seeing the recipe database traffic higher than almost any other time of the year right now because people are really wanting to create some of the cocktails at home that they usually would have in a bar or restaurant setting. Margaritas we will see continue to pop between now and all throughout the summer. It actually does really well all summer long for VinePair. Also blackberry, you may not be thinking about blackberry, but I saw a ton of traffic going to blackberry Mojito, blackberry bourbon sours, blackberry Margaritas. Blackberry is actually having a moment right now.
Z: Makes sense.
A: I agree. Blackberry is going to be everywhere. But has blackberry always been having a moment?
E: I don’t know. I haven’t seen it as much in the past. What do you think, Zach?
Z: This is a great transition into the next thing I was going to say, which is that fruit in general is going to be huge this summer. To some extent this is true every summer, but so much of what’s going to define summer drinking in 2020 is people looking for comfort and people looking for familiarity as you were talking about, Erica, with cocktails that they’re well acquainted with. And maybe they’re looking for twists on them, but they’re looking for something that’s going to, for lack of a better word, remind them of a different time. And that fruit the other part of this, right? It is such an essence of summer and yet in drinking has been poo-pooed. We went through a phase where infusions and fruit in drinks was trendy, and then we moved away from it. Everything became super serious. “Let’s do everything spirit forward. Let’s deal with liqueurs.” That is something that persisted year-round. 2020 is going to be all about sweet and fresh and fruit because again, those are the things that give us the most base pleasure. As we all know, that’s going to be what a lot of people want. So blackberry is right at the top of that list. They’re delicious, they’re sweet, and in certain parts of the country they’re wildly abundant. They are here in the Northwest when they’re in season. Again, they have that wholesomeness to them in a way that isn’t necessarily what people look for in drinking all the time but this year, this summer, that’s going to be what people want.
E: So, maybe it’s simple two- and three-ingredient cocktails. Whether you’re talking about a bourbon sour or a Margarita, those are three-ingredient cocktails and then you add that ingredient of blackberry or blackberry puree. It’s the simplicity of adding that additional layer of flavor that makes I feel seasonal and festive and fresh that probably is going to have a lot of appeal this summer.
A: You guys are right. People are going to try to look for anything that feels like an escape, and fresh fruit often does feel like an escape. It reminds you of going to the beach and getting that really fresh cocktail from the local tiki bar or from the beach stand bar where you got a Piña Colada or a strawberry Daiquiri. That’s what people are going to be looking for because a lot of us aren’t going to be traveling, or if we’re going to be traveling, we’re going to be traveling not very far, right? We’ll get in the car and drive an hour to a friend’s house who we trust and stay with them for the weekend or something. Or maybe there’s a hotel that we trust the cleanliness of this summer. But for the most part, people are going to be kicking it at home or very close to home, so those kinds of cocktails make a lot of sense. It’s a trend every year, but I really do believe we’re going to have a massive summer for rosé. And depending on how much rosé is on the market, right? So as long as there’s enough that’s made it here, it’ll be pretty huge and the reason for that is again that same idea of escapism. People are going to be looking for something to drink that makes them feel like they are in a different place and nothing is more reminiscent of the seaside and the South of France and this idea of accessible luxury than what rosé has become. We talked about it last week on the Top 25 Rosé podcast and we chatted a lot about how we’re already seeing that spike happening now and it’s only going to continue, again taking that same approach that Zach did about what he’s been seeing walking around. When I’ve been walking in the park I’ve seen a lot of people with bottles of wine and more often than not that bottle of wine’s color is rosé. I see some white, I see very little red to be honest, but I’m seeing lots of pink wines and it’s this idea that pink is what makes people feel like they’re in a different place. And that they’re not celebrating, sparkling will continue to not do super well in the next few months because sparkling feels so celebratory, but that they are having something that’s delicious and makes them feel like they’re somewhere they’re in a different place than they are right now.
Z: That’s really interesting because I had almost the opposite intuition about sparkling wine, which is that I thought people were going to look for these small victories in their day or in their week and maybe that might drive them to a little more sparkling wine. Traditionally in this in the U.S., we have tended to reserve sparkling wine for celebrations with maybe the exception of Prosecco, but I was wondering if we might see more sparkling wine consumption in the summer because it is the kind of thing that fits the weather in general. But also, it’s that idea that if it doesn’t transport you in the way that rosé does. It is a smile in a glass, in a sense, right? You can’t not be in a good mood drinking sparkling wine and so my intuition is that we might see an uptick when, typically, summer is not usually a super-busy time for sparkling wine.
