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Bar Trends of the Future: 2020 Predictions

In an industry that is continuously evolving, it is important to break boundaries and stay ahead of the curve. From plant-based drinks to a simplified back bar, leading bartender Thomas Aske lets us in on some of the exciting bar trends he is forecasting for 2020.

Aske Tom

Before launching into this new decade, let’s look at the past 10 years. And what a decade it has been! From the emergence of the modernist bartender utilizing laboratory grade equipment to a global push for sustainability; closed loop cocktails to the damnation of plastic and augmented reality menus … the list is endless!

Competitions like World Class have been a platform to not only amplify the bartender craft but also allow a space for innovation. The global bartender community has embraced the sharing of knowledge to such an extent that it is now possible to experience exceptional drinks in almost all major cities in the world. It is a great time to imbibe.

Now let’s turn our attention to what the next year (and beyond) will bring…

Hybrid Menus

Sobriety and no alcohol or low alcohol options are on the rise, with a rapid increase in 18 to 35 years olds decreasing their alcohol consumption. Bars are adapting to this by providing what could be called “hybrid menus”: menus that offer all their drinks in both non-alcoholic and alcoholic form.

The Worship Street Whistling Shop (now closed) first pioneered a cocktail menu featuring identical drinks available with low alcohol or alcohol-free back in 2017. The concept was designed to ensure all guests have the exact same experience regardless of whether they are drinking or not.

Journey [part of Fun House] in Chelsea have recently taken this a step further by developing a series of food and beverage tasting menus that utilize the hybrid philosophy. Their set menus are not only available with flavors identical to vegan or non-vegan dishes but also flavor identical drinks with or without alcohol. The guest experience is at the heart of this evolution with bar owners ensuring that all guests can access the same quality of product, regardless of their drinking habits.

Behind this is a more health-conscious consumer and the relentless innovation from brands such as Seedlip. The arsenal of non-alcoholic ingredients available to bartenders today makes the task of creating compelling no or low alcohol cocktails easier than ever. As we move into 2020, the presence of no/low vs alcoholic cocktails will balance on menus and we will finally wave goodbye to the juice driven afterthought ‘mocktails’ of the noughties. Enter a new phase of creativity!

Follow Thomas’ Tips for Staying Ahead of the No/Low Curve in 2020 (and beyond).

Back Bar Simplicity

The back bar has been set out the same way for centuries. Rows of polished bottles positioned either by category or size, with no simple way for guests to understand what lies behind the label. This is changing with consideration given to flavor mapping the back bar, simplifying the way that guests choose spirits.

In Black Rock, all of our whiskies are bunched together by flavor profiles: smoke, sweet, spice, fragrant, fruit or balance. This way our guests can easily find whiskies that appeal to their sense of taste. At The Gate in Glasgow, pricing is transparent on all bottles, with neck tags displaying a series of dots which correlate to a pricing board. This practice removes the potential awkwardness of asking about price and allows freedom of discovery for the guest. Whilst it works particularly well in specialist bars, this simple practice of transparent flavor and pricing is applicable to all bars and all spirits.

Why not create simple flavor grids per spirits category, with lighter expressions on higher shelves and heavier on lower. Alternatively, the entire back bar could be positioned by flavor regardless of spirit category, opening up a world of spirits to guests and tapping into their curiosity about flavor.

Plant-Based Drinks

Plant based products will continue to increase in popularity in 2020, with many bars already adapting their cocktail menus to appeal to the increasing vegan market. A simple substitution of animal-based ingredients can offer vegan alternatives to classic cocktails. For example, a classic whisky sour would ordinarily require egg whites to create the drinks texture and mouthfeel, however, bars are now using “aquafaba” in its place. Aquafaba is the protein rich water found in tinned chickpeas. This relatively flavorless liquid creates a stable foam and all the creaminess of egg white minus the animal product.

Vegan Bulleit

Sour Glass: Coupe

Garnish: Lemon zest

Method: Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into the chilled glass.

(Alcohol content per serve 0.9 fl. oz.)

Pay it Forward

Whilst these micro trends are changing the way in which we operate, what is most exciting to see is bartenders, managers and owners making a seismic shift back to the foundations of good hospitality. Putting the guests needs first.

Global cultural attitudes towards consumption are changing and our industry is changing in kind. I believe this movement will prove to be the overarching global trend, not just for the next twelve months, but for the decade to come, and on a macro scale. Cheers to that!

5 Key Takeaways

Thomas Aske is a paid partner of Diageo Bar Academy.

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