9 Cocktail Trends and Where to Try Them

by  Teresa Bitler | Apr 25, 2013
Cocktail / MongkolChuewong/iStock

The use of fresh ingredients, the rediscovery of bitters and tinctures, and a return to classic drink recipes in the last few years has changed the way we think about what goes into our glass. What's next? These nine trends are influencing bar menus across the nation and redefining the traditional cocktail; find out what's hot and where to sip it.

1. The Trend: Carbonated Cocktails
Traditionally, mixologists relied on mixers like ginger ale, sparkling wine, or soda water to add some fizz to their cocktails, but new carbonating devices, like the Perlini cocktail shaker, now allow them to carbonate without diluting the alcohol.

Where to Try It: Sample a drink made with the revolutionary shaker at Vessel in Seattle.

2. The Trend: Draft Cocktails
By serving cocktails on draft, mixologists can make large batches of cocktails before the evening rush and add carbonation to them. Don't let the tap fool you – these are craft cocktails are made with high-end spirits, house-made sodas, and fresh ingredients.

Where to Try It: Jasper's Corner Tap & Kitchen in San Francisco, Sanctuaria in St. Louis, and Polite Provisions in San Diego all have on-tap cocktail programs.

3. The Trend: Barrel-Aged Cocktails
Craft cocktails take time to prepare. Barrel-aging serves two purposes: it allows mixologists to prepare large batches of popular drinks, like Manhattans, ahead of time, and it imparts a richer flavor, much like barrel-aging Chardonnay adds complexity.

Where to Try It: Clyde Common in Portland, Oregon pioneered the practice, but The Tigress in Austin, Temple Bar in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and many others have followed suit.

4. The Trend: Vinegar Cocktails
A few drops of vinegar can add flavor, depth, and balance to cocktails on its own or in the form of a shrub – a sugary fruit mixture macerated in vinegar.

Where to Try It: Drago Centro in Los Angeles uses both methods. The bar adds a vanilla rhubarb shrub to vodka for its All Dolled Up cocktail and an apple balsamic reduction to bourbon for The Diplomat. The Greenhouse Tavern in Cleveland and Room 11 in Washington D.C. also serve vinegar cocktails.

5. The Trend: Evolving Ice Cubes
As ice melts, it can water down a cocktail, leaving behind a weak reminder of its former glorious self. Or, it can add flavor. An increasing number of mixologists are experimenting with custom ice cubes.

Where to Try It: You'll find cinnamon ice and cranberry ice on the drink menu at Drumbar in Chicago.

6. The Trend: Soda-Fountain Inspirations
During Prohibition, some bartenders put their skills to use at soda fountains making non-alcoholic floats, egg creams, phosphates, and milkshakes. Today, you can order alcoholic versions of these nostalgic drinks.

Where to Try It: Proof in Scottsdale, Arizona serves spiked ice cream floats, while The Ice Cream Bar in San Francisco, a true old-timey soda fountain, has an adults-only section that includes alcohol-based phosphates, flings, and fizzes.

7. The Trend: Garden-to-Glass
Like the farm-to-table movement that inspired chefs to grow their own produce, the garden-to-glass trend is seeing an increasing number of mixologists tending potted herbs on the bar or even planting their own vegetables and fruit.

Where to Try It: Blackbird Ordinary in Miami, for example, grows its own lemons, limes, strawberries, oranges, and a variety of herbs. You'll also find garden-to-glass cocktails at Spoonbar in Healdsburg, California and Blue Hill at Stone Barns, 45 minutes from New York City.

8. The Trend: Mezcal
Whiskey and bourbon remain the go-to bases for craft cocktails, but Mezcal – a Cognac-like spirit made in Mexico from the Agave plant – is gaining ground in popularity.

Where to Try It: Visit Las Perlas in Los Angeles, Deep Ellum in Boston, or Anvil Bar & Refuge in Houston to sip a mezcal-based cocktail.

9. The Trend: No- and Low-Alcohol Cocktails
Prohibition-era drinks can pack a punch. As an alternative to these boozy beverages, expect to see more no-alcohol or low-alcohol cocktails made with sherry, champagne, wine, and beer.

Where to Try It: Order a lower alcohol (or no-alcohol) concoction at Holeman & Finch Public House in Atlanta, OAK at fourteenth in Boulder, and Saxon + Parole in New York City.

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