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From plant-based and vegan drinks to low and no alcohol cocktails, and simplified back bars. Leading bartender Thomas Aske lets us in on some exciting bar trends to watch out for. In an industry that is continuously evolving, make sure you're breaking boundaries and staying ahead of the curve.

What's trending in the bar world?

Before we launch into all things cool and trending in the bar world, let's take a quick look into how far things have changed. We sure work in a fast paced industry! From the emergence of the modernist bartender, using high-tech laboratory grade equipment to a global push for sustainability; closed loop cocktail recipes, the condemnation of single-use plastic and augmented reality menus; the list of bar industry trends is endless!

Global competitions like World Class have been a platform to both amplify bartenders and their craft, as well as making space for creative 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 some of the coolest trends we're seeing worldwide.

Plant-based and vegan drinks

One of the biggest trends making waves is veganism and plant-based drinks. Plant-based products show no sign of slowing down with many bars updating their cocktail menus to appeal to the increasing vegan market. A simple substitution of animal-based ingredients can offer vegan alternatives to classic cocktails that your bar guests will love.

A classic whisky sour would ordinarily use egg whites to create the texture and mouthfeel, however, bars are now using Aquafaba in its place. Aquafaba is the protein rich water found in tinned chickpeas. This relatively flavourless liquid creates a stable foam and all the creaminess of egg white minus the animal product.

Try this vegan version of a classic whisky cocktail using Bulleit bourbon.

Vegan Bulleit Cocktail

Sour Glass: Coupe

Garnish: Lemon zest

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

(Alcohol content per serve 18.17g)

COSNOPOLITAN COCKTAIL

Try this vegan, non-alcoholic version of a classic cosmopolitan cocktail using Seedlip Grove 42, for a zesty, tart and refreshing martini style cocktail. 

RECIPE: 

PREPARATION:

  1. Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker, and shake vigorously for about 5 seconds. 
  2. Fine strain into a chilled martini glass, and garnish with an orange peel.

Alcohol content: 0g

Low and No alcohol Menus

Low and no alcohol options are still 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 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 took this a step further by developing a series of food and beverage tasting menus that utilise the hybrid philosophy. Their set menus were not only available with flavours identical to vegan or non-vegan dishes, but also flavour 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 the future, the presence of no and low alcohol 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!

SETTING UP A BACK BAR

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 flavour mapping the backbar, simplifying the way that guests choose spirits.

In Black Rock, all of our whiskies are bunched together by flavour 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 flavour and pricing is applicable to all bars and all spirits.

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

PAY IT FORWARD

Whilst these 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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Want to keep up to date on bar trends and get access to exclusive content?Sign up to Diageo Bar Academy today for unlimited access to it all.