A Taste of What’s to Come: 19 Drink Trends That a Food and Beverage Manager Should Check Out

As a food and beverage manager, are you getting craft beers for your bartenders to sell and sourcing cocktail ingredients that pique your guests’ curiosity? That’s how you delight customers in 2016.

These are just a couple of the trends that are resonating most with younger and older adults alike. To appeal to the modern beverage consumer, here are 19 trends to keep an eye on.


Guests Appreciate Barrel-Aged Libations

It may take weeks or months to make a good barrel-aged cocktail, but it’s worth the wait because guests love them, Alia Akkam writes at First We Feast. “It was a trend that seemed poised for burnout, yet it remains for good reason: More bartenders are doing it with aplomb, and more patrons are learning that a cocktail emerges from this six-to-eight week woodsy hibernation with more heft and depth,” she writes.


Craft Beer Sales Are Up

Americans love craft beer, and sales are skyrocketing as a result. Janet Forgrieve at SmartBlog on Food & Beverage notes that craft beer sales rose 22 percent in 2014 alone, and now there are more than 3,400 craft brewers in the US.


Locally Brewed Beers Appeal More to Craft Beer Drinkers

You probably won’t find domestic or imported beers in a craft beer fan’s fridge, says Allyssa Birth at The Harris Poll.

“When looking more closely at what it is about beer they [the average beer drinker] love so much, 7 in 10 (70%) say they enjoy trying new types of beer and nearly 2 in 3 (64%) are fans of local brews,” Birth writes. “The latter is especially true of craft beer drinkers, 86% of whom are fans of local beer, compared to 77% of those who prefer import beers and 60% of domestic non-craft beer drinkers.”

blue curacao and vodka cocktail drink in trendy bar


Millennials Are a Huge Market for Craft Beer, But They’re Not the Only Ones

Millennials are big fans of craft beer, says Ashley Davis at Small Business Trends. But what’s more surprising is how older consumers are also choosing craft over macrobrews.

NPD Group Vice President Warren Solocheck shared his insights with Davis: “It’s more true of millennials than others, but [craft beer is] also catching on with those of us who are a little older chronologically. There are so many variations, taste profiles, alcohol content profiles and so many cool little places producing beer, which makes it much more interesting.”


Bartenders Are Letting Flavors from the Past Guide the Present

Want to impress guests? Dig into your history books for a little inspiration. “Brewers are experimenting with ancient recipes from the monasteries of Belgium and Germany, where the first true artisan brewers plied their craft,” says Illinois restaurant Tap House Grill.


Consumers Are Rediscovering Sour Beer On a Wide Scale

Speaking of Old World flavors, Rachael Perry at BevSpot points out that sour beer is becoming an unlikely favorite for many people. “The popularity of sour beer has been growing steadily for a while, and this year it’ll make a massive return among craft brewers,” she says. “Despite the name, though, not every sour beer is sour — some are earthy, some are fruity, and others have merely a mild tartness.”


Local Ciders Are Worth an Inclusion on Your Menu

Need another drink to add to your bar menu? Sarah Parniak at NOW Magazine in Canada suggests cider. “Local cider stepped out from behind beer’s shadow last year, impressing us with a host of heritage apple varieties, wine-barrel aging, fruit and flower infusions and super-funky and puckering experiments,” Parniak writes.

black and white bartenders


Consumers Are Rediscovering a Taste for Canadian and Irish Whiskies

If you’re not serving Canadian or Irish whiskey at your hotel bar, you may want to reconsider. Reason No. 1: Jake Emen at Eater points out that the 2016 World Whisky of the Year winner was Crown Royal’s Northern Harvest Rye.

Irish whiskey has also had a resurgence, with “the same massive overall growth as rye, a 538 percent increase in U.S. sales, albeit over a longer period, from 2002 to 2014,” Emen says.


Move Vermouth Up From the End of the Rail

Consumers are finding other ways to drink vermouth beyond putting it in martinis, Manhattans and negronis. Cocktail Builder predicts that the wine will become even more widespread in 2016 and beyond. “The fortified wine has an ability to transform a drink without adding much alcohol, which will be increasingly important to the health-conscious,” the writers say.


Amari Are Becoming the Go-To Liqueurs

Expect to discover the earthy flavor of an herbal amaro in more drinks, Annie Hayes writes at The Spirits Business.

