When it comes to the hospitality industry, predictions are a bit futile. The omicron variant has shuttered restaurants that were starting to thrive again, supply chain issues remain an issue, and restaurant workers are facing unprecedented burnout.

But some industry pros are looking forward to the cocktails that may make a splash in the new year. As consumers seek a bit of normalcy, they’re also craving classic drinks with an edge. More and more bars will get inventive and intentional with no-alcohol options, and maybe they’ll even ditch the “mocktail” moniker once and for all. Also: tequila, tequila, tequila. The spirit continues to increase in popularity. And is it finally time for Bolivia’s Singani to make a splash stateside?

Below are the drink trends we’ll see heading into 2022, according to drink pros.

Cocktails will be simple

“I’ve found many guests prefer cocktails they can understand, with three to four ingredients. The more unfamiliar ingredients in the drink, the less likely they are to order it unless the service team can passionately speak to each ingredient in a manner that can disarm the guest. So you’re more likely to have a guest order a cocktail with gin, citrus, and some herbal or floral component than a 12-step cocktail.” — Chauncey Jenkins, General Manager of BRUN Lounge in Richmond, Virginia

Classics will get an upgrade

“Classics are classics for a reason, and it is the new standard for restaurants to provide elevated old-fashioned, fresh margaritas, negronis, and martinis. The consumer has become a cocktail connoisseur, knowing their stuff and raising the bar on expectations. They want rare spirits, stories of the distillers, that one-of-a-kind drink mixed up by the bartender specifically for them, and rum, lots of rum.” — Dominique Gonzales, mixologist and founder of Root Elixirs 

“During the pandemic consumers were experimenting with different flavours and looking for unique ingredients to incorporate into classic drinks, from local honey to chilli peppers. They were looking for fun, playful ingredients to liven up their cocktails.” — Gabriel Urrutia, Brugal 1888 Brand Specialist

Low and no-alcohol drink trends

“I’ve seen a lot more energy put towards low or no-alcohol drinks and I’m glad for the diversity of offerings. I think the alcohol-free spirits industry is in its infancy, but there’s promise there in the hopes you can keep the bar as a centre of the community for everyone, regardless of their interest in cocktails. There’s room for everyone at the bar.” — Matt Ray, cocktail expert and experience team leader at The Sazerac House in New Orleans 

“This is a really exciting category right now. We’re seeing amazing non-alcoholic drinks on menus, and we’ve included more selections on our own lists. We’re having a lot of fun with the bar-barista environment, sharing ingredients like our spiced chai recipe and matcha tea to make both cafe drinks and non-alcoholic drinks. Often the dining experience revolves around alcohol, which can de-centre the human connection, the real reason we go out. For those who want to drink a little alcohol, but not go crazy, it’s nice to have the option to self-regulate and still feel a bit fancy, enjoying a composed drink.” — Erin Scala, Beverage Director of Birdie’s and Common House 

Drink trends
Credit: Photo by Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Margaret Monroe Dickey / Prop Styling by Audrey DavisPhotographer Victor Protasio, Food Stylist Margaret Dickey, Prop Stylist Audrey Davis

“The demand is immense and growing. It’s a matter of establishments realising this. If they create offerings that are as refined as the cocktails and focused on health, people will pay more for these drinks. In the coming years it’ll become more common to see non-alcoholic cocktails produced with quality ingredients, commanding price-points comparable to alcoholic cocktails.” — Ryan Nolen, Bartender lead at Daxton Hotel in Birmingham, Michigan  

More fruits and vegetables will make it into your glass

“In 2022 we see a growing trend towards the use of a diverse array of fruits and vegetables in cocktails. There is something to be said about getting a healthy serving of vegetables while wetting your whistle. The pure flavour of fresh fruits and vegetables enhance the flavour profile of these concoctions, while the nutritional benefit is an added bonus.” — Toshi Santiago, Bartender at The Meritage Resort & Spa

The drier the drink, the better

“Dry, dry, dry. Sorry if you like sweet, more and more folks are looking for fewer sugar grams. Health-positive perspective is definitely the drink trend that is directing people’s palates today and that largely includes vastly reducing sugar consumption.” — Ryan Nolen

