Ordering a cocktail used to be so simple. "Vodka and tonic with lemon, please.” Those days are essentially gone. Over the past several years, craft cocktails have become complex, sophisticated, and oh so delightful. This year, look for several continuing trends, such as the popularity of classic cocktails from the Prohibition Era, as well as some newcomers to the bar scene.
Jason Labove, head bartender at Calla, focuses on seasonally-based cocktails. "Cooler months call for darker liquors, though I do have a couple vodka cocktails I run year around. I usually base the drink specials around what fruits and spices are available at the time. In November and December, we featured eggnog with almond, cloves, and vanilla syrup. In warmer months, we run lighter refreshing cocktails with lots of citrus.
Trey Litel, co-founder of LA Spirits/Bayou Rum, sees a resurgence in the tiki bar trend. "With ingredients like orgeat and falernum, the focus is on fresh new takes on tropical drinks, as well as more tiki-inspired drinks on classic bar menus.”How about a Mai-tai or the Bayou Rum Runner, a tiki-inspired cocktail updated with premium Bayou Silver and Bayou Select rums. "This recipe is simple, easy-to-execute, and uses ingredients that are pretty straightforward and easy to source,” says Litel.
Other cocktail trends to look for this year include:
Culinary-based cocktails, where barkeeps borrow ingredients such as fruits, herbs, vegetables, even meats from the house kitchen. Bacon-infused bourbon, anyone?
South American-inspired cocktails with spicy jalapeño-infused cachaca (a Brazilian rum used in their signature Caipirinha), Serrano chili syrup, and mezcal, tequila’s lesser known but more engaging cousin, made from agave.
Boilermakers, still rough and tumble, but with a refined edge, for example, a high-end whiskey paired with a porter stout.
Cocktails developed from fermented beverages like Kombucha, ginger beer, and coconut kefir.
Tea-infused cocktails, for example chamomile and tequila, jasmine tea and ginger beer, or green tea and gin. Hot toddies are so old-school.
Flavored vodkas. Gone are the days when vodka was colorless, odorless, and tasteless. Try Pinnacle Caramel Apple, Absolut Berri Açaí, Smirnoff Pomegranate, and Grey Goose Le Melon.
The type of ice in a drink can be as trendy as the drink itself. Cracked, cubed, crushed, hand-chipped, spherical, or flaming – ice plays a major role in the overall experience of a cocktail.
Whiskeys continue to be in demand. "Whiskey is probably the most popular thing going on right now,” says Labove. "Since around 2010, the consumption of whiskey has gone through the roof.” Labove likes to take traditional cocktail recipes and put a fresh spin on them. Even if the ingredients are the same, he’ll play with the balance of the ingredients in order to make the cocktail unique to Calla. According to Labove, orders for Old Fashioneds at Calla have tripled in the past two months.
To revisit the tiki bar days, try these recipes, compliments of Bayou Rum Distillery.
Tiki Strikes Back
1 oz Bayou Spiced
1 oz Bayou Satsuma
2 dashes of tiki bitters
1/2 oz honey
1/2 oz orgeat
Top with Liliko'I Kepolo Avery beer.
Bayou Rum Runner
3/4 oz Bayou Silver
3/4 oz Bayou Select
4 oz pineapple juice
½ oz fresh lime
3 dashes Peychauds Bitters
**Shake all ingredients WITHOUT ice and pour over ice in highball or Collins glass