It’s time to peer into the crystal ball and think about what we might find in our glasses in 2017. After a tumultuous 2016, here’s a look at some developments likely to unwind in the year ahead.
- The centers of cocktail creativity will shift.
Sure, we’ll always have Manhattan, San Francisco and Chicago. But keep an eye on Brooklyn, Pittsburgh, Nashville, Charleston, San Diego and Houston—pretty much anywhere rents are cheaper and thirsty young people are flocking.
- Bar menus and concepts are here today and gone tomorrow.
Bars are changing up menus on the regular (think Trick Dog and Pouring Ribbons); some are changing the entire bar concept (Counter Intuitive, which changes its theme and decor three times a year). It’s all about keeping people coming back for the latest and greatest.
- Forget “coffee cocktails.”
Peeking over the horizon, you’ll see vodkas (like Death Wish) and whiskeys (like Fliquor Bean) bottled with cold-brew coffee as part of the mix. No, not infused spirits—almost a prefab cocktail in a bottle.
- Frozen drinks will go high-end.
It started with frosé and will pick up speed this summer.
- Consolidation in the spirits space will continue.
This was one of the biggest stories of 2016, and echoing what happened in the craft beer space, expect to see more craft spirits makers gobbled up by conglomerates in the year ahead. (ICYMI: Rémy Cointreau purchased Westland American single-malt whiskey, importer Davos Brands bought Aviation American gin, and Pernod Ricard bought a majority stake in Smooth Ambler whiskey.
- Tequila has room to grow.
Americans are consuming more tequila than ever before (according to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, it’s one of the fastest-growing categories, after whiskey). Expect the trend to be driven by high-end aged tequilas and more tequila-based cocktails. The growth in tequila may also help boost other agave-based spirits.
- The wild card is weed.
Beer sales are taking a hit in states where marijuana is legal, and don’t think that’s not keeping spirits execs up at night too. From cannabis in cocktails to experimental weed-and-whiskey pairings, the spirits and cocktail industry is pondering how the two industries can play well together. We’ll just have to wait and see what unfolds in the year ahead.
- Ready-to-drink cocktails will take off.
Bottled RTDs used to be awful, but they’re about to get more respect. Ironically, bartenders will drive the trend to have you drinking better at home. Think about pioneers like Charles Joly (Crafthouse Cocktails) and barman turned distiller Allen Katz (who bottled Rock & Rye at Brooklyn’s New York Distilling Company and worked with comedian/actress Aisha Tyler on her new Courage + Stone cocktail line). More bartenders are quietly working on bottled cocktail lines (but we can’t name names just yet, sorry).