In the beverage alcohol industry, there is never a shortage of new products, flavors and ideas to grab the attention (and wallets) of ever-fickle consumers. While some have a short shelf life, others have staying power and can change the way we think and drink. Here’s a glimpse at emerging trends that are crossing from San Francisco to London, and everywhere in between. A few have been steadily growing and gaining momentum, while others are fresh from the flowing bowl. Either way, these are guaranteed to spark a little cocktail and conversation.
PUNCHED UP BOTTLE SERVICE
Artfully mixed punches have been floating around select speakeasies and cocktail-forward bars for quite some time now. The resurgence is a natural next step on the heel of all the classic drinks we’ve been seeing for the past few years. In London, punch bowls are taking the place of bottle service with tableside mixology, ladle and all. The 44 Bar at the Royalton Hotel even has a punch menu, with the requisite Fish House to the patriotic Martha Washington. At Boston’s own Drink, batches of their signature Fort Point concoction have been served in vintage punch bowls during busy nights. Writer and imbibing expert David Wondrich’s new book Punch: The Delights (and Dangers) of the Flowing Bowl lends insight to this staple party ritual with recipes that make use of all those delectable aged rums and cognacs that most consumers have not caught on to quite yet. note National Punch Day is September 2O.
BEER BITTERS BETTER?
Though Scotland imparts images of peat and golf, bartenders on the isle of Great Britain have been using hoppy beers as a bittering agent for cocktails. Perhaps the recent Angostura shortage has crossed the Atlantic, leaving them to experiment with pints instead of bitters? Or maybe beer is now being included as part of the bartender’s inventive arsenal, like maple syrup and Sriracha. Atlanta’s Holeman & Finch Public House lists imperial stout syrup as an ingredient on its impressive cocktail list.
JAPANESE ART OF MIXOLOGY
If you still think a “hard shake” is a greeting by a beefy Irishman, you clearly have not heard of Kazuo Uyeda, of Tokyo’s Tender Bar. The Japanese master bartender created this shaking technique, which has been emulated across the world for its figure eight movement that perfectly shaves the ice and balances the dilution ratio of water-to-cocktail. In addition to form, the Japanese have developed functional bar tools like cut-glass Yarai mixing glasses, muddlers, ice picks, and bar spoons far superior to their American counterparts. Don’t be surprised to see these works of art in play next time you watch a bartender prepare your cocktail, and enjoy the fascinating rhythm of the hard shake. To learn more about the Japanese way of bartending, check out Uyeda’s book Cocktail Technique at cocktailkindom.com.
PRIVACY, PLEASE . . . with a twist
The hotel industry has taken a hit over the past few years with the recession, so it’s always looking for new ways to attract guests. Some are surely enamored by the Surrey Hotel’s attempt to bring mixology to the bedroom with a room service bar cart that allows you to enjoy that Harvey Wallbanger in your bathrobe.
First it was farm to table, then nose to tail – the latest culinary fixation that has lent itself to the emergence of gastropubs with ham bars and pork rind amuse bouche. Now the animal has grazed over to the glass, with a round of fatty and savory beverages popping up on store shelves and bar menus from Jones bacon-flavored soda to Bakon brand vodka, made from Northwest potatoes and infused with bacon. And straight from Sarah Palin’s hometown of Wasilla, Alaska, is a new smoked salmon vodka from Alaska Distillery. The bar Proof in Washington, DC has bacon-infused bourbon and Portland, Oregon’s Laurelhurst Market makes a salty chorizo margarita. Remember, that egg white in your Ramos Gin Fizz does come from a chicken . . .
VINO TO GO
Leave it to the French to find yet another way to enjoy their Bordeaux and Rosé: self-service wine vending machines. Popping up in French supermarkets in summer 2OO9, these 5OO to 1OOO liter tanks allow shoppers to bring any type of resealable container to pump full of wine for about $2 a liter. The idea was engineered from scratch by Astrid Terzian to provide a little relief in a down economy as well as raise environmental awareness. Similar wine kiosks were introduced in Pennsylvania in 2O1O at select state liquor stores, however the regulations make it a less-convenient option – you must submit to a breathalyzer test, get your photo taken and provide identification. Leave it to the United States to complicate a laissez-faire French ideal. Anticipate the concept to catch on over here eventually. Watch for recycled water and wine bottles becoming as ubiquitous as reusable shopping bags in the backseat of electric vehicles everywhere.
