Culture

We’ll Have What They’re Having

Ahh spring. We love the flirty fashion, colorful beauty trends, warmer weather and fresh, fun, new cocktails to look forward to.

To learn what抯 happening in the world of alcoholic beverages, we spoke to bartenders, mixologists and industry experts from around the country and asked what they抮e excited to pour, shake and stir in the coming months. Some trends to watch? The steady demand for Prohibition-era drinks continues, ice is getting fancy, the 揻arm to glass movement is growing steadily and customers want more customization. Here, we抣l dig a little deeper into cocktail culture.

The Hard Stuff
As Blend Master for Alibi American Whiskey and sales rep for Panache Spirits, New Yorker Stephen Yorsz is constantly studying梐nd tasting梥pirit trends.

揚rohibition-era handcrafted cocktails are exploding across the country, and there抯 a huge trend in whiskey bars, says Yorsz. 揟here抯 a ton of growth in the brown spirit category, and that notion of getting away from thousands of flavored vodkas is apparent. But, we抮e still seeing an explosion of flavored vodkas like the whipped cream versions and even the launch of Absolut city flavors.

Yorsz has also noticed the increasing popularity of Amaro, an Italian herbal liqueur, and bitter Italian liqueurs Fernet Branca and Branca Menta on cocktail menus. Another trend? 揈very bar is making their own stuff, whether it抯 their own syrups, infused vodkas, or an overall emphasis on house-made cordials, he says.

At 揷atch-inspired seafood restaurant Riffle NW in Portland, OR, beverage director Brandon Josie says he抯 seen an increase in orders for gin-based drinks recently: 揑抦 getting more requests for gin and tonics and gin martinis and my gin cocktails on the menu tend to sell quickly. I think a lot of people have been trying higher-quality spirits and are becoming more educated.

Natural Selection
揑n South Beach people often come in looking for slightly 憀ighter cocktails卐specially at the end of a spa day, says Tom Hiller of The Living Room at The W Hotel in South Beach, who includes his own essential oils in many of his drinks. 揥e do very visually forward cocktails with local ingredients and edible flowers.

In addition to using local ingredients, Hiller says he抯 seeing more organic spirits coming through the bar, like organic flavored vodka and organic tequilas. 揑t feels like a solid 30 percent of the new products梕specially craft-made products梩end to be organic. It抯 become more of a selling point to me than it used to be.

Head mixologist at Miami Beach抯 1500 bar Rafaela Dulanto says she抯 excited to bring the juicing trend into the bar by incorporating some of the juicing recipes she抯 been making at home in cocktails for spring and summer drinks.

At Jack Dusty Coastal Cuisine & Crafted Cocktails at The Ritz-Carlton in Sarasota, FL, they try to use produce within 25 miles of the hotel as often as possible. Some flavors they抮e adding to drinks right now are apples, kiwi, kumquats, passion fruit, and bitters. 揥e no longer carry flavored vodkas behind the bar, says head mixologist, Roy Roig. 揑f you want a raspberry-flavored vodka drink, we抣l pour Ketel One vodka and muddle fresh raspberries. At our bar we have 18 to 20 jars with different types of produce, coffee beans, nutmeg, and other ingredients.

Feeling Brew
揃eer cocktails are always popular at our bar, especially amongst the women who come in, says Ryan Hughes, assistant general manager at City Tavern in Culver City, Calif., which she says is a very beer-and-bourbon-based bar. They often call the beer cocktails 損atio pounders because they抮e fun and go down easy on warm days. 揂s long as they look pretty people will order them, and with summer coming, the bright-colored drinks and punches are coming back.

Ice Ice Baby
Forget using plain tap water to make ice cubes. Josie says one of their current trends at Riffle is making ice with purified water. 揟he focus is on providing less surface ice for a cocktail so it抯 not diluting the drink as quickly, like making a Manhattan with one large cube, he explains. 揝ome bars are buying blocks and cutting them up or making their own ice.

At Jack Dusty, they抮e using four different kinds of ice, according to Roig. 揥e抮e even infusing our own ice now. We抣l add mint and simple syrup inside the ice so it抣l add extra notes to your cocktail as it melts. You lose 30 percent of your cocktail from ice alone.

Something Old, Something New
Gianni Cionchi, general manager at KEFI restaurant in New York City, agrees that cocktail culture has evolved to be an experience and is not just about having a drink to 揼et drunk.

揥hen you抮e eating a bite of food you抮e engaging different senses and the evolution of a very in-depth cocktail is the same as food, he says. 揊or example, in a pomegranate margarita with a smoked almond salt and mezcal, you抎 get the citrus and tequila right up front, then smoky flavors, then salt resonating in your mouth. And the customer just had an experience. Then you want the customer to think, 慖 need another sip of that drink, and that抯 going to lead to the bar making money. Especially if the drink抯 end notes are spicy or salty flavors.

Cionchi notes that while 搚ou抮e seeing an uprising or respect for the classics, the whole hipster-mixology culture in New York is also asking, 慦hat can be done differently here?挃

At Hollywood neighborhood bar, The Woods, bartender Paul Diaz says that Old Fashioneds are as popular as mojitos were six years ago.

He抯 also mixing a lot of hot and sour drinks, like Stoli Hot jalape駉 vodka paired with citrus flavors. 揑t抯 delicious! I抦 also seeing a spike in margaritas where they抣l put add fresh jalape駉s. It cuts the sweetness so you can drink more of them.

You probably always associate cucumber water with a relaxing spa day, and Diaz says cucumbers are big in cocktails in California as well. Bartenders are adding muddled cucumbers to vodkas and sodas for various mixed drinks. Diaz says the cucumber cuts the bite of the alcohol and tastes refreshing.

揙ur particular bar doesn抰 do this but there抯 the mixology trend I抦 seeing in LA where they抮e playing around with liquid nitrogen cocktails and there抯 a focus on the whole 憇howing of a drink, says Diaz.

Whatever your cocktail preference, there抯 something out there for you to imbibe this spring. Want to impress friends and clients with drinks that are on-trend? Scroll through the slideshow above for recipes created especially for you by the bartenders above.

- DIANA KELLY

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