Bartending and cocktail competitions are as much a part of this industry as the brands that sponsor them. It makes sense since the business of hospitality is inherently competitive.
Operators compete for guests; every industry-related brand is in competition with one another; and we’re all competing for our voices to be heard on social media, to name but a few areas of competition.
Cocktail and bartender competitions are great a few obvious reasons. They can serve as creative outlets and calling cards for bartenders, as well as move their careers forward. Such competitions can also be powerful marketing and promotions tools for bars, nightclubs and restaurants. But there’s another reason they’re a valuable resource.
Judges and sponsors don’t just crown winners, giving their reputations and careers a healthy push. They certainly do that, but they also act as a window into the direction of cocktail, technique, presentation and service trends. The World Class Global Final Berlin 2018 is a perfect example.
Diageo’s World Class Global Final has been around since 2009 and is considered the Olympics for bartenders. Congratulations to Orlando Marzo of Lûmé in South Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, who won the official title of World Class Global Champion. Unofficially, that means Marzo clinched the title of best bartender in the world. And congratulations to the USA’s Laura Newman, a top four finalist set to open Queen’s Park in the Loft District of Birmingham, Alabama, this fall.
Read this: Follow These Trends Through the End of 2018
But World Class is more than a competition. It’s also an educational program and, as mentioned above, three trends to follow into 2019 were revealed.
1. Low & Zero Proof
The trend of low- and no-ABV drinks has proven its staying power. Expect it to grow even more powerful next year.
According to a survey that polled 1,000 British people conducted by Franklin & Sons, a producer of soft drinks, tonics and mixers, 46 percent of respondents under the age of 35 (Millennials and LDA Gen Z) indicated that they’d order a zero-proof (a.k.a. alcohol-free or mocktail) drink. This finding is made all the more significant when compared to respondents aged over 35, of whom only 16 percent gave the same answer.
The popularity of the world’s first alcohol-free spirit, Seedlip, indicates that what bartenders have been saying all along—that flavor is of utmost importance for all categories of drinks—is true. It’s not enough anymore to simply offer guests soda, tonic or water with a twist: mocktails require the same level of attention in terms of menu placement and description, build, presentation and service as their spirited counterparts.
Low-proof cocktails, of course, allow guests to more easily manage beverage alcohol consumption. Both trends, if they can be labeled as such any longer, offer guests ways to enjoy their experience in a bar, nightclub or restaurant without feeling left out, uncomfortable or disappointed.
2. Waste Not
Sustainability is a hot topic across the board—it’s not limited solely to our industry. And much like low- and no-proof drinks, this trend doesn’t appear to be going anywhere but onward and upward.
According to Nielsen’s 2015 Global Sustainability Report (October 2015), 66 percent of the 30,000 survey respondents across 60 countries said they’ll pay more for products that come from sustainable brands. In 2013, that number was 50 percent, and in 2014 it was 55 percent.
Close to 75 percent of Millennial respondents affirmed their willingness to pay more for sustainable products, and 72 percent of Gen Z said the same, making them the generations most willing to do so.
3. Show & Tell
Social media has influenced society and our industry in almost innumerable ways. What was at first seen as a way to connect the world was also recognized as an incredibly powerful marketing and promotional tool. The implications of social media go far beyond those uses, however.
Guests are no longer just paying customers, they’re a connected, influential community. Platforms that place an emphasis on visually impactful posts, Instagram being chief among them, have guests craving drinks that look as good as they taste. Visual appeal will be, according to World Class competitors and presenters, be crucial through 2019.
Read this: Become an Instagram Hot Shot
Another likely unforeseen byproduct of social media’s ubiquity and nonstop consumption is the rise of Insta-mixologists, bartenders without any formal, on-the-job training. Case in point, Elliott Clark, known to the masses as Apt. Bartender. Such influencers bring, perhaps, an outsider’s perspective to the profession of tending bar. This can push cocktail creation, builds and presentation in unexpected directions. They can also provide insight into the desires and expectations of consumers around the world if we watch what they like (literally) and therefore ask for at the bar.
The next time a bartender says they’re thinking about signing up for a competition, the operator and manager for whom they work may want to encourage that idea. They just may find themselves on the right side of the cutting edge of the industry.