“Following the popularity of aromatic bitters and vermouth in recent years, we will see this trend develop further, and amaro will begin to feature more prominently in 2016,” Hayes writes. “As we saw when Amaro di Angostura won the best new product of the year at Tales of the Cocktail 2015, amaro is the one to watch and more brands will begin to invest more heavily in the category to drive traction with bartenders around the world.”


Mezcal Is a Bartending Favorite

The agave-derived mezcal was a hit in 2015, and its popularity has endured. Amy McCarthy at Paste Magazine says “bartenders love mezcal due to its complexity and boozy character” while guests are a fan of the drink because “it can be mixed beautifully into a cocktail that is easy to sip.”

pouring a drink


Rose Wines Will Continue to Dominate the Wine Menu

Beverage marketer Katie Myers at PadillaCRT says rose wines continue to rise in popularity. “They are refreshing, pair well with foods, and are appropriate for any season and practically any occasion,” she says, noting that imports of rosado wines from the Rioja region in Spain have risen 30 percent in recent years.


Clear Ice Makes for Better Drink Presentations

Noelle Chun at Eater spoke to bartender Nick Jones at PABU, a Japanese restaurant in San Francisco, and Jones believes clear ice “can really add to the aesthetic of a good cocktail and can give the guest that extra ‘wow’ factor.”

He notes more bars are making a conscientious effort towards better drink presentation: “You see bars and restaurants taking the time to buy ice or use expensive machines to make clear ice. It’s not totally a new thing, but it’s definitely becoming more of the norm.”


Mad Men Introduced a Whole Generation to a Wide Variety of Cocktails

Don’t we all wish we could as cool as Don Draper? Millennials certainly do, as they let the hit period drama influence their taste in cocktails, food company FONA International found.

“Millennials, when surveyed, drank more different types of spirits (vodka, rum, tequila and whiskey) than other generations,” FONA writes. “…Millennials view whiskey as ‘charming, dynamic and different’ and associate it with vintage and retro, contrasted with the general population that sees whiskey as traditional, arrogant and authentic.”


Just Don’t Overcomplicate Drinks

Market Watch Magazine cautions against making drinks with dozens of ingredients. “Many industry veterans say the surge in cocktail creativity came with an increase in arrogance and a decrease in hospitality,” the writers say.

Gerber Group managing partner Vince Mauriello spoke to the publication, noting that at one time, “the more labor-intensive the drink, the more guests wanted it.” Today, that’s not the case.

“Classics are typically made with minimal ingredients to showcase the base spirit. …Proper glassware and appropriate ice are more important now than trying to create the newest concoction.”

Various alcohol bottles in a bar


Consumers Would Like Drinks to Have Fewer Calories

“Alcohol really only possesses one major flaw: its lack of health benefits,” says Claudia Ajluni at Spoon University. Bartenders have responded by using healthier ingredients in their drinks to cut calories.

“2016 will bring low-calorie cocktails that use healthy substitutes for not-so-healthy mixers,” Ajluni writes. “Thanks to this trend, we can all ‘keep up’ with our resolutions to lose weight while still being able to indulge in our favorite cocktails.”


And Sometimes Alcohol Can Be Healthy (In a Way)

In an effort to watch their waistlines but still enjoy alcohol, more and more people are “offsetting alcohol with antioxidants and healthy mixers, mashing up exercise with hedonism, and flocking to a growing number of exercise-meets-drinking events,” Canadian magazine Strategy notes. This is why craft beer bars are finding so much success these days by sponsoring running clubs (which typically end their runs at the bar — and IPA actually pairs pretty nicely with a runner’s high).


Local Ingredients Add Authenticity to Drinks

A local farm could be a great source for crafting that next creative cocktail. “Garden grown is in; preservatives, concentrates or artificial ingredients are out,” says Food & Beverage Magazine. “Craft cocktail distillers are turning hand-selected agricultural ingredients grown on their own or other neighboring American farms into 100% natural artisan liquors that are elevating cocktails, beers and other beverages like coffee and tea.”


Vegetable-Heavy Cocktails: Going Beyond the Bloody Mary

The writers at travel magazine The Suitcase note that healthy vegetables such as beets and kale are finding their ways into cocktails. No surprise: This trend has its roots in New York cocktail bars.

“How and why exactly the ‘vegetable’ cocktail has become so popular is difficult to pinpoint,” the magazine says. “Perhaps New Yorkers are tired of sugar-induced hangovers; perhaps they’ve realized that their cold-pressed kale juice goes down just a bit better with vodka. …Whatever the reason, it seems that in the world of mixology, green is the new black.”

images by:
Taylor Davidson, Life-Of-Pix, Patrick Schopflin

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