Raising the Bar: 2013 Cocktail trends and Predictions

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2013Happy New Year everyone! 2012 is a wrap and its time for us to reflect on the 2012 liquor and cocktail trends we witnessed, and to also look onward to 2013 and predict whats next. When it was all said and done, some amazing things were birthed in 2012. The flavored Vodka trend didn’t slow down, the flavored bourbon/whisky trend blew up. Craft beer & cocktail bars became the staple in major cities, and even some not so major ones like here in Orlando. New flavors came out like Maple Syrup infused Canadian whisky, and new brands were launched like G Spirits which claims to pour their vodka, whiskey, and rum over the naked breasts of models before being bottled. But what does 2013 hold? What will be the IT brand, the IT category, and the IT trend in the bars? Who knew Ciroc would blow up like it did in 2006-07 even though it had been on the shelf since 2003?  How were we to know that everyone would ditch the sugars and start to go “Skinny” in 2008-09. Five years ago if you told me there were bars with liquor & Vermouth on tap, I’d ask how and if it were sanitary. If you had told me that you could make a living making and selling just hundreds of flavored bitters, I would probably just laugh and have you committed, and yet both of these were huge things that took off this past year. The only thing certain in life is change, so what that said, here are 5 of my 2013 predictions and trends for cocktails and spirits in general.

1) Savory Flavored spirits: I know, it makes me barf too, but with the fruity flavors tapped, and most of the dessert ideas tapped (then again, who knows what they’ll think up), it’s time for the vodka brands to start creating more savory flavors to make us cringe. In years past we’ve seen Bacon and Salmon flavored vodkas hit and miss in the market but who knows what’s out there just oozing with potential. Maybe a cheese flavored vodka to give an adult outlook on a bowl of Mac and cheese? Maybe brands historically distilled through potatoes rather than grains (LuksusowaGrand Teton VodkaKarlsson’s) will play make a play on their distillation process and create a “mashed” potato  flavored vodka. It’s only funny folks, until it actually hits the shelves. Still laughin at the idea of “gummy” vodka? Add those with your breakfast (Loopy Vodka) and dessert ( Nuvo Peach Cobbler and Red Velvet), and you’ve got yourself a liquid three course meal.

2) Flavored Tequila explosion: If you haven’t noticed by now, just about every major spirit category that can be flavored has been. It’s been done with whiskey  it’s been done with gin, and it’s been over done with vodka. But what stands alone is Tequila. Sure, there ARE flavored tequilas on the shelf in most stores and most countries. But have you visited mexico before and seen how they do it? I suppose when it is more abundant in your country than water, you become creative with it, but in all seriousness I brought home 6 bottles of tequila from my last Mexican vacation and none of it was unflavored. Almond, Raspberry, hazelnut, coconut; they do it all down there and the stuff isn’t just some sugar added to some bottom shelf tequila. It’s perfectly infused with quality stuff to make your mouth salivate. I think with tequila in the U.S. looking to increase it’s market share the way other spirits have, they will branch out into more unique flavors from popular and respect brands in the industry.

3) The Return of Dive Bars: This one is more about the night light industry. Though I shake my head at the idea, I think we will see more and more bars opening claiming to be ANTI craft. After watching way too many craft beer bars jump on the seen here in Orlando, which is usually a late indicator of what is happening in bigger cities, I expect it to die down and many to go in the opposite direction. In fact, there have already been a few bars opening in central Florida claiming toi only serve the cheap stuff (PBR, Miller, Budwesier, Busch,Icehouse etc) and keep it simple behind the bar with the 5 category spirits (vodka, whiskey, rum, tequila, gin), and no fruit or crazy flavored anything. Some people are actually intimidated by a bartender that wears a vest and bow-tie and that used more than just a glass and ice to make you a drink. Imagine walking into a bar with a dress code that stated you were “over” dressed. Maybe that’s taking it too far. I personally love craft bars, but can admit in some areas its become overblown. The idea was to give an alternative, not to take over the scene completely.

4). Expansion of Artisinal Spirits: We don’t expect the craft bar trend to die, and in fact we expect craft spirits to start to show up more and more in these bars, and eventually on your grocery shelves. The increasing curiosity in craft brands is what gave birth to a website like Caskers, an online retailer that ONLY sells hard to find and rare artisinal spirits. If you’re a connoisseur like we are, sometimes you want something new, fresh, and not the same old stuff that’s in everyone else’s cabinet. We’re lucky enough to have our own local distiller right here in Orlando, Winter Park Distillery. Do you have one in your town? And if so, have you tried it yet?

5).The Death of Mixologist and Mixology

*Just kidding… the love of mixing and mastering drinks will NEVER die. Then again, we’ve been wrong before.

5). Cocktail Trucks/Food Trucks: This is more of a want than a prediction, but you never know right? Food trucks EXPLODED, literally and figuratively in 2012 with huge exposure on the food network, reality tv, and so much more. But what if when you left the bar or your favorite restaurant, outside next to “The Taco Truck” was “The Tequila Truck”, or better yet, what if food trucks were granted liquor licenses to sell on premise? It’s always been in the back of our mind to add my passion for mixology with Lori’s passion for baking and sell them on a food truck, but can it actually happen? We got our idea when visiting this past years Tales of the Cocktail, and saw several “cocktail popup shops” in the form of food trucks giving out sample cocktails and even desserts infused with alcohol. Imagine the possibilities.

…..We all have a sense of humor right? Obviously some things are more likely to come true than others, but in today’s society with all the technology and category growth you never know what is going to happen. Make it a goal to go out this year and try a new bar, try a new drink, try a new SOMETHING, and see what exactly is hot and trending in 2013. So there you have it, our predictions for 2013 liquor trends. Feel free to add in your predictions in our comments, and more importantly, feel free to either pat us on the back or rub it in our face at the end of the year when we were proven right or wrong. Cheers!

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Alex is a full time consultant with 10+ years experience in the wine & spirits + consumer packaged goods industries. He is not a professional bartender, but is BarSmarts certified and makes a mean caipirinha. When not writing, Alex can be found traveling, spending time with his family, or bar hopping.

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