The last decade has been a game-changer for drinks. The new golden age of cocktails dawned and with it we saw the rise of cocktail bars like the world had never seen, bartenders getting supertstar status (aka. the recognition they deserve) and even festivals deciated to cocktails. Epic.
Whisky boomed, gin exploded and we even managed to get bored of drinking alcohol and saw non alchololic spirits hit the market. The next decade looks like it's going to be even wilder than the last. These are the predictions coming at us from the lead voices in the biz.
Move over, gin. There's a new big dog in town and it's bringing all the tiki vibes to your drinks cabinet for 2020. This year was a big one for rum. Like a teenager with a sudden growth-spurt, it had the fastest growth of any other spirit this year and we're expecting to see this continue way in to this year and beyond.
"The rise in premium rum sales is in part to the rise in high-end craft Tiki Bars. When people enjoy a spirit in a cocktail, it opens up a conversation between bartender and customer. Rum has always been misunderstood and often misattributed to being "too sweet" and solely for drinking on tropical holidays. However, now given the chance to drink a finely balanced rum cocktail anywhere in the world, people have started to take notice of Rum as a spirit similar in complexity to that of Whiskey or Scotch" explains Adam "Boots" Brogan who rules the bar at Louie's in San Francisco and runs the Boosty Guide YouTube Channel.
It's not all playing about in cocktails though, part of rum's appeal is how killer it is as a sipper. Brands surfing the crest of this wave are bringing out premium offerings for just that purpose. Brogan's picks? "Ron del Barrilito 3-star, Havana Club 7yr, Plantation XO, & Zacapa 23 - these are a few rums that I love and that will challenge anyone’s idea of rum not being a sipping spirit"
People give a sh*t about what they're consuming and the effect it's having. Fact. This, along with the trade's stellar efforts to minimise wastage, has really opened up the sustainability conversation and we can only see it getting better.
"I think we will see more people asking where their produce has come from and making sure no one is exploited along the way. Passionate people across the globe have picked up the mantle in various ways and really run with it. And about time too." Ryan "Mr Lyan" Cheti's passion for the subject is apparent - and good job as his whole Lyan empire is based on these values.
Ever the trend-setter, Ryan explains that plenty of bars have been joining the revolution. "Anyone for plastic straws? Single-use materials? Conscious water usage? Re-used ingredients? We have seen REAL change, and a REAL shift in perception. As we started working more closely with producers across our venues, we found this was one of the points where we could be most proud. Reuse is grand, but empowering good practice and removing those that exploit it is way more impactful."
Bored of Prosecco? Us too. Looks like we're not alone 'cos in the last year English Sparkling wine sales have soared a mega 180%. Hell yeah. The world is starting to take notice.
So what's the deal with the sudden popularity? Well while the cool Engish climate has been ruining summer BBQs for decades, it's also been encouraging the growth of slow ripening grapes (the same as those in the Champagne region) which allow for a delicacy that lends itself nicely to sparkling wine. Talk about a silver lining to them rain clouds! There's also some pretty decent soil down in the South of England. Yeah, that's right, get ready for some top dirt chat. Wine estates like Nyetimber have greensand and chalk which are both free-draining soils, and allows 'em to keep the root systems in optimal health. While Chapel Down also rely on the chalk you find down in the South East (those White Cliffs of Dover stretch further than you think) but they also source fruit from a wider geographic area – from Essex to Hampshire - to ensure the risks of crop failure through frost and climate are reduced. Smart cookies.
In 2017, 80 new wine producers started up in the UK, so now their yield is really coming to fruition, and delicious things are on the horizon. But when it comes to the OG's who put English sparkling wines on the global stage we've gotta turn our attention to Ridgeview Estate. CEO Tamara Roberts knows that a good boozy British day out is just the ticket; "investment into visitor experience at the vineyard is becoming a priority to attract more visitors who in turn become ambassadors for our industry. We must remain quality-focused in everything we do to keep the momentum we have all worked so hard to create."
The problem with short drinks is they don't last long. Especially when they're f*cking delicious. So we're well and truly jumping on this latest trend and going long. The High-Ball, or Hard Seltzer as our yankie pals like to call it, has been growing in popularity this year and it's gonna get bigger.
Now we're not saying you should take your limited edition 30 yo Scotch and lengthen it with a soda, but there are some whiskies out there that shine when you build 'em up. At the end of 2019, Glasshouse whisky launched with the sole purpose of being served as a high-ball. Yeah, it's tasty alone, but just wait till you add a nice glug of ginger ale. Co-founded by Ben Iravani, Josh Rennie and Alex Lawrence, this trio specifically designed the bright and fruity whisky to be complementary in long drinks. “The whisky highball is seeing a surge in popularity and acceptance. With brands like Glasshouse getting people into the actual drink, and not just the whisky category we will see guests enjoying this style more and more".
