If 2021 was the year of finding your new favourite to-go Negroni or juice-pouch cocktail, 2022 was the year of sidling up to the bar, hanging out, and rediscovering the joy of a professionally made drink that was designed to be experienced in person. Whether it was enjoying a second wind from an Espresso Martini at the end of a big night out, or noticing low-proof cocktail sections on bar menus across the country, here are a few of the cocktail drink trends that stood out to us the most over the course of the past year.
Tea Time Meets Happy Hour
In a year that celebrated maximalism across the drink trends menu, many of our favourite cocktails featured a simple, elemental ingredient: tea. Mixed directly into a cocktail or infused with a spirit, tea provides complex flavour with intensity bartenders can harness as they wish. At Martiny’s, a Japanese-style cocktail lounge in NYC, bartenders mix warming chai with brown butter-washed whiskey for their Potter’s Old Fashioned and blend matcha with Nikka Coffey Grain Whiskey and coconut water for their bright-green, aptly named cocktail Tea Ceremony. The spiced flavours of chai blend with grapefruit and smoky mezcal in the Vintage Paloma, a creative variation on the classic cocktail served at NYC’s Junoon. Amaretto infused with Earl Grey tea fragrance with citrus and bergamot gets mixed with bourbon and Jameson orange at Bar the Record in San Francisco.
Tea made its way into cocktail menus outside of the US as well. Alquimco in Cartagena features the Té Caribeño, a gin drink infused with green tea, while the Tack Room at Adare Manor in Ireland does a limited-run milk punch with rooibos tea. With the power to imbue earthy, sweet, and floral notes, tea served as the bartender’s proverbial Swiss army knife this year.
Not to be confused with your college town dive bar shot, miniature cocktails are about much more than throwing back an ounce and a half of whiskey or tequila as quickly and painlessly as possible. At newly reopened NYC dive bar Milady’s, “cheekys”, or three-ounce pour Martinis can be ordered alongside “full-figured” regular-sized versions, while Portland, Maine’s Crispy Gai serves up a perfect, tiny pineapple and lime leaf daiquiri. At its core, the miniature drink trends is about discovery and inclusivity; customers can have an opportunity to try a cocktail with new-to-them ingredients without the commitment of a full drink, and those who are looking to limit their alcohol intake can still partake.
We named the martini the Drink of The Year making its presence on this list a shoe-in. 2022 bore witness to a Martini renaissance filled with creative takes on the classic, iconic cocktail. What makes the Martini distinct from other drinks can also make it intimidating to order: there are so many ways to customise the cocktail and the specificity of one’s order can feel like an extension of your personality. Restaurants and bars, though, are taking the intimidation out of ordering a Martini through creative signature Martinis listed on trending drinks cocktail menus. At Genever in Los Angeles’ Filipinotown, bartenders mix a Filipino staple, cane sugar-based Datu Puti vinegar, into their signature Datu Datu Martini for added depth. Other out-of-the-box standouts include the March Martini from Houston’s MARCH restaurant which features three types of gin, Bonnie’s MSG Martini which is ultra-savoury and delicious, and the House Martini from Brooklyn’s Bar Americano, which features nutty fino sherry and bay leaf oil.
Big and Bold Garnishes
Gone are the days of a simple lemon twist or mint leaf as a noteworthy cocktail garnish. With so many of us embracing the joys of ordering a professionally made cocktail once again, showmanship is front and centre at cocktail bars and restaurants around the country. For example, at Tet-a-Tet, a new dinner concept at Los Angeles’ All Day Baby, bright green pandan pearls garnish a delightfully over-the-top mezcal-based cocktail in a bowl for groups of two or four. In Istanbul, cocktails at Fahri Konsolos make use of kelp, seashells, and other nautical accouterments; back in New York City, Overstory, the rooftop craft cocktail bar from the team behind Crown Shy, features a togarashi cracker perched atop the Supply Chain cocktail, made with whiskey, rum, chillies, and Champagne. And at Bonny’s Hideaway in Charleston, ground popcorn powder tops the sweet, creamy, rum-based Calico Coffee cocktail.
Have you noticed an uptick in Cosmos in your life as of late? What about Appletinis? The ‘90s are alive and well when it comes to fashion trends (as anyone who’s been shopping for denim or jelly sandals in the past year very well knows), and cocktail menus are next in line in drink trends. That’s not to say nothing’s changed, however. “The ideas behind ’90s drinks were always solid, but their composition and balance has evolved. Real citrus has replaced sour mix, fresh juice has trumped canned, and synthetic liqueurs and bar-rail booze have been swapped for craft bottles,” writes Betsy Andrews. “While mixologists are happy to indulge us, they’ve also learned a lot in 25 years. Like the gals on Sex and the City‘s recent reboot, And Just Like That, the Cosmopolitan has matured.”
