2021 COCKTAIL & BAR TRENDS TO WATCH OUT FOR
As we wave goodbye to 2020 we look ahead to some of the exciting new cocktail and bar trends that will dominate in the New Year. Lauren Mote, Diageo’s Global Cocktailian, gives insight into eight trends to watch out for in 2021 and the key bars and bartenders leading the way.
1. DEEP DIVE INTO DIGITIZATION
The last few months have shown just how useful technology can be in this industry and it will play an even more important role going forward. Beyond accommodating health and safety guidelines, there will be greater adoption of digital technologies, not only for handling payments but for offering loyalty schemes or even pre-ordering or reserving tables. Tech innovations will be able to provide data and give us more insight into our customer’s behavior - from their drink preferences to peak periods in our bar, all of this information can help us provide a more tailored experience.
Digitization is also something that customers are expecting more and more of in their bars and restaurants, with recent [i]research showing that 1 in 3 US consumers think that technology is important to their overall experience.
Salmon Guru in Madrid is one of the many bars that have introduced a QR code for guests to access their full drink and food menus, retail shop, and more. While Stonegate Pub Company in the UK uses the app OrderPay, an intelligent app with defining features like customer insights and analytics, targeted promotion, and upselling with a function for guests to share feedback with the venue.
[i] Nielson CGA On-premise User Survey Spring 2019
2. MINDFUL DRINKING
More customers are looking for quality over quantity in their drinks and they are also still looking for that in bar experience that they can’t find at home. In 2021, it will be up to venues to really champion positive experiential drinking and offer low and no-alcohol alternatives as consumer attitudes continue to shift. Equally, operators need to be quite specific in the language they use to speak about mindful drinks, leading the offering with flavor, rather than non-alcoholic headings. Between the rise of focused lifestyles and diets, drinking mindfully can allow each of us to stop, and think about how and why we are enjoying drinks.
For inspiration on mindful drinking, follow Bartender Camille Vidal. Camille coined the term "mindful drinking" which is about more than just drinks. She focuses on empowering others to adopt a shift in lifestyle and she encourages her "healthy hedonists" to embrace the flavors, the movement, and the passion that comes when you think more mindfully.
Another one to watch is Anna Walsh, an award-winning bartender developing an entirely alcohol-free program at the Virgin Mary in Dublin. Taking her presentation, communication, and creativity skills from World Class (she was the Irish winner in 2015) and applying this to zero-proof, Anna produces some brilliant drinks that will continue to challenge the way you think about the low or no category.
3. FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Integration of bar and kitchen continues to increase and lead the way with a focus on the overall experience rather than a single drink or dish. For food and beverage occasions, think about opportunities away from standard meals, like an aperitif, happy hour, and brunches, and turn these events into purposeful service opportunities.
I’ve worked with Chef Mark Moriarty quite a bit in the past, and in June 2019, I traveled to Dublin to dine at The Greenhouse Restaurant where he works. While there, I helped the team introduce an easy to execute a cocktail program to suit and expand their dining experience, without a dedicated bar area or bartender. The exercise proved to be the first of many conversations around helping different businesses expand their offering. As of today, the Greenhouse has been able to use the additional profits from the program to hire a new kitchen position, making it a super case study to share with other countries.
4. POPULAR LIQUIDS
Gin and Rum are leading the pack as we come into 2021 and there are lots of opportunities to link stories, diversity, and values to spirit categories, and menu divisions. Gin in particular is going through a bit of an evolution, and there is definitely room for further education around this popular but misunderstood category.
We are in an unprecedented time with access to bottles, so it may be time to start categorizing our gins differently behind the bar. Jason Williams, Master of Gin at Atlas, Singapore, is one to follow to learn more about this category. With Atlas' gin tower holding a remarkable collection of over 1400 bottles of gin, Jason is proposing the new idea of “native gins” to effectively define the category based on the spirits locality and ingredients.
5. LOCAL SOURCING
It’s really important to start working directly with purveyors, and where appropriate, giving them a nod and recognition on the menu. For example, “Honey by farm x” or “Peaches by the farm collective”.
Tim Philips from Bulletin Place & Dead Ringer, Sydney, Australia is very passionate about the correct use of words "indigenous" and "native" when it comes to ingredients. Bartenders and chefs must purchase directly from farms and communities where possible, to ensure funds go where they're supposed to; this allows the bartender or chef to add the location and individual to become part of the story of the final product. We have to start thinking beyond seasonal and local – we need to take the next step to connect to our producers. Tim adds this element to his businesses in Sydney and encourages others to do the same.
Vijay Mudaliar is also doing some truly innovative things in terms of local sourcing and sustainability within his venue Native. The team source within 100km of Singapore shores, promoting a regional food system where food miles are shorter. They also work with regional partners to expand the usage of under-utilized ingredients in their drinks. In venue, they opt for sustainable alternatives using bay leaves for coasters and upcycled items to create furniture, to name just a few.
6. SIMPLIFIED AND PRE-BATCHED SERVES
Ready to Drink (RTD) and draft cocktails both work in lots of occasions. For RTDs, this varies region by region, but the trick is being environmental with regards to packaging, and how you translate your bar’s concept across drinks served off-site. Draft drinks are exceptional – whether carbonated in the moment (single-serve) or larger batches with a Cornelius keg, there are many options out there to start the program.
Follow bartender Antonio Lai, for inspiration on what’s possible when you develop an entire plan "on draft". Antonio and his business partner Angus Zou are the mixologists behind Draft land, Asia’s first cocktails on tap concept with consistency, speed, and flavor quality in mind. The duo aims to make cocktails more accessible while simplifying the bar experience and putting the focus firmly on the drinks.
7. INCLUSION AND DIVERSITY
It’s an unprecedented time in our industry where conversations around inclusion and diversity have never been more pressing and important. It’s great to see Black, BIPOC, LGBTQ+, women, and other minority voices being highlighted. We must all work together to create space and opportunities for everyone to have a seat at the table – this comes down to unconscious-bias training, safer spaces training, staff training, policies and practices that create an inclusive and diverse environment and culture, and constant work for true allyship.
Follow Lauren Paylor founder of Focus on Health (FOH) in Washington DC who shares ideas on how to craft a safe space beyond the bar for all things mentioned above.
8. NON- NEGOTIABLE INDUSTRY STANDARDS
If the past year has taught us anything it is that we need to band together to ensure we are providing safe and enjoyable spaces and experiences for our staff and guests and leading by example. The bar community has really come together to support one another and advance industry standards, which is commendable. I recommend you have at least one “accountability-buddy” in the industry that you can learn from, mentor, and grow with. Deano Moncrieffe, owner of Hacha Bar, UK, is a passionate advocate of bringing the bar world together towards a common goal. With staff and guest safety as the top of mind, Deano and his team at Hacha help to produce the standards we hope all bars adopt into this new normal. Standards we must adhere to include everything from neighborhood watch for bars and restaurants, to safety guidelines and track & trace.
- Embrace digital technology and use it to positively impact the service experience at your venue.
- Low and no alcohol serves are increasingly popular. Consider how you introduce these serves on your menu and to guests.
- Harness the power of kitchen and bar to offering unique service experiences.
- Broaden your offering by supporting local farmers, products, and community.
- Help shape and adhere to industry standards to make it a safe and secure place for everyone.