What's gonna be big in the world of booze this year? We hit up the experts for their predictions on all things drinks, from the spirits that are set to make waves to the hottest serves (literally). Bring on 2023!
We already know the non-alcoholic spirits space is big business - ya can't swing a cocktail shaker without hitting a bottle of Seedlip these days. And while a smaller proportion of people are taking part in Dry January this year (one in seven UK adults in 2023, versus one in six in 2022 and one in five in 2021), more are looking to cut down on alcohol year-round (30% of adults in 2023 versus 25% in 2022). Enter: low(er)-ABV serves.
Reduced-alcohol drinks aren't a new phenomenon, but we've certainly seen 'em picking up steam lately. Over the past year, a fair few lower-alcohol products have entered the scene, from Decem's 10% ABV range to Hayman's just-released London Light, which sits at 12.5% ABV. "[London Light's launch] is perfectly timed, as recent research shows that four in five bars are planning to increase their low alcohol range in 2023 to meet the needs of the consumer who wants to drink in moderation," explains Hayman’s co-owner James Hayman. Meanwhile, a recent report from non-alcoholic spirits brand Crossip revealed that 88% of bartenders think it's important to have moderated "low" drinks on their menus.
So we're expecting to see more lower-ABV cocktails in bars year-round in the 12 months ahead, particularly those that mix non-alcoholic spirits with full-strength bottlings. Kicking things off is East London drinking den Seed Library, which has just teamed up with Crossip and online retailer Drinks Distilled to create a whole menu of lower-alcohol serves, as well as a cocktail set. As Nicola Jones, co-founder of Drinks Distilled, puts it: "I think it will be really interesting as bartenders educate consumers in the bar, and in turn, we'll see that come through on Drinks Distilled, with people understanding and exploring the low-ABV side."
Tequila is officially the darling of drinks geeks everywhere, and big biz for celebs. Its popularity in the past few years has paved the way for the rise of mezcal, too. In 2023, get ready for the hype to be higher than ever. "Mezcal especially will continue to go from strength to strength," says Nicola, noting that flavoured versions like Dangerous Don Mandarina are seeing "really great sales".
But that's not all. This year, there's a good chance you'll get to meet even more members of the Mexican spirits fam: raicilla (an agave spirit made in Jalisco), bacanora (a type of mezcal from Sonora) and sotol (a spirit made from the dasilyrion plant). We’ve spotted agave bars like Stoke Newington’s Doña and Dalston’s Hacha flying the flag for lesser-known Mexican spirits, and last autumn, Lenny Kravitz gave the celeb treatment to sotol with the launch of his brand Nocheluna (in partnership with spirits giant Pernod Ricard, no less). When the rock stars get on board, you KNOW something major is coming.
While English winemakers are typically known for their sparkling styles, warmer weather and a damn fine 2022 harvest (hello, climate change) mean that still reds from the UK are on the up. "Everyone is experimenting more and more, and I've been seeing various producers that only previously produced sparkling and whites releasing reds," says Bella Babbit, wine director at NoMad London.
Daniela Liverani, bar manager at Virgin Hotels Edinburgh, believes still reds from England will also benefit from the thirst for all things local: "With the rising interest in provenance of the goods we are consuming, I think it makes perfect sense that we start considering locality in the world of wine," she says.
According to a survey from wine distributor Bibendum, 75% of red wine drinkers are interested in drinking English. Bella says the NoMad’s guests "have become more open to the suggestion". "We list a couple… [and] are particularly seeing interest from guests joining us from abroad. We had the Pinot Noir from Litmus on the list for a while which was absolutely flying!"
Wanna try some English still reds for yourself? Bella recommends bottles from Westwell and Gusbourne, and Daniela is all about London-based Blackbook Winery. Get sippin'...
The Spicy Margaret from Stoke Newington bar Doña
If you're the kinda person who channels our queen Beyoncé with hot sauce in your bag, you're in luck. Bacardi's 2023 Trend Report highlights "a surge in spicy drinks, with tequila or vodka-based cocktails finding affinity with bolder, unexpected pairings including jalapeños and tabasco". That's right - you no longer need to suck up to a Soho House member to get your fix of chilli-infused booze.
We're not saying the viral TikTok jalapeño rosé trend of 2022 is set to make a comeback, but we are keeping our eyes peeled for more drinks that play with heat in surprising ways. Case in point? The Szechuan Gibson from the NoMad’s newest bar, Common Decency, which gets a punch of pleasantly numbing fire from oil infused with Szechuan peppercorns. Pow!
We're all dressing like the long-lost seventh cast member of Friends, and we're gonna be drinking like it's 1999, too. Loadsa top-notch bars are giving the overly sweet technicolour serves of the '90s a sophisticated upgrade, and pre-Y2K-style cocktails will continue their ascent this year, with the 'tini leading the way.
"The industry may be getting fatigued with the Espresso Martini, but drinkers are not. We're retro souls at heart," says Nicola of Drinks Distilled. The same is true for its raunchier cousin, the Pornstar Martini, which was the most popular recipe on cocktail recipe site Difford's Guide in 2022. And with cocktail expert John deBary's '90s-inspired recipe book Saved by the Bellini set for release in April, it seems the nostalgia is just getting started...
By Kate Malczewski