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11 Unexpected Trends that Defined Bars and Drinking in 2014

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Bottled, barreled or served on-tap, bartenders were buzzing about batched cocktails this year.

Goodbye, 2014. You came; you went. It was the year where apples went bananas and the end appeared in the form of the #limepocalypse. Relive the highs and lows before another year rounds the bend.

South Water Kitchen’s hard cider cocktail, The Fallen.

1. Cider, Cider Everywhere

Hard cider came in full force in 2014, whether that preferred drink came from a local producer or traditional cider houses in France, Spain or beyond. The trend extended to a rush of hard cider–based cocktails too, such as The Fallen cocktail made with Vandermill hard cider, bourbon, brown sugar and walnut bitters at South Water Kitchen in Chicago.


Looking ahead: Chicago seems to be having fun with the “ciderpub,” The Northman, and New York will soon get its first cider bar, Wassail. Expect other cities to follow.

Alternative sours like vinegars and shrubs also got shoved to the forefront. No more lime troubles on the horizon, though. (photo courtesy of Tacolicious)

2. The #Limepocalypse

Who could forget the 2014 lime crisis? The legacy of the lime shortage was innovation: Margaritas that featured lemons and grapefruits for citric tang (not to mention garnishes), and experiments with lactart and acid phosphate. Some bars, like San Francisco’s Tacolicious, experimented with mixes of flash-pasteurized lime juice, lemon juice and precious fresh lime to, um, muddle through.

David Wondrich’s amontillado-based Sherry Cobbler.

3. Sherry Was So Very

2014 was a great year for those who love jerez and jamón (Spanish for sherry and ham). The fortified Spanish wine has been on the upswing for a couple of years as a cocktail ingredient darling, but we knew sherry had reached critical mass because you can now walk into just about any bar or restaurant and find a good bottle on hand. Concluding the fortified fever pitch: Talia Baiocchi’s tome Sherry launched in time for the holiday season.

Marta’s pre-batched, bottled Negronis. (photo courtesy of Marta)

4. “Batching” as Buzzword

Whether bottled, barreled or served on-tap, bartenders have been buzzing about “batching,” i.e. putting together drink ingredients ahead of time to get more drinks to more customers, with less waiting time. Examples include pre-batched and pre-bottled Negroni Sbagliatos at New York City’s Wallflower and Gin & Tonics on tap at Southern Efficiency in Washington D.C. More batch mania is inevitable in 2015.

The Good Cork, an Irish whiskey cocktail from Phil Ward.

5. Whiskey a Go-Go

Growth in whiskey sales outpaced all other spirits categories, including vodka, according to 2013 figures from the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, aka DISCUS. Irish whiskey led the pack, along with sharp volume increases in Scotch, bourbon and Tennessee whiskey. Flavored whiskeys like Jack Daniels Tennessee Honey also had a strong showing. Though it’s not an official indicator, 2014’s explosion of new books about whiskey also points to the raging whiskey revival. Even more are on deck for 2015.

Yamazaki Single Malt Sherry Cask 2013

6. Japanese Whisky, Especially

Speaking of whiskey, Japan grabbed headlines when whiskey guru Jim Murray named Yamazaki Single Malt Sherry Cask 2013 as his top-rated pick in the latest edition of the World Whiskey Bible, catapulting the bottle above even Scotch whiskies. Murray noted that the ranking should serve as a “wake up call” to the Scotch industry. Even though that now-collector’s-item bottle will be impossible to score, Japanese producers are releasing more excellent bottlings to the U.S. market. Start stocking up.

New York’s Golden Cadillac bar is no longer.

7. The Speakeasy Shuts Up

The exclusive, holier-than-thou approach to drinking has been put to rest. 2014 was the year that fun came back to bars, shepherded by places like the now-shuttered, 1970s-themed Golden Cadillac in NY; laid-back, mezcal-centric The Pastry War in Houston, where all the beers can be made into micheladas; and the rock & roll-themed Midnight Rambler in Dallas.

The subtly salty Blood and Roses cocktail. (photo courtesy of Holeman and Finch)

8. A New Shaker

Salt showed up as cocktail ingredient, in many ways an extension on the emphasis on umami/savory flavors in cocktails. No longer relegated to a rim of salt on a Margarita glass, more sophisticated takes include the Blood and Roses at Holeman and Finch in Atlanta (Alma Blanco Tequila, Watermelon Radish Grenadine, lemon, lime, rosewater), a pinch of salt makes the rosy drink pop.

Boozeless offerings like The Sophisticated Lady are part of a growing craft mocktail trend.

9. Low A.B.V. (and No A.B.V.)   

The boom in hard ciders and sherry helped stoke growth in cocktail menus devoted to “low A.B.V.” (alcohol by volume) and even “no A.B.V.” drinks, aka mocktails. The latter in particular has been getting more complex and interesting, thanks to house-made soft drinks and libations like The Sophisticated Lady, from Boston’s Eastern Standard, a Cosmo-esque variation with cranberry juice, salted cucumbers and lime—but zero booze.

Coffee beans made regular cameos in craft cocktails this year. (photo courtesy of Amor y Amargo)

10. Coffee in the Glass  

Can’t decide between cocktails or coffee? 2014 brought a fresh crop of coffee cocktails, none quite like the Espresso Martini. One driver was the rise in third-wave coffee, bringing locally-roasted beans to the bars. At weekend “Double Buzz” sessions at New York’s Amor y Amargo, barista Natalie Czech uses cocktail jiggers to measure out coffee beans sourced from Counter Culture, and Five Horses Tavern in Boston features Grady’s Cold Brew coffee in its brunch-y Ice Box cocktail.

Grey Goose’s new hybrid vodka-Cognac bottle.

11. Hybrid Booze

Two boozes, one bottle:  This trend really peaked when Grey Goose unveiled its Grey Goose VX product (voddy with “a hint of precious Cognac,” above) mid-year. But coming on the heels of a flurry of other products like Vodquila (vodka + tequila) Absolut Tune (vodka + sparkling wine) and Malibu Red (coconut rum + tequila), we’re hoping this trend stays in the rearview mirror, preferring to mix our liquors of choice in a cocktail shaker, thank you very much.

Kara Newman is a New York-based spirits and cocktail writer, and author of Cocktails for a Crowd (Chronicle Books).

Series & Type: Trends

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