What you’ll be drinking and thinking about and why, as 2013 marches on
By Francine Cohen

Argentina cars old and new

The past and the present can, and do, exist peacefully side by side. The best elements from eras past stick around to inform the future, while new innovations take their rightful place alongside of them.
Just as it is evident in automobile design, the same can be said of the beverage world. Great old drinks become classics, while new innovations and approaches are embraced with open arms. What does this have to do with drinks and the new year, versus the one just past?

Whether we’re talking about the specifics of the last months of 2012, or just in general about year end, it’s often such a pressure filled time. We’re scrambling to get all those things done we’d promised ourselves, or others, that we’d do and swearing we’ll be better next year. Which brings us to the new year; again, pressure filled, but full of hope for a brighter tomorrow, and new ideas and experiences ahead that promise to make (insert year here) the Best Year Ever.

Realistic? Probably not. We’d all be a whole lot better off, calmer, happier, and more productive if we stopped with the pressure and just focused on doing the best we could every day and finding a little joy in every new discovery instead of awaiting The Big One. Alas, that’s not realistic either.

What could work is just a little proverbial jumping up and down over the trends we’ve seen bubbling up in the drinks industry. At INSIDE F&B we’ve been hearing rumbles about a lot of things, and have the good fortune to be first out of the gate in trying on some of these ideas for size while tasting new products. There are a lot of ideas on the horizon and overall the spirits industry is booming in terms of brand explosion and job opportunities. In the category of new drink ideas some are good, some a little less than appealing; for instance, who are we to stop you from drinking chocolate wine if that’s what you want. Just don’t try and serve it to us. But if someone can make a living from this, and not really hurt anyone in the process, we’re okay with that.

Here’s what we expect to see more of in 2013:
1) Savory. No, don’t expect salt in every cocktail (although a bartender worth his/her salt knows the impact it’ll have to add a scant pinch); but do know that as the bar and kitchen become more comfortable partners food flavors are going to start creeping into our cocktail glasses more often than they have in the past.
2) Texture. Yep, back to the kitchen again. While we’re not sure that chunky bits in our cocktails are what we’re looking for on a regular basis, the judicious use of ice, garnishes, and understanding that ingredients impact mouth feel will enhance the cocktail experience.
3) Sour. Vinegars were popping for a hot minute. We don’t think we’ve seen the end of this. Especially as more bartenders start substituting vinegars for other acid in drinks.
4) International sugar and salt options. Want to use Brazilian rapadura sugar in your drink? Oaxaca’s gusano salt on a rim? The bolder the better. And it makes for a great cocktail story, tying the international culinary experience into an easily localized one.
5) Farmer’s market ingredient driven cocktails. You’re shopping there for dinner, why not for cocktail hour?
6) Rye whiskey. It’s all-American. It’s very “Boardwalk Empire” and “Mad Men.” It’s got backbone. It stands up to and partners well with a lot of food. What’s not to like?
7) Drinks on tap. Wine on tap is fun and a way to reduce waste; drinks on tap are delicious and mean you get your drinks out fast. Drinks on tap are the wine by the glass of the cocktail world.
8) Wine and spirit combinations. Chocolate, vodka, cognac; name your poison.
9) Low ABV cocktails. Let’s hear it for these sippers you can easily enjoy before or after dinner. It doesn’t matter if we’re drinking aperitifs or digestivos; we expect to see more of both on menus across the board. This includes limoncello. And our new favorite, William Grant & Son’s Lillet Rose (www.grantusa.com).
10) Latin and South American spirits continuing to be on the rise. We’ll be seeing a lot more tequila and mezcal in the coming months and you’ll hear no complaints from us. On the horizon, thanks to folks like those behind Avua, Macchu Pisco, Campo de Encanto, Leblon and more, are a wider variety of cachaca and piscos to tantalize American drinkers with new options.
11) Kosher certification. Tapping this audience may not be important to many drinkers, but for those who keep kosher a burgeoning world of drink options is a lovely thing. And, for brand owners, it’s an open door to a whole new market they couldn’t touch before.
12) Flavored vodka in child friendly flavors like whipped cream and marshmallow. And honeyed whiskies.. We hate this! We wish people would drink like the adults they are supposed to be.
13) Drinking glorified on television and the movies. Okay, so Denzel Washington’s pilot character got into a spot of trouble when he flew that plane in an unorthodox manner and his sobriety was called into question, but drinking isn’t all bad or dangerous in media land. Last year we saw more and more bottles popping up on television and movie screens than we recall seeing before. It’s not going to stop.
14) Regional specialties. They’re using ingredients in San Francisco we don’t see in New York. And the drinks that are best sellers in Palm Beach in January are not exactly what are flying off the menu in Chicago. But that’s a good thing; it makes traveling for drinks more exciting.
15) Women behind bars. More and more ladies are making a career of it. And why not?
16) Better restaurant cocktail programs. Restaurateurs are waking up to the fact that a solid cocktail menu raises check averages and they’re investing in good booze and creative cocktails that pair well with their food. That’ll keep us ordering one more round.
17) Drinks doing good. It’s not something entirely new; the spirits community came together to raise thousands a couple of years ago after Haiti was hit by a natural disaster, but that wasn’t the end of it. Everything from natural disasters like Sandy to personal disasters like the absence of affordable health care that makes hospital treatments near impossible without the gracious helping hand of fellow bartenders is a good reason to raise a glass and raise funds. So too are important causes; LUPEC (Ladies United for the Preservation of Endangered Cocktails) is known for its good work raising awareness and funds for charity, so too is the USBG. And then there’s Speed Rack (www.speed-rack.com) – the national all female speed bartending competition that raises money for breast cancer education, prevention and research.

Certainly we’ve missed a handful of things you’ve seen going on. Tell us what else we should expect to see in 2013.