E: Right now sales of sparkling wine are way down. There’s a little bit of a low point to come back from, but where we will see sparkling wine is with spritzes. Aperol spritzes, you can make a simple blackberry spritz, you can make really any type of spritz with a little bit of liqueur and some seltzer on top with a squeeze of lime or something like that. We’ll see a little bit of an uptick but people are generally thinking that sparkling wine feels celebratory right now.
A: It does.
E: And they’re not in such a celebratory mood, which makes me a little sad, too.
A: The spritz will probably come back because you’re going to see the companies that are committed to marketing. This is the season that they still rely on to spend. That’s what’s been really interesting on the business stance, on the business front is that you had all of these companies say, “Oh, we’re going to cut back marketing budgets because of Covid-19.” But then all I saw the last few days is spirits companies that own tequilas, spending tons of marketing on tequila content. This is still the Super Bowl for them. We’ll still continue to see a lot of tequila consumption throughout the summer. Campari spends a good amount on the promotion of Aperol because this is a big time for Aperol. This is when we all think of the spritz and want to drink the spritz. But for sparkling wine in general, if you look at current data, as Erica is saying, consumption will be pretty down. Maybe Prosecco will be up still or be at least normal. People think about Prosecco more as a sociable beverage than they do maybe Champagne or Cava or something that might feel to them to be a little bit more, I don’t know, as celebratory. With the rosé trend, pink sparkling could do well. It bleeds that line. If there’s anything that’s been indicating this from what we’re seeing in terms of what people are reading, it’s going to be a brutal summer for Champagnes.
Z: Could be.
A: And that sucks for so many of these producers that we all like, but there’s so much caught up in our collective thinking of when we drink Champagne and why we drink Champagne, and that’s benefited that category for so long. It’s the one thing that is going to hurt that category right now, which is that people don’t feel celebrating anything right now.
E: Also, going into a recession when you’re thinking about value and value brands popping, Prosecco is really where it’s at. Champagne is going to have a tough time with that.
A: I think so, too.
Z: I have a beer-related thought here, which I’ve been curious to get your read on.
Z: Typically, we think about this time of year, summer for beer being on the one hand your lighter beers, whether they like light beers, whether they’re your clean, crisp pilsners, kolsches, etc. And then there’s the fruit beer question, and we already covered my thoughts on how fruit will be a big feature this year. But I wonder, do you guys expect to see a real shift because, as we’ve talked about on previous podcasts, this crisis from Covid is really hitting breweries maybe harder than anyone, do we expect that this is going to be a summer of beer drinking that looks like a summer from maybe 10 years ago – in terms of what is popular? Bigger brands? Or do we think that even if they don’t have a lot of cases, a lot of parts of the country if they can’t have taprooms open, if you can’t go to a beer garden, do we still expect to see the normal slice of the pie going to craft beer?
E: I was talking with Cat, our beer editor at VinePair, and she said that she is seeing people, consumers and people in the beer industry and adjacent to the beer industry, walking miles and miles for beer from local breweries. Supporting them with online purchases, with curbside pick-ups, with delivery where available. The biggest trend she and I were talking about is that beer lovers are going above and beyond to support the breweries that they love, and she said that that is more apparent to her now than ever before.
A: It’s going to be a little of both. Some of these breweries are not going to be in the consciousness because they haven’t figured it out yet. What I’ve been seeing over the last few weeks has changed my mind a lot in terms of what I thought was going to happen. So I thought it was going to be all basically very well distributed big beer brands as well as the larger craft brands, and you definitely are seeing that in a lot of places. But in New York especially, a lot of these craft breweries have figured out the delivery model, and I’m now starting to see people all over the city drinking them again. And also some people saying that they’re being able to drink stuff that they wouldn’t normally be able to get because they weren’t going to venture to the brewery to get in line for its most recent release or something… Now, as long as they spend at least 50 bucks they get free delivery and it comes within the next day, and it’s two or three 4-packs usually of these beers that people are really interested in. It’ll be a mixed bag. It’s going to lean still more to the larger breweries because of access, but the people who are really passionate will still support the craft breweries. In the same way, we’re seeing some of the people who are really passionate about some of the craft spirits and the boutique wine brands are still really going out of their way to support those. It’ll be really interesting. It depends on where you are in the country, to be really honest.
