Last January, we asked legendary bartender Dale DeGroff to predict the biggest cocktail trends of 2012. It was so interesting that we decided to turn it into an annual feature. Here’s what he’s expecting to drink this year.
Speed is the driving factor in many mixological innovations. We are now seeing cocktails delivered in bags, boxes and pouches. And renowned consultants the Tippling Bros. are even serving well-made batched drinks on draft, a great idea: I tasted their Turista and Quixote at Tavernita in Chicago. They produce 30- to 50-liter batches and run the concoctions through a draft system designed to accommodate different ingredients. I expect to find cocktails on tap in a lot of locations across the country during the next 12 months.
Let's Have an Event
Inspired by the success of Tales of the Cocktail, spirited festivals are popping up all around the US. Not only are there San Francisco and Portland Cocktail Weeks and a Manhattan Cocktail Classic, but other cities have launched their own events as well. Boston held its first annual Boston Cocktail Summit this past fall, Kansas City offers the Paris of the Plains Cocktail Festival, and Tucson, Ariz., has the Southwest Spirit Summit. No doubt there will be even more of these fests in 2013.
Tequila Brings In Some Relatives
Tequila drinkers have already welcomed its cousin mezcal, and the range of south-of-the-border liquor continues to expand, with sotols and bacanoras making moves into the American market. Look out for brands like Hacienda de Chihuahua Sotol and Cielo Rojo Bacanora. Del Maguey Single Village Mezcal founder Ron Cooper and other producers are also poised to release aged mezcals in 2013, which will give Scorpion Añejo and its ilk some competition.
The artisanal distilling and brewing movement in the US is kicking into high gear. Craft beers and alcohol of all kinds are coming out so quickly that I can hardly keep up. American whiskey in particular is in the midst of a golden period of expansion and creativity, which is drawing major talents like former Maker’s Mark master distiller Dave Pickerell, who is now working on a host of projects, including Whistlepig Straight Rye Whiskey and Hillrock Estate Distillery Solera Aged Bourbon.
“When I was a young cat I played all the notes. Now I play the right notes.” This quote, from famed trumpet player Roy Eldridge, a.k.a. Little Jazz, has repercussions well beyond music. Simplify is my watchword for bar programs around the country in 2013. However, simple does not mean easy. Bartenders should simplify by using the right ingredients that bring something bold to a drink. The public wants fresh ingredients and great flavors in their cocktails, but they also want an elixir in hand quickly.
Special one-of-a-kind cocktail experiences, like the one offered at Aviary in Chicago, require an explanation, but most establishments do not. Chefs and bartenders can geek out with one another, but guests have a limited tolerance for shop talk. They generally prefer to kick back and enjoy each other’s company. I hope this year brings shorter intros and easier-to-read menus.