“It’s been surprising how quickly palates have moved to drier balances and more bitter complex flavours. The Aperol spritz and negroni have definitely led the charge, but people are delving into a lower-sugar, more vegetal, and herbaceous world of ingredients as fast as the bartenders can discover and incorporate them.” — Jim Wrigley, Beverage manager for Grand Cayman’s Kimpton Seafire Resort & Spa

Drink trends
Credit: Photo by Adam Friedlander / Food Styling by Pearl Jones

Bitter is better is the new drink trend

“Bitter will be a flavour that gains more traction. Companies like Jeppson’s are pushing the boundaries of what an experience with spirits can be. Bitterness is an extreme on the flavour scale. It kick-starts a part of the brain related to survival (bitter plants are a warning usually that they’re poisonous), so people tend to really wake up when they taste them. When consumers have explored cocktails as long as we’ve been in the current renaissance, they inevitably gravitate towards those extremes, like umami (Chinese Baijiu) or bitter (Fernet, Malort, amaro, or dry vermouth).” — Matt Ray

We’ll be seeing more Singani

“I’m really excited about the Bolivian spirit Singani, especially Rujero, and its versatility. It’s made from Muscatel of Alexandria grapes. As with most great beverages it was first distilled by monks. It’s like a speed date of orchard fruit and white flowers on your tongue and is absolutely delicious. I’ve substituted it as the base spirit in Pisco sours, and enjoy it on the rocks with an orange peel.” — Chauncey Jenkins

Bubbly cocktails will be served all-day

“From morning to late night and toasting to bottomless, the best time to drink bubbles is any time. We’re seeing this drinks trend increasingly that in between wine tastings and at the end of the day, guests are wanting something other than wine. And that’s where we’re seeing the introduction of bubbly cocktails in the market; providing travellers with a cocktail option that is still true to Napa. They appeal to many because they can be sipped any time of the day and they provide endless mixing options. Vodka, cognac, brandy, gin, and rum all pair well with sparkling wine.” — Toshi Santiago 

Bubbly
Credit: © David MaloshSchott-Zwiesel Tritan Dandelion SF

Tequila continues its meteoric rise

Tequila and its popularity continues to grow. One of the more fun results of its popularity and our recent supply challenges, is that people are beginning to be more adventurous with the tequila that they select. At one point last year, there were many people enjoying a light, lean, and pristine type of tequila. We start to see guests trying out a more pulpy or mineral-laden style of tequila. We are even seeing more guests drink mezcal, which has always been a challenge to sell, due to its oftentimes smoky, flinty character.” — Liz Martinez, Daxton Hotel’s Director of Beverage Service

“Tequila is a beautiful thing, a labour of love, which takes years to make. There’s so much culture, pride, and art within the tequila process that should be highlighted and experienced in a tasting or class setting. There’s a time and a place for a shot, but hopefully, there will be more exposure to the process of tequila. As tequila consumption increases, it could become a bit more coveted due to land and the long ageing of the agave plant. There might be a stronger appreciation to come with the changes, and people might decide to sip and savour once it’s harder to get your hands on.” —Dominique Gonzales

“Honestly, I’m just glad people are enjoying tequila. As companies are winning awards that showcase exceptional reposados and anejo tequilas, whiskey drinkers are paying more attention to how complex and rich tequila as a sipping spirit can be. I personally would be thrilled if people started to learn how much work tequila requires before it’s ever bottled — some agave plants take 20 years before they’re even ready to harvest. It’s one of the most culturally rich heritages of spirits in the entire world and I’m constantly awed by it.” — Matt Ray 

Cocktail classes are still in session

“We saw the demand for (to-go cocktails) tank almost instantly when restaurants started opening back up. But we have noticed a great interest in cocktail classes that demonstrate tricks on how to have a great home bar. We host classes that teach the basics of building a home bar. The idea is that if you come to them all, after one year, you’ll be pretty skilled making drinks at home.” — Erin Scala

“I think cocktail kits will be a thing if accompanied by something like a master class, home tutorial, or in person tutorial. But the kit is more of an opportunity for you to take the knowledge you’ve gained from that professional and try it at home. As for to-go cocktails, the popularity of this only resurfaces if these variants cause a large disruption to our daily lives again.” — Chauncey Jenkins

This story first appeared on www.foodandwine.com

(Main and Feature Image Credit: Photo by Jennifer Causey / Food Styling by Melissa Gray / Prop Styling by Heather Chadduck Hillegas)

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