The Espresso Martini Reigns Supreme
We’ve already established that it was a big year for the Martini, but the classic drink’s caffeinated cousin deserves its own shout-out. This year, we saw an explosion in TikTok search volume for home recipes and bar recommendations alike, and realized that very few cocktail lists at spots that opened this year omitted the drink; it’s beloved by many at Phoenix’s Valentine, where it gets the amaro and brandy treatment, and at Bar Volpe in Boston, the newest spot from 2019 Food & Wine Best New Chef Karen Akunowicz, the signature Espresso Martini is made a little bit sweeter thanks to vanilla-infused vodka. Ultimately, we’re happy to see the Espresso Martini getting its due (maybe it’s because we all could use a bit of a boost when it comes to staying out late after some sleepy pandemic years) but lest we forget: every drink trends have its starting point.
Tray Service At the Bar
In a year filled with over-the-top garnishes, a revival of nostalgic drinks, and plenty of caffeinated cocktails, it’s only fitting that it was all served up on a tray. Some of our favourite drinks services this year were presented on trays. A simple step that really elevates a cocktail experience, bars are using trays to create the most memorable orders. At Zaytinya, Jose Andres’ newest venture in New York’s NoMad neighbourhood, they present an Ouzo experience that is one for the books. Three glasses, with ice, water, and ouzo, the Greek anise-flavoured liqueur, is presented elegantly on a tray with instructions on how to slowly dilute the Ouzo for the best experience. Just a few blocks away at Verōnika, the cocktail lounge at the Swedish photography museum Fotografiska, the bar menu leads with a winner: the Reserve Martini Tray. To think Martinis could get any better, the small tray presents a Martini made exactly to your choosing, a caviar-topped potato, and a dwarf peach. We think just about everything should be served on trays in 2023.
Passion for Passion Fruit
A notoriously tricky flavour to get right, 2022 was the year of high-quality passion fruit cocktails. At the Westbury in Dublin, Sidecar Bar makes The Leading Lady with passion fruit and elderflower. Head bartender Oisin Kelly says it’s been the most popular drink of the menu, and for good reason. Passion fruit brings a zippy, sweet and sour flavour that pairs so well with a variety of spirits. While cocktail bars have the power and know-how to turn soft and seedy passion fruit into fabulous syrups and extracts, Chinola passion fruit liqueur has done the work for you. Named after the Dominican word for passion fruit, Chinola tastes like the essence of passion fruit without any unwanted artificial flavourings. Chinola brings tang and a gorgeous orange colour to any cocktail —draw inspiration from cocktail menus and mix it with rum, mezcal, or even with just a bit of seltzer.
Fresh Flavors From Tokyo
The late 1990s and early 2000s bore witness to iconic cocktails like the Espresso Martini and Cosmopolitan, but it did a major disservice to many, filling them with artificial flavourings and sugar-laden syrups. Japanese cocktails in particular took a hit, but nowadays bartenders reclaiming the flavours and recipes of drink trends with quality at the core. At NYC’s Bar Goto and Bar Goto Niban, bartender Kenta Goto serves flavour-forward Japanese cocktails that are made with premium ingredients and crafted with care. Try Goto’s elegant take on the saketini, the Sakura Martini which features a blend of sake and gin and gets garnished with a preserved sakura, or cherry blossom. Try drinks expert Julia Momosé’s take on the Midori Shochu Sour, a gorgeous green cocktail with a punchy melon flavour. Japanese whisky, sake and shochu are only growing in popularity stateside, as well as speciality spirits like ume liqueur, there’s never been a better time to experiment with Japanese spirits and ingredients in cocktails.
Low-Proof Moves Into No-Proof’s Turf
For the past several years, non-alcoholic cocktails have been a place of major innovation. With the NA movement’s success, we’re seeing more restaurants and bars embrace and clearly denote a middle ground section on their cocktail lists of drink trends to lower proof or aperitivo cocktails. Many of these drinks involve non-alcoholic spirits, while others rely on liqueurs and bitters. At Jupiter, the much-anticipated Rockefeller Center trattoria from the women behind King, the aperitivo/low-proof cocktail section boasts offerings like an Americano and a Sbagliatio Bianco; meanwhile, at American Bar, there’s a Lite Martini made specifically with Body, a buzzy new lower-proof vodka. The Nines, a popular new piano bar with an old-school New York City feel from Golden Age Hospitality, includes a thoughtful sherry-based offering, a classic Bellini, and more on its cheerful Low-ABV list. Nashville’s Fox Bar & Cocktail Club includes a sliding scale next to each of its cocktails to denote how “spirituous” they are — an Autumn Tonic with tequila, pineapple tonic, piloncillo, and cinnamon as well as the Thai Mule with vodka, ginger, Worcestershire sauce, and basil both hang out on the low-ABV end of the spectrum.
What better way to enjoy a high-end cocktail experience than to be greeted with a house-made welcome drink to kick things off? The premise is simple, guests are offered a small amuse-bouche drink that helps introduce them to the flavours and creativity they’re about to enjoy, as well as set the palate for some great flavours. It’s the expansion on the culinary premise of a small bite to kickstart the meal, except in this case it’s for drinks. Well-loved spots like the Connaught and Lyaness in London, Bar 1661 in Dublin, and The Dead Rabbit in NYC, among many others, have implemented this new option, upping the hospitality game in the drinks space significantly.
This story first appeared on www.foodandwine.com
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