HOW OLD IS MY DRINK?
Mixologists are experimenting with barrel-aged cocktails. A step up from your standard glass jar infusion, cask aging imparts woodsy notes to classics like the Negroni. The concept of ageing cocktails in general was started by Tony Conigliaro of 69 Colebrooke Row in London with a bottle-aged Manhattan tightly corked, sealed and stored for several years. Then Portland, Oregon, bartender Jeffrey Morganthaler decided to try aging in mini 2 to 3 gallon wood casks to lessen the wait time, with excellent results. Try a barrel-aged cocktail at the Summit Bar in NYC, or in our own backyard at the Temple Bar in Cambridge or Marliave in Boston.
A NEW WAY TO UNWIND
While Fernet-Branca has long been the bartender’s post-shift shot, New York City’s favorite mixologists have apparently moved on to a 1/2 ounce shot of Angostura bitters instead. Hopefully still washed down with the requisite Miller High Life.
HASTA la VISTA, WORM
The industry has been patiently waiting for tequila to truly have its moment in the spotlight, and then its smoky cousin mezcal elbowed to center stage. Produced mostly in the Oaxaca region of Mexico from the maguey, a varietal of agave, mezcal is the vodka of its country’s bar scene. Case in point: culinary hotbed Mexico City has a few hip cantinas like Novo infusing mezcals with flavors like manzanilla (chamomile) and canela (cinnamon). And NYC’s own Casa Mezcal infuses their house specialty with scorpion, no worm needed. For a lesson in mezcal, visit the Mezcal Tequila Cantina in Worcester which offers over a dozen mezcal margaritas made with fresh fruit purees and housemade syrups, as well as a mezcal old-fashioned cocktail.
IT’S ALL SHRUBBERY
Yes, house-made grenadine is as common as Sam Adams on tap, as are the various herb, spice and fruit-infused simple syrups lined up in clear bottles on back bars everywhere. But there may be a run on shrub syrups, made in colonial times to preserve the essence of seasonal fruits. Made with ripe fruit, sugar and vinegar, shrub imparts a layer of acidity to a cocktail. The possibilities of fruit (cherry, rhubarb, blackberry) and vinegar (champagne, apple cider, red wine) combinations are endless. Check out the mentions of shrub on lists at Agents & Merchants in Auckland and City Tavern in Philadelphia.
MOONSHINE GOES LEGAL
It goes without saying that micro-distilling is on terroir fire, with consumer support of the locally grown and made movement. According to the American Distilling Institute, in 1993 there were less than 6O distilleries; now there are over 2OO. This trend is reminiscent of the microbreweries that grew heartily in the 199Os, and completely changed the way we think about and drink beer. Some brands have already made a mark beyond their own backyard – like Portland’s Aviation gin and Wisconsin’s Death’s Door line of spirits. Massachusetts’s own Berkshire Mountain Distillers makes a range of small-batch, hand-crafted spirits embraced by bartenders across several states.
WORLD’S BEST IMBIBING
If you find yourself on a transatlantic flight wondering where to get a carefully crafted cocktail overseas or simply on the Fung Wah bus to New York City, check out drinks international’s top 1O bars in the world as voted for by 7OO bar professionals from 5O countries. (Interestingly enough, the top bar in the world’s signature cocktail is the Boston Cobbler); 1 Milk & Honey, London, 2 PDT, NY, 3 Harry’s Bar, Venice, 4 Milk & Honey, NY, 5 Buddha Bar, Paris, 6 Pegu Club, NY, 7 Death & Co, NY, 8 Employees Only, NY, 9 Harry’s New York Bar, Paris, and 1O Academy, London.