Then you have legendary brands like Johnnie Walker who have been around the block a few times who transform by the addition of tonics or sodas and a touch of bitters. Experts Neil Ridley and Joel Harrison believe Hard Seltzer’s are the next big trend to take the cocktail scene by storm and they've been running masterclasses with J&B Rare to encourage guests to explore the versatility of Scotch whisky. Master blender, Caroline Martin, said: “J&B Rare is all about vibrancy, fresh fruit, apple, pear and hay notes to create a subtle but complex blend. The smoothness and spice from the Speyside malts pair perfectly with sodas and fruity garnishes.”
After English Single Malt production ended in 1905 with the closure of Lea Valley Distillery in Statford, London, it's taken almost 100 years for the second English whisky renaissance to get underway. But now, with a global boom for single malt and ever-increasing consumer interest in ‘craft’ drinks, it's finally here. Welcome to the new age of English Whisky, baby!
Scotch will always hold a place in BarChick's heart but there's something v. exciting about the rise of a new sector. There are now over a dozen active whisky-producing distilleries in England and several of them have recently released their early expressions; Spirit of Yorkshire, East London Liquor Company, The Lakes and Cotswolds Distillery.
"The popularity for English whisky is not a sudden occurrence – it has taken the best part of 15 years for the emerging ‘sector’ to grow to its current size" explains Matt McKay from West London-based Bimber distillery. "English whisky distilleries have taken their base cues from the centuries-old processes and practices of Scotland – without the rigidity of the restrictions imposed on distilleries north of the border. Experimentation with mash bills, yeast strains, fermentation periods etc is synonymous with English whisky – as is a focus on the highest quality. English whisky is in rude health. 2020 promises to be just as exciting with further new releases and a growing acceptance across whisky enthusiasts that English whisky is here to stay."
“Low and No” was the queen of 2019: the hottest drinking trend was not drinking at all. Alcohol-free cocktails now nestle nicely into bar menus without a heavy fruited mocktail in sight. In 2018, 30% of 18-24 prefered a drier lifestyle. We're no mathematicians, but those are some pretty decent measures of non-boozers, so it's no surprise that the low and no wave is still riding high.
There are now enough killer non-alc brands to fill your booze cabinet that you wouldn't even miss the presence of ABV; from concoctions designed to 'replace' existing spirits in your favourite drinks to botanical elixirs like Three Spirit that replicate the buzz of booze without the headaches the next morning. Paul from non-alcohlic aperitif Everleaf can just see the category getting bigger and bigger "we can’t make enough at the moment, so I think it’s safe to say that low and no is really taking off. 2020 will see even more people recognise that every drink on a night out doesn’t need to be alcoholic. Discerning drinkers have great alternatives that don’t compromise on flavour, provenance or occasion.”
And it's not just spirits that are being given a low and no alternative; non-alcoholic beer Lucky Saint is on the market to give delicious variety. "We are seeing moderation across every demographic - I predict 2020 will be the tipping point. We’ll see NA become part of our weekly routine and ‘not drinking’ will no longer be a conscious decision' explains Founder Luke Boase.
Though we haven't yet reached "Alexa, make me a Martini" level (a software update we're patienty waiting for), tech is playing a big hand in the drinks biz in 2020. From apps that can tell you what drink you're craving to software that can dream up the next classic cocktail. Get ready to plug in.
Ever felt overwhelmed when it comes to try new brands or spirits? Don't wanna sp*nk £40 on a bottle to find it's not your vibe. Diageo have turned to tech to give you a hand with ‘What’s Your Whisky’. This bit of tech uses Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to analyse a user’s personal flavour preferences before matching you with a Single Malt whisky which the AI thinks you'll love. Like First Dates but for booze. And does it work? Yeah, it's pretty decent. After asking questions about your tastes (like how often you eat bananas and where you stand on vanilla ice cream) it works out your FlavourPrint and then gives you ideas on what whiskies you should be drinking and how to serve them.
Then there's the new A.I. tech by DataSparQ that uses facial recognition to place customers in a dynamically intelligent queue. No more relying on a wink to catch the bartender's attention - this ensures first-come, first served. Then there's the bit of age detecting software they're working on. Those lucky enough to look under 25 will be told to have their ID out and ready for inspection before they order, and will let bartenders know if they've already been checked. Less time queuing, more time drinking. We're down with that.
London’s best bartenders have been giving old-school classics a twenty-first-century twist and a new lease of life. The Pina Colada has been reigning supreme across London with some decent reimaginations created by the likes of The Rivoli Bar at The Ritz, who have dreamt up an oh-so-Ritz twist on a piña colada topped with toasted coconut and banana foam. Talk about old school glamour meeting old school cocktails. And the Champagne Pina Colada which has been elevated to signature status at Coupette in Bethnal Green with it's bubbly poolside vibes.
Carrying on the revival is the killer new menu at Hawksmoor Spitalfield's Bar. The crew here have ignored the age-old mantra of "don't f*ck with a classic" and given the mad scientist twist to more dissolute faded stars like the Harvey Wallbanger and Appletini. In an unlikely turn of events, their Reformed Pornstar takes the pinnacle of sweet, silly London excess and merges it with the 17th Century clarified milk punch. The result is a refined, elegant, sophisticated drink with the beating (silly) heart and seductive soul of the original.
Nostalgia never tasted so good.