While some cocktail bars focus on ever-more unusual techniques and ingredients, there are bartenders and patrons alike who are beginning to push back. While some cocktail programs focus on the elaborate, we're beginning to see an opposite trend emerging: simplicity.
'cocktail trends' on Serious Eats
Just as with fashion or music, trends come and go in the drinking world. Some, most of us would agree, are for the better—greater attention to cocktail programs at restaurants, an increasing number of small-batch producers—but others, some could do without. What fads should just pass already? Cocktails on tap, alcoholic foams, beer cocktails: just a few that came up.
It's time to look back at the year that was, and the way we drank. In 2012 we noticed three prominent trends relating to cocktail preparation and service: carbonated cocktails, bottled cocktails, and cocktails on tap. Other trends focused on new ingredients: savory additions inspired by the kitchen, cocktail ingredients aged individual in barrels, and new domestic liqueurs, digestifs, and aromatized wines. We've also seen a movement toward making drinks more fun, with throwback cocktails and the rise of soda-fountain inspired cocktails.
Trends spread across the cocktail world just as they do every other creative field. Ingredients that most drinkers wouldn't have recognized a few years ago—Cocchi Americano? St. Germain?—are now in cocktails all over the country. Housemade syrups and bitters were once a novelty, and now are almost expected in higher-end cocktail bars. But what's the next big trend in cocktails? We asked 9 bartenders and their answers ranged widely, from specific liqueurs to different techniques to the closer integration of food and drink.
As a bartender scattered kosher salt on the top surface of a lemony gin sour at an event recently, a waiting patron gasped. "What is that?" she said. "Sugar?" Nope. It was salt, and I didn't bat an eye, because lately I've been seeing a ton of salted cocktails coming from the country's top bartenders. And I'm not talking about salt in Bloody Marys or other naturally savory drinks, either—I mean juicy, fresh, slightly-sweet cocktails like classic sours and aperitifs, with a pinch of salt or a few drops of saline solution. Sure, folks have salted the rims of their margaritas forever, but salt in cocktails has now moved into the glass.
We've been seeing hand-bottled cocktails around: at Clyde Common in Portland, at Empire State South in Atlanta, and at the Manhattan Cocktail Classic a few weekends ago. Have you noticed them? Tried any?