The on-trade has certainly seen a rise in the importance of alcohol-free cocktails, except perhaps in Germany.
(Personal Rant…. Can we, once and for all, stop calling them “mocktails”? This word is an abomination; it is a meaningless contraction of “mock” and “cocktail”)
These mixes are becoming increasingly more complex and the soft drink industry is trying to catch up.
The second mention goes to fellow taster, Paul Mathew, who recently launched a non-alcoholic aperitif called “Everleaf” and in so doing, singlehandedly created a new category within the category! This is a clear indication that the category has gained traction and will go from strength to strength.
However, Gary Itkin indicates that these alcohol-free spirits have yet to make an impact in NYC. Watch this space!
The last trend that is worth expanding upon is that of sustainability within the industry. We, as a species, have come head to head with the simple fact that our current lifestyle is unsustainable. As a result, we are increasingly demanding accountability from our producers. Distilleries are not spared this push back and are driven to adopt a more environmentally-aware attitude. Unfortunately, this accountability is often a regionally-driven requirement rather than a choice. There are exceptions but profit is still king.
Thankfully, consumers are voting with their wallets and bartenders are becoming more selective. We are therefore witnessing a global effort by influencers to go beyond banning plastic straws and go a step further. There is no question that this will have a profound impact on our choices, but it is still at a nascent stage.
In a nutshell, the trends that emerged at the end of 2018 have settled and much of what was predicted has happened. Millennials drink less but better and are in search of authenticity and diversity. This, in turn, has created quite a crowded market place, where transparency and sustainability are required in order to develop an emotional connection with their core consumers. Meanwhile, the on-trade has also boomed; however, we are seeing a return to simpler and more elegant mixology. Wa-Shu in Taipei promotes “one-ingredient” mixology and is one of the busiest places in the city. Scout by Matt Whiley has claimed a spot in the world’s top 50 bars with its focus on foraged and reclaimed ingredients. Consumers are looking more for the perfect drink, even if it means having the cocktails prepared back of house rather than front of house, as was previously expected.
All in all, we are currently in a very interesting place… 2019 promises to be exciting!
Thanks to Anne Jones, Robinson Robinson, Gary Itkin, Scott Rosenbaum, Arthur Nägele, Mauricio Maia, Rojita Tiwari, Paul Peng Wang, Eugene Nyaundi, Jesus Bernad for their contribution to this article.