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AHEAD OF THE BAR: BEVERAGE TRENDS FOR 2022

While things have changed significantly in recent years, the goals of bartenders remain the same: host guests, provide wonderful experiences and support one another in creative, innovative, and sustainable environments.

In 2022, drinks trends like batching, socially motivated guest experiences, and greater incorporation of technologies into existing beverage programs will play a large role in the industry as bars and restaurants reopen. World Class winner James Grant and Lauren Mote, Co-founder of Bittered Sling & Nightcap Media Group, share their insight into the trends we should expect this next year.


BATCHING AHEAD

With profit margins slimmer than ever, the goal for bars is to ensure that each service is as smooth, swift, and profitable as possible. This can be done by creating low-cost serves and one way of doing this is batching.

Batching is an ongoing trend that has helped alleviate many friction points in cocktail service. Not only does it speed up the simple act of making a cocktail, but it also helps increase consistency between drinks.

While it can be difficult and cumbersome to taste a cocktail like a Negroni or Martini before serving to ensure that it’s been made properly; tasting a full batch beforehand helps ensure that the drinks you’re sending out have been built right each time.

When you know that the build is correct, it becomes easier to standardize the other elements of a menu cocktail – such as dilution and temperature. Standard ice size, stir or shaking times, all become a bit easier to do consistently.

Batching can also allow for greater complexity of the build, as a small amount of a particularly strong modifier can be incorporated into a large batch in a way that would be too difficult to measure if building an individual serve.

Batching allows for fun and charmingly packaged, single serves that can highlight a guest’s experience on-premise or as part of a bar’s off-sales program.


THE RISE OF THE EDUCATED GUEST

As guests begin to return to our bars, many of them are returning better educated about what they’re drinking and more willing to pay for experiences they can’t have at home. The increased use of premium spirits is a response to both welcome developments.

With many guests learning how to make cocktails at home over the last two years due to lockdowns, they expect more from the menus on offer. Well-made classics still certainly have their place, but many guests now expect a broader offering, from craft beer and modern house cocktails to low- and no-alcohol drinks as well.

Great cocktails with great ingredients taste incredible. Highlighting the simplicity along with a brilliant experience is an attractive pull for customers. Bartenders are heading back to basics, and it is performing well. More knowledgeable guests also offer a real opportunity to expose guests to the products that bartenders are passionate about. Due to a greater interest in the construction of cocktails, guests like to learn about the more technical elements of serves that bartenders enjoy talking about.

When a guest starts thinking about why they like a specific gin, it becomes so much easier to explain to them why something like Tanqueray No. Ten is so tremendous in their martini.

Learn how to make a martini, a classic drink that never goes out of fashion.

Another thing to consider is hyper-connected locality. This doesn’t just mean going to the market to get your ingredients but considering the companies, families, and cooperatives that are responsible for these incredible offerings.

These people work tirelessly to bring us all the best ingredients and it's something customers care about – where are their ingredients coming from? Consider highlighting these makers on your menus as well as mentioning the ingredients.


SOCIALLY MOTIVATED GUEST EXPERIENCES

People don’t go out to bars and restaurants to just eat and drink—they go to socialize. While safety remains paramount and bars are operating with increased health measures for the foreseeable future, people being able to gather again will be a major part of bars reopening and moving forward in 2022.

This allows for bars to develop service styles and events that can accommodate and host guests safely while they connect with one another. This focus on remarkable, social experiences might be as simple as menus featuring large-format serves like punches for groups or it may be as involved as private dining rooms and chef’s-table-style cocktail menus.

Large-format service can be an easy way to provide groups of guests with a celebratory, connected experience. Punches are, by their nature, meant to be consumed with friends. Easy to batch and serve quickly, punches and large format serves can certainly make the experience of safely hosting groups smooth and efficient.

More involved styles of service can also enhance the social and personal aspects of being out in bars. For example, private lounges or private dining rooms can allow a group to engage directly with its bartender.

Some bars are providing guests with even more involved social experiences. Taking inspiration from the growing popularity of chef’s table tasting menus, Botanist Dining in Vancouver (run by World Class 2019 Canadian Winner and 2019 Global Runner-Up Jeff Savage) has started to offer a cocktail tasting menu of Jeff’s creations supported by dishes combined with cocktails.

While not all bars have the capacity to create such an incredible program as this, it shows the degree to which cocktails can drive a social experience in our bars.

As socializing becomes more frequent, bars are incorporating areas that are safer and more inclusive. Everyday interactions are evolving as inclusive spaces are being curated for people to enjoy themselves without encountering prejudice.

It is equally as important to create safe and welcoming spaces for customers as it is to create beautiful drinks so this will be a priority for bar managers in 2022.


