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The Future of Cocktails

Submitted by on October 11, 2016 – 2:31 pmNo Comment

cocktails-150Cocktail culture is booming and showing no signs of slowing, with forecasts showing that by 2020, there will be 400 million new consumers drinking luxury spirits — so says The Future Laboratory.

Historically cocktails were enjoyed by Europeans and Americans but the industry is now growing on a global scale, stretching far beyond the confines of New York and London. In the past five years, consumption of spirits has risen by 26% in Africa and the Middle East, 15% across Asia and 22% in China, notes Bain Luxury Report.

Bartenders around the world are experimenting with ingredients and playing with technologies. In a world constantly looking for the next big thing, they need to be one step ahead of the game.

WORLD CLASS, a bartender competition sponsored by spirits company Diageo has partnered with The Future Laboratory to delve into the future of cocktails and suggest the trends set to revolutionise our drinking experiences.

Controversy Cocktails – The Trend: When it comes to cocktail making, forward thinking bar owners are ditching the traditional rules and reclaiming their creativity – making what they want to make, in the way they want to make it…

1. Doing it my Way

Once upon a time, the customer was always right. The next generation of bartenders is more willing to voice its opinions, giving up on trying to please all of the people, all of the time.

As Benjamin Padrón Novo, owner of Mexico’s Licoreria Limantour explains: “I always get customers asking me to sweeten the drinks we serve, even though by doing so it’ll dilute the taste of the spirit or the fruit. So, now, we just say no – and explain our reason to the guest. It’s all part of the education process.”

2. Performance (B)art & Provocative Theatre

To exhilarate and trigger a reaction from customers, bars are starting to add theatre to the experience, leaving a strong impression with patrons.

At Operation Dagger in Singapore, a dramatic cloud of lightbulbs on the ceiling greets drinkers, while owner Luke Whearty’s installation of fake CCTV cameras in the toilets adds a provocative dynamic (to say the least). His cocktails are pure theatre too: vodka infused with pH-sensitive blue pea flower and bright lemongrass, which when mixed with champagne, the bubbles transform the cobalt liquor into fluorescent pink.

3. The Next Generation Menu

Cocktails have evolved significantly over the years but menus have stayed the same … until now. Innovative bartenders are now going against the traditions of the trade and thinking about new and creative ways consumers can relate to drinks and navigate the menu. Rather than having traditional names of cocktails, new menus invite exploration and engage with the drinker. Trick Dog, in San Francisco, has replaced all cocktail names with astrological signs and Pantone colours, while Fragrances at The Ritz-Carlton in Berlin is the first bar where you can order drinks based on perfumes and aromas.

Emotional Cocktails – The Trend: Bartenders have always been early adopters when it comes to connecting with people – the social aspect of their job gives them a strong insight into how people think.

4. Cocktails with feelings

In the next decade, look out for bars who ditch the traditional menus and list their cocktails by mood instead. Drinks will be tailored to conjure a specific emotion – you may be given a red cocktail to stimulate confidence, a yellow one for friendship or a black drink for discipline.

Using sense of sight and smell to direct cocktail drinkers’ emotions, Seymour’s Parlour in London is using scent to plug into pleasurable and nostalgic memories, emitting the smell of freshly mown grass to summon images of spring and smoked pine to plunge guests into a cozy autumn evening.

5. Story in a glass

Cocktails are now being used to tell a story and transport drinkers to exotic places. Local spirits such as Baijiu (distilled from wheat or glutinous rice from a 5,000-year-old recipe) are being used to introduce people to Chinese traditions.

Forward thinking bar Artesian in London taps into the personal experiences of customers asking about recent holidays and creating a cocktail that captures that mood and essence in a glass.

6. Introducing the Micro-friend

People are looking for instant connections to savour the here and now and bartenders often fit the bill. A new trend, ‘the micro-friend’, sees bartenders focusing on building relationships with customers in the short time that they have with them. According to Australian Tim Philips, former WORLD CLASS Bartender of the Year, some ‘micro-friendships’ are built in as little as 30-45 minutes, equivalent to the time it takes to drink one cocktail.

“Making a micro-friend is all about getting that emotional connection with someone quickly and definitely has an effect on how much people like your bar,” he explains. So expect your bartender to ask you questions about your weekend, work and family life to turn you from a customer into a friend…

Fluid Identity Patrons – The Trend: Ahead-of-the-curve bar owners are catering for drinkers who have a healthy disregard for conformity…

7. Leave gender at the door

The days of drinks being considered ‘manly’ or ‘girly’ are over. Boundaries are blurring and as society evolves beyond traditional gender norms, people are feeling liberated with their choice of tipple. Bartenders are now using ‘gender-neutral’ language to describe, name and serve cocktails.

Look out for ‘Brosé’ – men unapologetically enjoying Rosé wine and women confidently sipping an Old Fashioned.

8. A career, not a job

As consumers become more clued up and demand more at the bar, the role of the bartender is evolving too. Professional bartending relies on sharp skills, creative vision and an ability to wow; fluid identity in action.

Alex Kratena, founder of global drinks collective P(OUR) explains: “The best bartenders now have to keep up with the assertive, knowledgeable and worldly cocktail drinker – so they have to be at the top of their game and offer that extra something.”

Bars invest in their staff more than ever, sending them around the world to grow the cocktail scene. Licoreria Limantour supports its bartenders who save up to train abroad in order to hone their skills, while Outrage in South Africa equips staff with all the skills they need – from sourcing key ingredients and tools to running a full-service bar.

9. Multi-skilled bartenders

Bartenders are a multi-talented bunch, increasingly with fluid identities of their own. Part chef, part barista, part pâtissier – this role now extends far beyond the bar.

Pushing the boundaries still further, these multi-skilled bartenders are challenging their customers over what constitutes a cocktail. “The most memorable course I had at The Clove Club, was this hundred-year-old Madeira,” says Mike Knowlden, co-director of Blanch & Shock. “They pour you a tiny bit, which you get to taste, and then they pour a duck consommé over the top, and it becomes a duck soup effectively. It left me with a fascinating thought: why can’t a consommé be a cocktail?”

“Cocktails have evolved far beyond their classic form of a mixed liquid in a glass. Creative bar staff equipped with the latest ingredients, technologies and ideas are changing the whole concept of the cocktail – and leaving us all thirsty for what comes next,” says Tom Savigar, Senior Partner, The Future Laboratory.

Check out this video:


(Photo and video courtsy of Diageo)

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