The Fastest–Growing Cocktails Lack Spirit

Beer cocktails, sparkling wine cocktails and sangria rank as the fastest-growing cocktails.

Many of the fastest-growing cocktails lack spirit. Literally. Beer cocktails and sparkling wine cocktails – Bellini and Mimosa specifically – and sangria rank as the fastest-growing cocktails on leading chain restaurant menus according to our now-available 2014 BarTAB Report.

That the three fastest-growing cocktails showcase beer and wine rather than spirits points to the category convergence at the bar, a trend that’s also evident in consumer feedback. About one-quarter of consumers say they’re ordering more wine and beer cocktails today than they did three years ago; younger consumers are most likely to say as much.  Not only are consumers drinking a range of beverages on-premise, but they’re looking to experiment with new ways of enjoying these beverages, including cocktails.

Trending beer cocktails range from the classic Black & Tan to updated variations that mix stout with craft selections. Brick House Tavern & Tap locations menu numerous takes on the Black & Tan.  Variations on the Dark & Stormy abound as well, and ginger beer is showing up in drinks at hot spots such as Chicago’s Tippling House, where the Bruno the Donkey includes Hangar 1 Vodka, absinthe, lemon, black currant and ginger beer. Concoctions that combine beer and hard cider are also growing on menus, as are drinks involving beer and spirits. Logan’s Roadhouse combines Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey, peach and Corona for the Peach Honey Brew.

Wine cocktail developers are also embracing new and often unexpected ingredients, such as Aperol and other bitters or aromatic liqueurs like St-Germain Elderflower Liqueur. Some operators are turning to sparkling wines to add a special touch to cocktails. Pappas Restaurants’ Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchens offer the Baton Bellini, featuring Flor De Cana 7 Year Aged Rum, Hornitos Plata Tequila, peach and fresh lemon and lime, finished With Saracco Moscato D'asti. Next-level sangrias showcase ingredients such as pomegranate and orange liqueurs, cranberry juice and spirits ranging from rum to brandy and schnapps.

All indicators point to consumers being open to myriad combinations of spirits, wine, sparkling wine, beer and cider on the cocktail list. Creative concoctions that elicit that “wow” from the guest can also elicit greater loyalty, more recommendations and higher guest satisfaction.