A: That will depend, right? And then that’ll determine what you’re drinking and how you’re consuming.
E: And then there’s people like me who wanted to feel the sand in my toes and the wind through my hair, and I had a Corona with lime yesterday, and it was amazing.
A: See? People are going to do that. My favorite thing in the summer is going to the beach, and we talked about this on the podcast before and getting a cold draft beer of macro lager… No matter what country I’m in, right? If I’m in Greece and I go to the beach, or if I’m in Florida and I go to the beach, or wherever, a cold macro draft lager when you’ve been in the sun all day… There’s almost nothing better than that.
A: I’m probably going to buy some macro lager and get it really cold and go to the park and try to recreate it as best I can. There is something about that in the summer to drink these things we refer to as lawnmower beers… Those are really great when it comes to summer drinking and feel somewhat escapist and refreshing in a very different way than what we’re experiencing right now. I definitely will try to do that. I’m really hopeful that New York, even if we stay somewhat socially distanced, will open the beaches a little bit, and I can at least somehow get out to the Rockaways or something and socially distance myself at Fort Tilden and sit in the sand for a day and listen to the waves and drink a beer. I’m really hoping that can still happen this year… and they won’t keep it closed because it’s still a city park. But who knows?
Z: I have one last thought about one other trend that ties into a couple of those things you were mentioning, and that’s the other thing that is going to make a comeback this summer: Drinks made in blenders.
Z: That’s the other category that really has been poo-pooed by the serious bartending craft, and not necessarily incorrectly. There are a lot of these frozen “whatever” drinks that when made poorly are pretty bad and most of the time they were made pretty poorly. But I love blending up drinks in the summer. There is nothing to me quite as refreshing as blended. Whether it’s a Piña Colada or a Margarita, there’s something about those drinks that, yes, I will never claim that they are the pinnacle of cocktails, but I don’t need them to be. And they are refreshing, they are fun, they are an easy way if you can socialize with people, a blender full of whatever the drink of your choice is. We will see this hybrid of what has become really popular with a throwback to a lot of classics, but I would say almost nostalgia drinks. That blender full of “whatever drink” is something that feels very out of time. But because we’re in this unprecedented time, it makes a certain sense to me that I might want to sit on my deck with a blender, pitcher full of Margaritas with my wife, and talk to the neighbors and say “Well, this is what we’re doing now.”
E: I’m so into that, I think that’s a great idea.
A: I’m super into blender drinks. My only thing is I don’t have a blender, so do you guys have a preferred brand?
Z: Do you want to spring for the Vitamix? You got all the money in the world, then go for it. But otherwise, I don’t know. I got mine as a wedding present, so you’re out of luck there.
A: Mine broke and we never replaced it, so I don’t know what to get. A Kitchen Aid? Or an Oxo? … If you have a preferred blender and you listen to the podcast, please email Adam at email@example.com and give him your blender advice.
Z: Exactly! Or as we’ve been saying apparently on every episode: Send Adam a blender. Why not?
A: I’ll take it! I’ll take a picture of it, socialize it, let me know: firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll let you know where to send the blender. If you’ve got a preferred cocktail for that blender, let me know.
Z: You may not have Jono’s 50K followers, but people pay attention.
E: I’m sure he’s close.
A: Guys, this has been a lot of fun again this week, talking about some drinks trends. It’s actually made me quite thirsty, so I’m going to go pop a bottle of wine at the end of this. As always, everyone who’s listening, thank you so much for taking the time to spend your Monday, Tuesday, or whenever you’re listening to this. We really appreciate it. Zach, Erica talk to you both next week.
E: Talk to you then.
Z: Sounds great.
A: Thanks so much for listening to the VinePair podcast. If you enjoy listening to us every week, please leave us a review or rating on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify, or wherever it is that you get your podcasts. And now for the credits: VinePair is produced and hosted by Zach Geballe, Erica Duecy and me: Adam Teeter. Our engineer is Nick Patri and Keith Beavers. I’d also like to give a special shout out to my VinePair co-founder Josh Malin and the rest of the VinePair team for their support. Thanks so much for listening, and we’ll see you again right here next week.
Ed. Note: Transcript has been edited for brevity and clarity.