There was a time before trends became so, well, trendy. Nowadays though, most social media platforms have sections dedicated to trending content, while trends in fashion, music, and TV shows inform how we dress, what we do for fun, and who we are.
And in the world of cocktails, the drinks and techniques that have risen and fallen in popularity over the years mirror the social and political trends across the globe. Conversations around sustainability and climate change are showing up on the bar scene, old favorites are making comebacks, and the general public seeks more variety in what they consume and purchase.
Bartenders across the country shared their thoughts on the next big cocktail trends they see on the horizon. Their answers reflect an array of trends at local, regional, and national levels. Here’s what they think will soon be all the rage in the world of cocktails.
The Next Big Cocktail Trend, According to Bartenders
“I’m definitely seeing the low- and no-ABV category of cocktails rise in popularity. It has been a category that has been gaining traction, and I see no signs of it slowing down. Moving forward, as people become more conscious about what they consume or are taking a break from alcohol, having a low or no section on our cocktail menu is important. It gives people the option to be social with friends and still feel like they are participating in all of the fun with a creative low-ABV or zero-ABV cocktail.” —Justin Wilson, lead bartender, The Betty, Atlanta
“Non-alc and low-ABV products are exploding on the market right now, making up nearly $10 billion of value in the top global markets. That means a lot of new products and innovation are coming our way. And, if you couple that with younger demographics being very invested in personal wellness and drinking less than millennials, I think that’s going to have a big impact on 2022. You’re certainly going to see a lot more of these brands popping up at industry events this year, expanding options on bar menus and really exciting ingenuity with flavors. For our part, you’ll definitely see this trend at Tales this July in our signature Beyond the Bar Lounge, at Meet the Distillers, and at a dedicated No + Low Grab + Geaux space.” —Eileen Wayner, CEO, Tales of the Cocktail Foundation, New Orleans
“I think that the next big trend in cocktails is going to be carbonation. There are already a lot of amazing, top-tier cocktail bars out there force-carbonating their cocktails, but I think you’re going to start seeing a lot of other places jumping on board. I think that just like we saw the growth of clear ice in cocktail bars, we are going to see more and more bars offering high-quality carbonated cocktails. The technique is slowly being democratized.” —Deke Dunne, head bartender & beverage director, Allegory at the Eaton, Washington, D.C.
“We as bartenders are learning every day how to streamline ourselves to become more efficient during service. One thing that our bartenders at Helen have streamlined is our Espresso Martini. By creating a coffee liqueur with Frangelico, we have cut the in-service preparation time down tremendously and found a delicious Martini. We don’t think it will be too long before others are doing this as well.” —Kristine Brown, bar manager, Helen, Birmingham, Ala.
“I believe the next big cocktail trend will be more locally sourced ingredients and highlights of more house-made ingredients. I’ve noticed that in notable bars in my area, as well as across the country, there’s a shift gearing towards bringing cocktails ‘home’ to highlight the best of our areas. I think it’s amazing, and I can’t wait to travel more to see what different areas have to offer. It is a real homecoming in my mind.” —Danielle Goldtooth, owner & mixologist, Dii IINÀ Food from Start to Finish, Phoenix
“There is a collective movement by restaurants today to source local and farm fresh ingredients, and that carries through to cocktail programs. This focus on acquiring not only high-quality ingredients, but also more variety, allows the mixologist to indulge in a constant array of new and changing flavor profiles. Local fruits, vegetables, syrups, and tonics will continue to be a large part of bar programs across the country.” —Tyler Burnell, bar manager, Indaco, Charleston, S.C.
“I’m seeing more bartenders use different acids to get that zip in their cocktails. I love acid in a cocktail, but sometimes, I think we’re too quick to reach for the lemon or lime. I have been playing around with yogurt for sours lately, and there is so much opportunity for flavor, acid, and an incredible texture. Yogurt is just one example, though. You can use citrus stock, verjus, sherry, or vinegar. There are tons of opportunities to bring exciting acid to your cocktail while leaving the traditional fruit on the shelf.” —Robert Kidd, bar manager, Le Cavalier, Wilmington, Del.
