The cocktail trend is in full swing in the U.S., and in 2015, flavor will be the name of the cocktail game.
In some areas, that will move us into new and exciting directions. In others, we’ll reach back to the past for a nostalgic sip. Whether you prefer simple and refined or complex and sophisticated, there’s a little something for everyone on your mixologist’s radar.
Due to the rise in popularity of old-fashioned drinks, gin will be back at the top of the list. I like the new Nolet’s Silver Dry Gin. Lower in the piney flavor associated with most gins, the flavors of peach, rose and raspberry make this gin easily sippable and perfect for a more refined cocktail.
2. Italian stallions
Look for several traditional Italian liquors to see a resurgence as the result of people’s more adventurous palates. Sambuca, amaro, Aperol, Campari and more will be making a comeback.
3. Ice chunks
Ice is supposed to chill your drink, not water it down. Higher-end bars have been chipping ice right off the block for a while, but look for large-chunk ice to pop up everywhere. They may even be fun shapes or have drink-complementary flavors frozen inside. I’ve been using these Tovolo King Cube ice trays for everything from whiskey cocktails to ice tea. (Amazon, $8)
4. Medieval brews
If you’re a hop hater, 2015 may be your year. Craft brewers are on track to start exploring medieval brew styles that use gruits instead of hops. Gruit herbs are things like yarrow (flowers and stems), marsh or wild rosemary and more. If you’re a home brewer, check out the unhopped recipes over at Gruit Ale, or just try New Belgium’s Gruit ale.
5. Pitch-black cocktails
Charcoal is soon to be one of the hottest cooking trends, so it’s hardly a surprise it will also take over the high-end cocktail world.
Gone are the days when we bow to the clear, flavorless god vodka. We’ll be moving away from focusing on the flavor of mixers and into how the mixer plays with the distinct flavors of various liquors, especially whiskey. But American whiskey’s heyday is over for now. In 2015, focus on the smooth warmth of Canadian rye whiskeys, whiskeys aged in flavored casks and more.
Look for herbal liqueurs this year, but you also shouldn’t stray away from using fresh herbs in your brews. It’s more than just mojitos when it comes to muddling, garnishing, flavoring simple syrups and more.
8. Nostalgic cocktails make a comeback
Don’t be surprised to see a host of famous cocktails from days gone by. The old-fashioned and cosmo are already on everyone’s radar, but look for other retro favorites, like the Pimm’s Cup, the sage advice, Mama’s little helper and more.
9. Local, local, local
That whole farm-to-table thing didn’t end at food, people. We’re all growing weary of paying top dollar for homogenized brews and vinos from the big boys who clearly spend more on advertising than expertise. Look for local growers who are turning their crops into wines, beers and even liquors.
This has been popping up on liquor store shelves throughout 2014, but it’s usually purchased as a novelty item or gift. Distillers are getting creative now, putting out high-quality, flavored moonshine in bottles so gorgeous you’ll have to keep them to make your own. Don’t be surprised to see these incorporated into well-crafted cocktails in 2015.
12. High tea
Baileys and coffee is so early 2000s. This year, we’ll be mixing exotic teas with even more exotic aperitifs or just plain old liquor. Try green tea with Aperol (see Italian liquors trend above) or jasmine tea and gin.
Tequila never exactly goes out of style — especially with the party crowd — but look for specialty and flavored tequilas this year.
This throwback to the early 1900s (and spiked punch at prom) will be making a comeback this year, often in place of signature cocktails at parties.
15. Sugar is out
In the past, there’s been a serious focus on sugary-sweet drinks, but moving forward, bartenders will likely opt for darker, spicier flavors in taller drinks.