With bars and restaurants across the country open at full capacity and without mask mandates for the first time since April 2020, this year bore witness to multiple bar innovations that have been almost two years in the making.
Time spent away from our favorite hotspots may have also prompted drinkers to seek out new and creative concoctions. But as Newton’s Third Law tells us, for every action in nature, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Similarly, for every great new drinks trend from this past year, there was an equally bad movement following right in its footsteps.
The Espresso Martini
After enjoying a first wave of popularity in the 1990s, the Espresso Martini made a quiet comeback in 2019, before taking a leap into the mainstream in 2022. The Espresso Martini was one of the top 10 cocktails ordered this year, and on-premise Kahlúa sales skyrocketed by 60 percent as a consequence. While the drink’s popularity cannot be overstated, sheer overkill has made many — including ourselves — wonder when Espresso Martini-mania will end?
There is a reason restaurants typically serve two to three savory courses followed by just one dessert: Such a thing exists as too much sweetness, as the Espresso Martini also proves. This is only one area in which the drink falls short, though, with others including the dubious nature of mixing uppers with downers, the sheer amount of time it takes to make the cocktail, and the fact it’s so often made poorly. Most importantly of all: This drink in no way resembles a bonafide Martini. It’s over!
“Trends” That Aren’t Actually Trends
The summer of 2022 may well be remembered most for being the moment that brought us the Dirty Shirley. Composed of vodka, Sprite, and childhood favorite grenadine, The New York Times proudly proclaimed the mixture “The Drink of the Summer.” Shirley you must be kidding, many pondered, because no one in their right mind had even considered drinking vodka-spiked Shirley Temples prior to the piece, let alone ordering one at a bar. That probably — almost certainly — changed in the ensuing weeks and months, but things didn’t have to turn out this way. Next year, how about we make sure people are actually ordering a drink before we start calling it a trend?
One more time for the people in the back: Alcohol is not and will never be healthy. It dehydrates, and contains more sugar and calories than many non-alcoholic options. Nevertheless, 2022 brought us a number of new “healthy” booze options, ranging from “light” vodka to low-sugar, low-intervention, low-calorie, and low-joy wines. Hopefully 2023 will be the year that brands stop trying to dupe consumers with gimmicky products and misleading nutritional claims. We doubt that it will, though, so it’s worth reiterating that there’s nothing wrong with occasionally enjoying things that aren’t technically good for you, as long as you avoid overindulging.
Outlandish Martini Ingredients and Garnishes
While a timeless classic, 2022 proved to be a bumper year for the Martini, with celebrities such as pop star Dua Lipa even weighing in to share their preferred specs. Bars were keen to jump on the new interest in the drink, though some took their innovations too far. We’re all for a side of caviar along with a crisp, dry Martini, but ingredients such as pasta water and MSG, and garnishes like anchovies risk tarnishing this renaissance for the cocktail. Next year, let’s scale things back, or we might very well be ‘tini-ing too close to the sun.
Heeding Celebrity Drinking Advice
In a culture as celebrity-obsessed as ours, it’s no wonder many rush to try out their favorite drinks in the hope that, just maybe, we’ll be as glamorous as A-listers for just a moment or two. In reality, however, celebrity drinking advice is often questionable at best. Case in point: Dua Lipa’s aforementioned Dirty Martini — which she’ll take “filthy” — and Emma D’Arcy’s Negroni Sbagliato “with Prosecco.” Then there was Kylie Jenner’s Martini spec — if you can actually call it a Martini — which consists of shaken vodka poured into a Martini glass. Let’s leave the drinking advice to the pros next year.
Infusing Tequila With Anything and Everything
We never thought we’d have to say this but: In 2023, keep the tequila away from the coffee machine. If rock bottom had a basement, it would be the TikTok “hack” instructing us to fill a coffee pot with Starbursts and a bottle of tequila before hitting the start button for an easy “skinny” Margarita. Please, just stop. Tequila is, above all, supposed to taste like tequila. Infusing the spirit with things like botanicals, pumpkin, or — Heaven forbid — candy, takes away from the craft of distilling. If you want to drink booze that tastes like kids’ treats, try an adjunct lager.
Half Portions at (Almost) Full Prices
Heavier cocktails like the Piña Colada can be challenging to finish, and ordering miniature versions provides the perfect solution. This year saw that convenient portion-size make its way onto many bar menus. However, the purpose of mini cocktails is almost immediately defeated when the drink is priced closer to a full-sized cocktail. Twelve dollars for a miniature cocktail — in this economy?! With inflation up over 7 percent and experts predicting a recession right around the corner in 2023, it’s too big of an ask for consumers to shell out that much money for a drink that’s really just a tasting sample.
Endless Flavor Packs
With almost every major drinks brand now in on the trend of producing hard seltzer, there’s enough decision fatigue in the space when it comes to picking the right pack. Next year, it would be refreshing if brands stopped complicating things even more by hammering out new flavor packs seemingly every three seconds. While releases in the category’s heyday were reasonable and occasionally delicious, 2022 brought garbage less inspired innovations like the Sour Blue Raspberry Hard Seltzer and Vodka Tea Spritz. In 2023, let’s keep it simple and cease with the endless flavor packs.