9 Cocktail predictions for 2013!

We can’t have a New Year without new predictions by a bunch of people who think they know what’s going to happen but, when it comes down to it, are absolutely clueless about what’s going to happen.

Allow me to throw my hat in to that ring.

Over the last couple of years the cocktail world has come back to a bit of balance that it was sorely lacking. We had a bunch of outrageous cocktails that tasted amazing but made by people who didn’t always quite get what “service” meant and didn’t care that it was taking 10 minutes to make a drink. The pendulum, thankfully, has swung back towards the center and we’re seeing great cocktails, made quickly, with an emphasis on how important the guest is. They’ve moved away from bars focusing on being an experience vs. being a great place to go.

#9 – More videos, tweets, and posts from bar managers/owners/tenders about how service is everything

It’s fun that so many people are interested in a return to service. They’re even going one better and talking about ways to offer exceptional service. The bottom line, though, is that the places not offering (at least) good service and treating people as ignorant cocktail drinkers just aren’t going to stay in business, so there’s not a whole lot to worry about there.

It’s not going to hurt that more and more people are shouting the trumpet calls, watch as your local cocktail-ology place starts figuring out that they’d rather have a happy customer than a cocktail with barrel-aged ice in it.

#8 – New cities catch the bug!

Let’s be clear, there are only a few cities that have a real “Cocktail Culture.” You can probably lump New York, San Francisco, and Portland in to that. You could make arguments for Los Angeles, D.C., Boston, New Orleans, Chicago, Seattle, and a few others, but could dispute those all day. So, who’s an up and comer?

“What about Omaha” you ask? Sorry, I don’t have much hope for them.

#7 – Everyone gets barrel-aged

This isn’t a new trend but it’s about to be everywhere. The last two hotels I’ve stayed at have “just purchased a barrel that we’re going to make something in.” These aren’t your typical Grand Hotel type of bars, either. So, whether you’re tired of it or not, you’re going to see more of it in the next year.

#6 – More cocktail pairings with food

You’re not going to see this everywhere but it’s going to pop up more and more. It’s also, most likely, not going to do that well.

Out of the 20 places or so that I’ve been that do this, I’ve only seen a few that do it right. Kate Bolton at Maven in SF has it down because, not only do the cocktails compliment the food (she works extensively with the kitchen on her pairings), they compliment each other. To add to it, she’s also made it so the cocktails can come from the bar fast. None of this is an easy task and we’ll see restaurants screw it up more than get it right.

#5 – Die Speakeasy, Die!

When I say “Speakeasy” I mean the whole class of bars that were so focused on the *experience* that they forgot about lots of other stuff like good drinks, service, or what the customer actually came in for.

There’s a place in San Jose, CA that has that Prohibition experience and requires you to talk to the bartender about what you like and the bartender will then decide what they’re going to make you. Now, the obvious reason for this is that they don’t want a gaggle of girls coming in and ordering frozen lemon drops. However, though this may be a quaint way of doing things for your first visit (“Oh! How interesting!), this becomes a bit of a chore on follow-up visits and regulars are the key to survival in this industry.

The novelty is ending and a new one may appear. We’ll probably see more 1930’s bars pop-up but more as a decor theme and less as a way of drinking.

#4 – New rums that everyone will want but won’t be able to get

Let me tell you something important about rum: I love rum. Another important fact: It’s not easy to get the good stuff.

If you take a look at your local liquor or grocery store shelves, you’ll see plenty of gins and vodkas, and whiskeys. What you won’t see are a selection of rums. Not because people don’t like rum but because there is such a monopoly on the product that smaller producers have almost no chance of getting their stuff out there in a meaningful way. Unless there’s some significant change then this could be the shortest-lived brand category explosion of all time.

#3 – Vodka!

Of all the predictions, this one gets a 50/50 possibility of happening. I’m definitely seeing a lot of bartenders and mixologists hate a lot less on vodka. It’s popular, the people want it, so might as well do something with it, right? Tony Abou-Ganim even has an upcoming book on the subject.

Will we see a resurgence of vodka in the high-end cocktail bars that use fancy tinctures and what-not? Probably not, but there’s going to be a few less people looking down their nose at you for ordering it.

#2 – Party cocktails make a comeback

Remember the Mind Eraser? What about the Kamikaze? These are drinks that we survive on in our early 20’s and we’re going to see more of them but in fancy ways. We already see places making their own Curacao for the Mind Eraser and I expect a lot more fun to come.

That’s right, fun. Cocktails are fun. There, I said it.

#1 – Bars as community gathering places

Communities are missing something these days. Not many of us talk to our neighbors anymore. We don’t see block parties for summer holidays like we used to and we don’t invite them over for dinner so the kids can play together. There’s no town halls and social groups seem to be getting smaller, because we’re all digitally connected to people that are more like us either via Facebook or some other social network.

The neighborhood bar is starting to fill this role more than it used to. People that go to bars regularly aren’t just a bunch of drunks who hang out from opening until close. We now go there after work to catch-up with those around us. We might go hang out there for a bit in the later evening to see if we can chat with a few friends. It’s how we re-connect with actual people after being in the digital world all day.

Some cities, like Boston, have been doing this for a long time. You know the show “Cheers?” Yeah, Boston bars are really like that and the rest of America is starting to catch on. The good bars that give you a solid drink, make you feel like you belong, and are fun to hang out in are going to be the ones that stick with us.


I’ll probably be late on next year’s predictions, too.

Source: cocktailgogo.com