DIVERSE MENUS

Increased knowledge from guests means that they will also be returning to bars expecting more variety – a single lager listed on the menu and a cocktail or two likely won’t be enough to support a full menu. Drinks that will all have a place on a diverse and well-rounded menu include:

Approachable, well-made classics will always provide a strong backbone to any beverage program. They offer recognizable, consistent drinks that work as excellent showcases for premium ingredients for discerning guests and as excellent entry points into the world of cocktails for guests who are just beginning to learn about mixed drinks.

Wine and beer lists on your menus offer additional variety and allow for more familiar food and drink combinations. House cocktail lists are where you can add significant variety to your menu.

Not only can your house cocktails showcase the creativity of your team, but they can also allow you to engage with local producers or your back of house to develop in-house ingredients.

The use of these more obscure ingredients in house cocktails offers an easy point of engagement with guests, which also allows you to easily incorporate elements of sustainability into your beverage program.

As global shipping channels continue to be disrupted, building your house cocktail list around a combination of stable, reliable-in-stock brands, house ingredients, and local products can help create a cocktail program that is diverse, resistant to shipping disruptions, reduce waste, and maintains a healthy pour cost.

These diverse menu selections are also opening opportunities for food and beverage occasions. More than ever before, consumers are enjoying pre and post-dinner areas which gives plenty of opportunities for aperitif and digestif moments. This is a perfect way to upsell to your customers.

Encourage guests to start enjoying these before their starter and after their dessert – great drinks and small plates are great ways to increase revenue in a cost-effective manner!


AT HOME EXPERIENCES

Cocktails at home have increased with popularity. Guests have continued to support their local bars by buying online from them with premade cocktails. Guests also, however, have been remaking drinks and other inspired drinks for their friends at family at home.

This means that people are more inclined to make cocktails as they would be to pour a glass of wine or crack open a beer – an exciting development for occasions and gatherings. Ensure you are inspiring the cocktails that are made in these homes. Use social to promote your recipes and entice people in for the real thing.

Another thing to consider is the growing low and no category. People are becoming more thoughtful in how they drink. We are in the age of the mindful consumer which means that choosing what, when, where, why, and how to drink is a more conscious decision.

Offering low and no alternatives, and supporting as many lifestyle choices as possible is important to encourage guests to your bar and to increase your revenue.


TRENDING TECH

Over the last year, many of us have seen additional technologies incorporated into our beverage programs. During lockdowns, this was often delivery apps as well as potential online reservations or meeting technologies to facilitate virtual cocktail classes for guests.

As we move back into bars being open, these technologies will certainly remain a vital part of most establishments’ business models.

Delivery apps have become a major part of many bar programs as ways to extend beverage programs outside of venues are sought. Whether these apps are proprietary and developed in-house or developed externally, they allow customers to engage with bar menus when they are unable to join on-premises. Despite venues reopening, takeaway service is still very appealing to customers.

Guests’ increased curiosity in cocktails, beers, and wines whilst at home mean that ever once bars have reopened, there remains a demand for virtual tastings, seminars, and at-home cocktail classes.

Online meeting software helps facilitate these guest relations and will continue to be another tool to use for bartenders to engage with guests.


RECIPE INSPIRATION FOR 2022

One cocktail to always have available is a pre-batched gin martini. Batch this in a 24 oz Bottle and keep it chilled in the freezer until service. Opt for a 2:1 build for a martini, which is wet, but allows the base gin – Tanqueray No. Ten – to truly shine.

A refined version of a popular classic, done well and batched for consistency, is something that will always serve you well on your menu. This recipe is simple and allows you to tailor it to your own style and to the tastes of your clientele.

However, it also showcases many of the trends we’ve discussed: The use of premium ingredients, batching, a representation of classic cocktails presented in a house style on a diverse menu, and a recipe that is resistant to potential shipping disruptions.

Freezer Martini (Individual Serve)

2 oz Tanqueray No. Ten Gin

0.5 oz Fino Sherry

0.5 oz Blanc Vermouth

Stir all ingredients with ice and then strain into a chilled coupe glass. Garnish with a twist of grapefruit zest

Alcohol content for this serve is 1.2 fl oz per serve

Full Bottle Serve

16 oz Tanqueray No Ten Gin

4 oz Fino Sherry

4 oz Blanc Vermouth

Combine all ingredients in a 24 oz bottle. Cork and place in the freezer overnight.

To serve, stir 3 oz of batched cocktail with ice before straining into a chilled coupe glass. Garnish with a twist of grapefruit zest.


FIVE KEY TAKEAWAYS

1. Guests are returning more educated than ever about cocktails and other drinks - relish in this!

2. Express yourself in your menus. Creativity and curiosity have always driven modern cocktail menus, and you can make your menus more diverse than ever. Guests will almost certainly be excited as you are.

3. We do so much more than just serve drinks. Host your guests and continue to incorporate social and personal aspects to your menu to make guests feel welcome.

4. Those products that you’ve always wanted to use on a menu, that were showstoppers or were produced locally and deserve a chance to shine. Now is the time to use them.

5. We have more tools and technologies than ever to help us make our services and menus accessible to our guests. Use them!