People love trends. Some love to be the leaders, others love to follow, but they all seem to want to know what’s happening in the world. Well, in the world of spirits, 2011 promises to be as trendy as any year. There are so many exciting things going on this space that it’s not really fair to try and do justice with a single article and five simple trends, so let's consider this installment number one of 2011’s trends from TheSpir.it!
More pre-mixed energy beverages -- and by this I mean the return of Four Loko and drinks like it. The ridiculous over-reach by the government and panic-mongering by many elected officials gets them all the airtime they were after, but at the same time adds the appeal of forbidden taboo to these beverages. Yes, there were problems with people bingeing on these drinks -- and I am not a fan -- but people have binged on Red Bull and Vodka before Four Loko, and Irish coffee before that. The problem here is not the beverage but rather the way in which it’s being consumed. Look for more products in this space.
While we’re at it, I think we’ll see more pre-mixed cocktails that riff on nostalgia-based drinks. I’m thinking Yoo-hoo with alcohol, punches made for adults (look for goji and acai super fruit flavors, so we can feel good about drinking them), and “healthy” cocktails sweetened with alternative sweeteners such as agave syrup, cane sugar and stevia.
While we’re on the subject of the health implications of drinking (and just to return to the first point, I’m sure we’re all in agreement that responsible, moderate drinking can be part of a healthy lifestyle), I think we’ll see more herbally infused beverages and cocktails in 2011. Not only are these complex flavors appealing and still in their novelty stage but they can be used to create drinks that are less sweet than fruit-based cocktails and may pack in potent curative powers.
The next generation
All of this change is happening all around us and while cocktail and spirit sophistication is rampant in all the major social hubs of the country, the cutting edge is moving to where there are different expectations, less noise, and more room for the new and exciting to thrive. It’s really hard for an emerging master mixologist to get his or her due in New York City or New Orleans but stand out in Portland, Philadelphia, Kansas City and Miami.
Speaking of Miami, expect to see the growth of Latin-inspired cocktails to spread across the country. The Nuevo Latino culinary culture has become mainstream and new cocktails are simply a natural extension.