Fall’s 5 Craziest Cocktail Trends

Prepare to raise an eyebrow as well as a glass. Wine Enthusiast uncovers the season’s most provocative new drinks, from a custom-designed, glass-within-a-glass filled with aromatic vapor, to a sophisticated Old Fashioned cocktail deconstructed into a shot.

These crazy fall trends—revealed at the spirits industry’s top summer cocktail festival, Tales of the Cocktail—are creative, bewildering and unusual, and will no doubt grace the menus of your favorite drinking dens.

Falls 5 Craziest Cocktail Trends

 

Bespoke Barware

Tailor-made drink vessels, like the Digidiva, have emerged at top-tier bars to delight and surprise drinkers. Alex Kratena, head bartender at The Artesian Bar in The Langham Hotel in London, is a pioneer in custom-cocktail presentation.

“I see a cocktail glass like a stage, and I think about serving cocktails as telling stories,” says Kratena. “And, at the same time, I can manipulate how the glass works. The vessel not only holds the liquid, but it effects how it is perceived by the guest’s palate.”

Bespoke vessels can perform practical feats like maintain a drink’s temperature and retain an aromatic vapor, or simply act as stunning art piece. (Don’t worry: Asking, “How do I actually drink this?” is normal.)

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Out-There Garnishes

Will a pirate ship, or other fanciful garnish, painstakingly constructed with orange and grapefruit peels, fruit and herbs set sail on your next cocktail? It seems likely, according to Ryan McGrale, beverage director of Tavern Road in Boston, who attributes the roots of the trend to the ever-popular tiki-cocktail scene.

“As talent keeps growing, more and more bartenders will start to do outside-the-box garnishes,” says McGrale, noting that “elaborate garnishes can heighten the experience outside the glass.”

La Descarga in Los Angeles and The Nightjar in London also offer garnishes with undeniable “wow” factor.

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Ultra-Premium Ingredients, Higher Price Tags

From premium Scotch to Champagne, high-end spirits and wines are returning to cocktail recipes, sometimes with Wolf of Wall Street-sized price tags to match.

The $10,000 Ono cocktail at XS Nightclub at the Wynn in Las Vegas is a heady mix of Charles Heidsieck 1981 Champagne Charlie and Rémy Martin’s Louis XIII Black Pearl Cognac.

And did we mention it comes with a white-gold chain and a pearl pendant?

Not all high-end cocktail ingredients require a black American Express card, however.

“Brands like Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte have approachable price points for high-quality wines, making it a great choice to use in cocktails,” says Lynnette Marrero, cocktail consultant and co-founder of Speed Rack, a bartending competition that raises funds for breast cancer education and research. Marrero co-hosted the Champagne 101 seminar at this year’s Tales of the Cocktail.

“The consumer is much more educated about their cocktails, and if you have to charge a little more to have a delightful and balanced Champagne cocktail, consumers are more prepared,” Marrero says.

Baijiu

What’s the best-selling spirit in the world you’ve likely never tasted? Hailing from China and ranging from 80–130 proof, baijiu—which means “white spirit”—is categorized by aroma (often in terms unfamiliar to Western consumers, including “sauce” and “thick”), but importers are doubling down on its future in America.

At Tales of the Cocktail, an “East Meets West” tasting room served baijiu cocktails made with byejoe, the first baijiu brand widely available in the U.S. Other brands from smaller importers often appear in specialty Chinese markets.

“We wanted to offer a mixable, versatile baijiu, while keeping the true essence of the ancient Chinese spirit,” says byejoe CEO Matt Trusch. It appears the approach is working, as bars including Drunken Dragon in Miami and Buddakan in New York City have picked up on the trend.

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Respectable Cocktail Shots

It’s hard to top an artfully made Old Fashioned, but you’ll find a clever reincarnation in shot form at Analogue in Chicago, where it’s perfectly acceptable to lick sugar off your wrist, throw back some Bourbon and then chomp down on a wedge of orange dipped in bitters.

“The lick, shoot, suck Tequila shot is one of the more juvenile drinking rituals, but nonetheless has its share of memories, good, bad and ugly,” says Henry Prendergast of Analogue, the shot’s co-creator. “We figured combining the low-brow feeling of a Spring Break shooter with the air of sophistication often surrounding an Old Fashioned would be a fun juxtaposition.

“The Old Fashioned shot was our way of having a little fun with one of the sacred cows of the cocktail world,” he says.

And isn’t that what cocktail culture is all about?

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