“Cocktail bars with specialized focuses have soared in popularity as of late, and our bar is no exception. As an Italian aperitivo cocktail bar, Brother Wolf is unapologetically true to its concept. We celebrate all things bitter and Italian. Guests who are on a quest for jalapeño Margaritas or strawberry Piña Coladas need to look elsewhere. And that’s OK. As drinking culture evolves on a global scale and theme-focused bar concepts continue to grow in demand, our guests will soon be able to spend an hour in Scandinavia, then hop to the Caribbean, and finish their evening with a Negroni or two.” —Jessica King, owner & operator, Brother Wolf, Knoxville, Tenn.
“If I were looking into my Magic 8-Ball, I would say that we are all in store for a slew of celebrity-owned canned cocktails. It’s no surprise that two beverage areas that grew immensely the past few years were RTDs and agave spirits backed by celebrity money. With more A-listers getting in on the alcohol (and spirit-free) game, the oversaturation of tequila brands will have people looking elsewhere for their investments. We can expect to see new cans and bottles on our shelves this year and next year.” —Pamela Wiznitzer, beverage consultant, NYC
“The trend I see coming is a more culinary approach to drinks and garnishing. Bartenders are exploring techniques that chefs have been using for decades to enhance their drinks’ presentation and flavor. Garnishes like edible glass, tuiles, and freeze-dried elements are finding their way onto drinks across the country. It is a very exciting time to see where the creativity goes.” —Jon Howard, bar director, Audrey, Nashville
“I’ve been seeing quite a few more piscos come to market, and I’m hopeful that this will be the year of pisco. It’s about time, if you ask me. I also have seen a trend of people not listing all of the ingredients in the description of a cocktail. It’s an interesting trend, but makes sense in some ways, as we don’t see every ingredient listed in a food dish. I’ve been to bars that describe their drink with four ingredients when in fact it has seven or nine.” —Ivy Mix, co-founder, Speed Rack; partner, Leyenda & FIASCO! Wine & Spirits, NYC
“Where there is smoke, there is fire when it comes to mezcal cocktails. We are having more and more guests ordering mezcal every day. Having a similar base to tequila, but with an added smokiness, excites bartenders and patrons. With the powerful depth of flavor and range that different mezcals have, I would assume that you will start seeing one or two mezcals on lists in every restaurant.” —Jeff Gates, general manager, Oak Steakhouse, Highlands, N.C.
“We are going to continue to see the rise in new spirits categories like shochu and awamori. I think with cocktails, we will continue to see a rise in quality no- and low-ABV cocktails. As seen with my brand Aplós, this Dry January blew away expectations.” —Lynnette Marrero, co-founder, Speed Rack; bar director, Llama Inn & Llama San, NYC
“I think we are going to see a growing number of innovative spirits based on a variety of raw materials and fermentation techniques. Matchbook Distilling Co.’s Sole Mio (spirits distilled from koji, caramelized Winter Sweet and Winter Luxury pumpkins, puffed rice, flaked oats, red winter wheat, and malted barley) and Ritual Sister (distilled from fermented pit-roasted pineapple) are perfect examples. Craft distillers don’t compete with the big guys when it comes to traditional spirits — which really benefit from the economy of scale — but are nimble and can take risks. Consumers and bartenders both are looking for unique flavors because you can’t get better than the best premium spirits in traditional categories — only rarer and more expensive. There’s a freedom from skipping trying to meet the legal requirements for an established category. For the mixologist, these products have both a compelling story and distinctive flavors that carry more conceptual and sensory weight in a cocktail than the old familiar ingredients.” —Rob Krueger, master mixologist, Bar Chrystie at PUBLIC Hotel, NYC
“We’ve noticed that the true 50/50 Martini is a returning trend, so we decided to play versions of the Martini against itself on our menu. And not just some sweet little thing with the suffix ‘tini’ added on — we are bringing back food-friendly Martinis. We do that by featuring my Highclere 50/50 and our head bartender’s Cumberland River Dirty. The former is clean, mildly sweet, and tastes like a melted-down glacier. The latter is a savory, briny dive into a local watering hole. Both are delicious for completely different reasons. By playing them against each other on the menu, we let our guests fully embrace this returning pre-Prohibition trend.” —Kala Ellis, beverage director, Oak Steakhouse Nashville, Nashville
“Current trends are continuing to head towards quality, specifically with the ingredients and spirits being used. We are seeing more of a focus on premium spirits — what otherwise used to be referred to as ‘top shelf’ — becoming more and more the standard. This might be a result of the pandemic and the overall increase in at-home bartending and knowledge.” —Owen McGlynn, chef & owner, Asheville Proper, Asheville, N.C.