Moonrise Daiquiri in an Instagrammable Toyo-Sasaki coupe at Kumiko in Chicago (image: Kailley Lindman)
What will the first year of the new decade have in store for cocktails and spirits? From effortless on-the-go cocktails to the potential rise of “selfie bars,” here’s our annual gaze into the crystal ball to see how we may be drinking in 2020.
1. We’ll Be Flooded with “Whiskey Innovations”
It seems like every whiskey has a bazillion line extensions coming down the pike: limited editions, experiments with mash bills (wheated whiskeys seem to be coming into favor, for example) and fancy barrel finishes, overproof variations that burst with flavor yet are almost too hot to drink. No doubt, there are some amazing bottlings to explore. But it seems like there might be a lot of frogs to kiss before whiskey lovers find their Prince Charming in a bottle. It also raises the question: Is there a point of saturation?
(photo composite: Laura Sant)
2. Look for More Low-ABV and No-ABV Options in Bars and at Home
Seedlip may have paved the way for high-end boozeless cocktails, but a raft of new no-alcohol bottlings are on the way. Many of these are coming from Europe. At the 2019 Bar Convent Brooklyn trade show, products from Stryyk (UK), J. Gasco (Italy), Memento (Italy) and Undone (Germany) were on display. Former Momofuku bartender and Liquor.com contributor John DeBary also debuted his booze-free Proteau line in November. Soon, a quaffable Faux-Groni may be more than just a dream.
Destination Wedding bar in Washington, D.C. (image: Raisa Aziz)
3. The “Fun Factor” Will Continue to Be a Draw
It seems like everyone wants to build the ultimate adult theme park. From drinks that channel childhood flavors (cereal, fruit roll-ups, boozy popsicles) to themed bars to distilleries with giant slides (J. Rieger) and boat rides (Lost Spirits) and ’grammable glassware, expect more whimsy with your drinking experience.
4. Better Bar Food
Compared to most other countries, where good food almost always accompanies a good pour, America has long lagged behind. But bars are starting to catch up. “San Francisco Chronicle” restaurant critic Soleil Ho even declared a “golden age of bar food” in the Bay Area—a trend we’d love to see spread in the year ahead.
5. We’ll Drink Hard
After the success of White Claw and other hard seltzer brands, expect to see other “hard” beverages follow: hard cold brew, hard iced tea and hard kombucha. But make no mistake, hard seltzer isn’t going anywhere in 2020. While the canon has been exclusively fruit flavors up until now, it should be interesting to see where it heads next. Some experts are betting that the industry explores more floral (elderflower) and spice (ginger and cinnamon) options.
(image: Rosé Mansion)
6. Selfie Bars Will Show Up in Your Feed
Mirroring the success of Rosé Mansion, immersive experiences with bars like Meow Wolf and made-for-Instagram experiences like the Museum of Ice Cream, the Museum of Pizza and Color Factory, expect bars to take cues from these selfie extravaganzas. In addition to eye-popping pop-ups, expect bar design to include more touches like mirrored entryways and whimsical restrooms to encourage snaps. And who knows? Maybe whole IG-themed playground bars will be next.
7. Flavored Gins Are Coming
Like flavored vodkas, but with juniper, flavored gin has been on a tear in England. Now, producers are betting that the U.S. will develop a taste for it as well. Products such as Sipsmith Lemon Drizzle and Luxardo Sour Cherry have already made their way stateside. Expect to see more follow.
8. We’ll Enjoy Better Drinks, in Weirder Places
No, we’re not talking about pop-up bars in crazy places (although that’s always a possibility). Rather, this refers to canned cocktails, boxed wine and a wide range of other ready-to-drink options that are able to go places traditional drinks can’t go. For example, some train stations now have well-stocked grab-and-go coolers that rival what might be found at a traditional liquor store, ready to enjoy on the rails. Airports and sports arena concessions are also starting to offer a wider array of RTDs, a trend set to expand quickly. Who knows where they will pop up next?