Bartender pouring cocktails infront of customers at a bar.

Gen Z's Cocktail Culture Unplugged

With Gen Z shaking up the cocktail-drinking landscape, we spoke to Diageo World Class Canada 2024 winner Patrick Fulgencio to give you the inside track on how bars are embracing an evolving cocktail culture.

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

It’s no secret that Gen Z do things differently. Less is more, and inclusivity is a must. So how can bars give this generation what they want, exactly how they want it? Patrick Fulgencio, Head Bartender at Canada’s Dear Friend Bar, explains how his bar embraces this quality-driven crowd through its culturally inspired menus, inclusive character and intimate vibe.


Gen Z aren’t just looking for a pretty place to add to their Instagram story, they’re more interested and invested in a space where they can interact and feel a part of the atmosphere – not just spectate.

“We focus more on design that brings people together,” says Patrick, adding, “More important than backdrops and good photo opportunities are people connecting with a space. Prioritising how ‘instagrammable’ your bar is is important but a short-term pay-off. Prioritising a space that is welcoming and allows guests to connect better, not just with themselves but with other guests and staff, is how you build a community-centred space that people feel drawn to return to.”

Gen Z are also known for their nostalgia with activities like quizzes and old-school board games replacing regular sit-down drinks.

Patrick shares how he’s seen this trend at Dear Friend, “Having interactive elements to your bar means giving people another reason to want to be there. We’ve had guests come in and take out a cribbage board, a deck of cards, scrabble, and even crossword puzzles. Because of this, we have been considering more and more that we need to expand our offerings as a space people feel they can spend time socialising in.”

More and more, we’ve been seeing through our own experiences at the bar that it’s not important that we make the guest feel that they are always right, but that the guest always feels seen.

Patrick Fulgencio


Patrick explains the thinking behind Dear Friend’s Gen-Z-inspired seating plan.

“Behind every detail is an intention, whether you know it or not. As an example, our tables are spaced closer together. Some would call it intimate; others would call it tight. Both are true. The tables are intentionally smaller to close the distance between people, whether it’s across the table, or across the room, so people really get a sense for who they are enjoying the space with. We’ve seen a lot of friendships form at this bar that started from guests feeling a bit more confident about asking nearby tables what they’re eating, drinking, talking about.”


Gen Z’s inclusion-first culture is driving change across the cocktail world, and the old ‘customer is always right’ ethos is making way for the ‘customer is always seen’.

Patrick tells us: “Trust is an important thing that you build from inclusion, and I think that’s why it’s so important to this generation. There are many bars that create all sorts of atmospheres and attract all sorts of guests. Trusting that you’ll have a great time at a bar every time you walk into it is a good enough reason for you to come back every time you go out. In a time where money is tight for many, trust is also a form of currency.”

With a more competitive market and more bars now able to offer guests great cocktails, Patrick explains how Dear Friend makes sure his guests keep on coming back.

“A bar that people can align their principles with is important to Gen Z guests more than previous generations because exceptional cocktails can be found in more and more places. Popular cocktail bars now are less about how people feel about their drinks and more about how people feel when they sit at these bars.

Taking the time to properly explain drinks and ingredients to guests creates a sense of trustworthiness. Guiding customers through their entire experience is the difference between “just one drink” and "a whole evening.”

If you want to know more about creating unique and memorable experiences for your guests, check out our 'Treating guests to a great experience' blog.


It’s well-known that Gen Z are willing to put their hands in their pockets more for quality when it comes to cocktail consumption, so how do bars balance giving customers both value for money and a premium experience?

"It’s absolutely a quality-over-quantity game. This generation are more about healthier living and, consequently, responsible drinking. That’s why more and more, we find that we are serving smaller portions of drinks and pairings to appeal to their (still) drink-curious attitudes. Gaining the trust of our guests so they'll think of us the next time they go out far outweighs the inconvenience of having to build flights of half-cocktails and washing more glassware."

"The logic is sound; people want to enjoy drinking responsibly but experience as much as they can. So, half servings of high-quality drinks are the way. In this way, we are seeing a trend towards a refined cocktail tasting menu of sorts being very appealing to younger generations."

Two serves Patrick has found to be a big hit with this more experimental crowd are the Tapos and the Bistek.


“The Tapos Cocktail is a half-serving/low ABV digestif that we serve to guests at the end of their dinner to help aid digestion, pair with dessert, and ease into a slower pace of drinking.”

This shift in consumption and preference means all bars find themselves challenged to create more intentional and thoughtful menus.

Patrick explains: “Putting a spin on a classic with mix-and-match ingredients that taste great together used to be good enough. Now we're looking at how preparing the drink and incorporating the ingredients is more important than the fact that it contains crazy flavour combinations.


Dear Friend’s famous half-sized aperitif, The Tapos, blends the smooth richness of Mr Black Coffee Liqueur with silky crème de cacao and the freshness of crème de menthe.


The Bistek is a new one on our summer menu after a regular came into the bar saying that savoury and vegetal cocktails were "in" now and that we needed to do that, so we did.


Inspired by the classic Filipino beef and onion dish, The Bistek is Dear Friend’s savoury masterpiece, with Ketel One Vodka, sake and soy and a pickled onion garnish.


With this less is more approach to cocktails being favoured by the younger crowds, Patrick reveals how he brings culture and food into the mix at Dear Friend.

"Having smaller offerings is only one part of it, having quality offerings that the staff themselves enjoy and rave on about is also integral.

As a bar with staff from different backgrounds, our greatest strength and appeal is sharing the things that are unique about our cultures. Guests have this expectation and openness to learning something new about us, our culture, and where we come from.

Our Suman and Bistek cocktails are great examples of this, as both are modelled on traditional Filipino dishes, allowing us to introduce parts of our culture to guests. In practicing this, not only do we teach others much about our culture, it teaches us too, and helps us to connect with our own culture in ways we have not before."


Patrick’s background and culture shine through in this tropical blend of banana leaf vodka, coconut rum and a delicious sticky rice cordial.


  • Tap into Gen Z’s love for connecting with an intimate layout that makes it easier to interact with others.
  • Think high-quality in half servings to cater for Gen Z’s ‘quality over quantity’ trend.
  • Refined cocktail tasting menus offer a smaller, more health-conscious Gen Z option that they can experiment with.
  • Find a way to draw on culture in your menu and as part of your bar's overall experience.