Predicting trends, sifting through trends, staying ahead of trends… It can be exhausting trying to keep up or be a tastemaker while operating within this era of the Big Four cocktail movements. The Modern Mixology, Modern Cocktail, Classic Cocktail and Craft Cocktail Movements haven’t just been increasing in popularity across the globe, they’ve been increasing in the speed at which they operate. It seems as though the moment a trend strikes oil, it’s tossed aside and labeled outdated. Guests, bartenders and mixologists alike seem to be ripping through spirit categories, ingredients, build techniques, ice programs and classic cocktail reimagining at an alarming rate. Adding to the frustration of knowing which trends to try and pursue and which to toss aside is the need to stay true to your brand and concept.
This topic was addressed at this year’s Beverage Executive Symposium, held at the Newport Beach Marriott Hotel & Spa. A panel consisting of Jeremiah Courtney of William Grant & Sons, Ken Ruff of Beam Suntory, Stuart Melia of Craftworks Restaurants, Frank Lewis of AMC Theatres and Erik Lak of Young’s Market and moderated by Court of Masters member, certified cicerone and MarkeTeam Inc. Director of Premier Accounts Jason Stone discussed cocktails and flavor trends. One of the first points made is that second cities (those that are not NYC, LA, Chicago, etc.) are populated by a consumer base with an ever-growing interest in craft spirits, craft brands, craft cocktails and a desire to try whatever is trendy. This means that owners and operators with venues in seemingly “less trendy” locations need to pay attention to current beer and cocktail trends. Better educated guests means consumers who are well aware of what’s trendy, and they want in on the experiences.
The trick is to experiment with and adopt emerging trends if you’re unable to kick off trends on your own. The expert panel had plenty of insight into what trends are still in the emerging phase. First, throwback flavors and cocktails. Grapefruit falls into this category and spirit companies have been developing products that take advantage of this trend. Belvedere, for instance, introduced Belvedere Pink Grapefruit to the market in time for summer-inspired cocktails. Two other trends that are hot, literally, are spice and heat. Ancho Reyes Chile Liqueur adds constant heat to cocktails and is an excellent alternative to another trendy flavor enhancer, habanero. In this age of whiskey and complex flavors, a refreshing emerging trend is sweet cocktails. In contrast, however, sweet wines seem to be a dying trend. If you’re having trouble moving sweet wines, consider developing sweet wine-based cocktails or discounting your price per glass to empty your stock and make room for products that embrace emerging trends.
In terms of dying trends, along with sweet wine it seems that flavored spirits – other than some flavored whiskeys – are also on the way out. The flavored whiskey category is believed to be responsible for wiping out flavored vodka sales. In fact, as of a few months ago, flavored whiskeys (maple, apple, cinnamon) experienced a growth of 78% while flavored vodka dropped by, you guessed it, 78 percent. Japanese whisky continues to grow, as does American rye whiskey, so consider replacing some of the less necessary flavored vodkas (acai, pomegranate, cotton candy) in your inventory with whiskey and whisky. Also, to keep ahead of emerging trends, the products from 17 new Irish distilleries will be hitting US shores in about three years so keep your eyes on that category as Irish whiskeys offer light, sweet notes that many guests find approachable and appealing.