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2011 Cocktail Trends

7 Cocktail Trends to Embrace and 4 to Avoid

Goat, pork desserts, and grilled cheese weren't the only trends we spotted at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen. I also attended a seminar devoted to what's hot (and what's not!) in the world of mixology. At The Cocktail Guide, New York's most famous bartender Jim Meehan, of PDT, and Food & Wine's Kate Krader discussed top trends when it comes to drinks. Wondering what you should seek out and stay away from the next time you hit up your local watering hole? Read on.

Cocktail trends to embrace:

  1. Chef cocktails. More chefs are getting behind the bar and mixing up drinks. A great example of this is Chicago's Grant Achatz. The chef, who made his name at Alinea, has recently opened a bar called Aviary.
  2. Heat. See a drink that has muddled jalapeño or serrano chile as an ingredient? Order it!
  3. Green market ingredients. Bartenders are thinking beyond fresh fruit and are incorporating any ingredient found at the farmers markets into drinks. Think herbs, vegetables, and edible flowers.
  4. Smoke. Mezcal, tequila's smoky cousin, was everywhere at the festival!
  5. Special ice cubes. Meehan's serious about his ice and has a professional ice sculpturist cut perfectly clean cubes of ice for his bar. It's not cheap; the ice cubes cost $.75 a piece. To make clear cubes at home, Meehan recommends using warm distilled water.
  6. Sweeteners that match the spirit. If making a drink with tequila, mixologists are using agave nectar instead of simple syrup to sweeten it. This method can be applied to other spirits: when making rum drinks, trendy bartenders use demerara syrup.
  7. Punch. Savvy barkeeps are adding punch to their menus. Why? Punch is a quick and easy way to accommodate large groups. When a group of 10 arrives at a bar, instead of having to make 10 different drinks (which could take lots of time), the bartender just has to make one giant bowl of punch!

Cocktail trends to avoid:

  1. Bacon in cocktails. Meehan and Krader are totally over this over-the-top antic. Pork products do not belong in drinks!
  2. Hipster bartenders. Meehan's also not a fan of the mustaches, beards, and tattoos that have become abundant behind bars. A bartender that's more concerned with his appearance than his drink-making skills is not a good thing.
  3. Free-pouring. Mixology is like baking and the ingredients should be precisely measured.
  4. Homemade bitters and tinctures. Cocktails that involve a bunch of special, house-made ingredients aren't easy for the drink enthusiast to re-create. Meehan prefers libations that are made with ingredients that can be found everywhere.

What trends are you most excited for?

Source: Flickr User sneakums

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Join The Conversation
TrumanShow TrumanShow 5 years
I'd have to say that as far as the "trends to avoid" list goes, the only thing listed that is an actual trend would be #1. The rest are hardly more than opinions. #2, hipster bartenders? I can't imagine how someone's personal taste in fashion would have anything to do with their ability to create cocktails. I can't say that I'd dress like a hipster, but I can acknowledge that it is a bit of a fashion movement right now, and someone who is in touch with trends of any sort, probably keeps up with the trends of their profession. They more than likely know something that you don't. The old phrase, "don't judge a book by it's cover" has been around for a long time for a reason. #3? If you can't free pour accurately, you shouldn't be behind a bar. Period. I personally train with an exacto pour, and know how to pour the amount that I need without using a jigger. Not to mention, jiggers don't always guarantee accuracy. I've seen plenty of bartenders pouring sloppy with them, as they've gotten used to having a crutch. #4 is just ridiculous. If you want a cocktail that any average joe can make at home, go to applebees. When I go to a cocktail bar, I WANT something that I can't get anywhere else. That's what makes them so exciting. Or maybe it will motivate you to go and buy something you've never used, who knows what you may come up with? A little curiosity and experimentation is a fantastic thing. If it wasn't around, we'd still be drinking the same old tired drinks that our parents did.
Nellene Nellene 6 years
I think Sangria is a very hip summer drink to add to your list as well. Easy to make and very refreshing!
Advah Advah 6 years
Good list although I disagree to #4 and #2. I went to a cocktail competition a few months ago and the best cocktails (I got to sample them all heheheeeehe) were by far those with homemade ingredients. As for #2, it's just plain offensive. So because I wear makeup and fancy hairdoes at work I'm going to do s*** work since I'm clearly too concerned about my appearance?
lszyman lszyman 6 years
Don't Forget the Sea Salts! They can make a drink incredibly better! There are LOTS of different kinds of sea salts, spicy, hot chili, try Sultry Serrano from Salts of the 7 Seas-(website incredible with Bloody Mary's, tangy lime and lemon- perfection the rim of an ice cold beer glass,Margaritas with the Lime Ole! sea salt is amazing! Also they have a Cyprus Onyx black flake salt that is perfect on a Margarita, too- very dramatic- Once you try them, you're hooked and they are fun!
LibertyBar LibertyBar 6 years
Frankly, I am shocked at #4 of the "Cocktail trends to avoid". To suggest that making one's own bitters, liqueurs, tinctures, etc. is less than...agreeable (sorry, not sure what adjetive to use there), is odd. Here at Liberty in Seattle, at any one time we may have a dozen or more home-made ingredients. Thus, our customers - while not being able to perhaps re-create all of our drinks, can expect when they come in cocktails that they are unable to find anywhere else. In Portland, Teardrop Lounge, which has literally dozens of their own home-made products, makes drinks that are amazing in their uniqueness & character. As does 1022 South in Tacoma, Keefer Bar in Vancouver, BC., Sambar here in Seattle, Library Bistro in LA, Tasting Kitchen in Venice, CA.,etc. These are great bars with great service & one of a kind, balanced and tasty cocktails. So...#4 really confuses me. As for the rest - generally I agree. But doesn't #1 of the 'Likes" contradict #4 aforementioned #4? Aviary makes a lot of their own ingredients, as I recall. I'm just glad that there was no #5 about aged cocktails, We'd really be screwed then... All in all - good article. Thanks for taking an interest in spirits & cocktails.
fuzzles fuzzles 6 years
I second that pork products do not belong in beverages! I tried a steaming cup of bacon and maple joe a few months back. So wrong. So very, very wrong.
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