“Less is more, so rather than adding herbs, cordials, fruit, bitters, and an outrageous garnish, like chocolate covered cotton candy or a glass that unveils a smoking cocktail, a lot of bars are pairing down to three-four ingredients, allowing the ingredients to speak more for themselves,” says Kulynych, something she’s calling minimal modesty. “Some fantastic pairings now are bourbon and pear, cucumber and tequila, to name a couple.”
Bertin-Lang states that, while this trend isn’t necessarily new, it now has much more of a sense of urgency behind it due to the climate crisis. “I see more and more bartenders and bar owners, both in the US and globally, becoming aware of sustainable practices, thanks to people like Claire Sprouse of Hunky Dory in Brooklyn and Iain Griffiths and Kelsey Ramage of Trash Tiki and Supernova Ballroom in Toronto,” she says. “Taking simple, actionable steps towards sustainability has no downsides as it often has an environmental benefit but can also be a cost-saving measure so it’s really a win-win.”
Kulynych sees a crossover of ingredients to maximize usage and efficiency. For instance, what a chef or bartender may have thrown out in the past, will be repurposed through garnishes, purees, infusions. “The chef may use carrots, so the bar repurposes the carrot tops as a garnish, same with beet and beet greens,” says Kulynych. If a chef uses chickpeas in a can they may pass along the liquid, known as aquafaba, which acts as a replacement for egg whites when whipped to simulate the frothiness desired in certain cocktails.
“The bartender may use citrus peels to infuse a liquor but will ensure to juice the fruit first to utilize the whole fruit, limes, lemons, oranges, blood oranges, whatever,” says Kulynych. “Coffee grinds that may have previously been discarded are now being used to infuse coffee liqueurs.”
West African flavors
As a focus on wellness emerges, we will see more West African spices and superfoods like ginger and turmeric that boasts healthy nutritional effects, says Kulynych. This overlaps one of the food trends for 2020 released by Whole Foods.
Carbonation will play a big role in cocktail making for 2020. While prosecco and sparkling wine sales have dramatically increased, you shall also see a rise to in-house carbonation creations flavored tonic waters or ginger beer. “The Aperol Spritz is here to stay for another year,” says Kulynyc.
Zero proof cocktails
Both women agree that, with the increasing emphasis on wellness and inner peace, we will see an even bigger trend in zero proof cocktails. New brands like non-alcoholic gins, whiskeys, and sparkling beverages made to replicate champagnes are emerging, as well as pre-batched zero proof negroni cocktails.
“Especially heading into January, when many people are trying to abide by their resolutions, the explosion of zero proof cocktail options is very apropos,” says Bertin-Lang, adding that Camper English, a California writer and researcher, recently compiled a list of non-alcoholic “spirits” brands and so far has counted at least 59 on the market globally, which shows how far this category has come in a few short years.
Brands like Kin and Seedlip, which bars and consumers can purchase as a substitute to liquor, are gaining popularity. They do not try to mimic the taste of alcohol per se, but rather try to give the consumer the nuanced flavors that you get out of distilled spirits. “If your go-to cocktail is a traditional gin and tonic, you may try the Seedlip Citrus Grove 42, which has -notes of ginger, lemongrass, peppercorn, and mandarin orange peel,” says Kulynyc. “They also offer an Aromatic “Spice 94” flavor, with Jamaican allspice berry, bark, citrus, and cardamom, or an Herbal “Garden 108” flavor, with spearmint, rosemary, and thyme.” These non-alcoholic options are also sugar and sweetener free, allergen free, and do not contain any artificial flavors.
“I think it is fantastic that those who do not drink – for whatever reason – now have a plethora of options beyond sodas and juices that allow them to create a sophisticated cocktail experience at home, or enjoy a spiritfree cocktail at a bar that is on the same par as an expertly crafted cocktail,” says Bertin-Lang. “Leading the charge of the spiritfree cocktail movement on-premise is Julia Momose out of Kumiko in Chicago, who creates delicious, complex, thought provoking cocktails that you would never guess are zero proof,” she addas, noting that Momose coined and prefers the term “spiritfree” over others like “mocktails”.
Non-Traditional Spirits/Custom Spirits
Bertin-Lang mentions a new and cool trend towards non-traditional spirits that do not really fit into the standard categories (say, whiskey, rum, tequila) as well as distilleries that are making small batch, custom products for individuals, companies, bars and restaurants.
“For the former, I am really infatuated by Empirical Spirits out of Denmark,” she says. “Although they make alcoholic products, they call themselves a “flavor company.” They’ve worked with the team from Noma and know a lot about fermentation and the use of exotic ingredients to create unexpected flavor profiles.” For example, they make something called Fallen Pony, which is “an aromatic, double-fermented quince tea spirit made from a base of quince, barley koji, Belgian Saison yeast, and pilsner malt wash,” according to their U.S. webshop.
For the latter, she points out Matchbook Distilling Company out of Greenport, NY, where they work with bars and restaurants to make custom spirits, as well as individuals and companies, to create one-off gifts like wedding favors. “Every product they make is custom and a limited release because each is created exactly to their customer specifications. Visitors to their distillery can event create their own one-off concoction when they visit.”
For those interested in learning more, Bertin-Lang is presenting a seminar about cocktail trends for 2020 at the upcoming San Antonio Cocktail Conference.