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2020/21 Drinks Trends

Updated: Sep 11, 2020

What can we expect to see from the opening

of bars post COVID 19/

Between 2010 and 2020 we saw the emergence of the modernist bartender utilising laboratory grade equipment, we saw a global push for sustainability, closed loop cocktails, the damnation of plastic, augmented reality menu’s amongst an endless list of innovation that changed our industry. This was amplified with a focus on the bartenders craft through competitions such as World Class resulting in a altogether different landscape from the one we saw ten years ago. 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. However, with such rapid growth of innovation it becomes more difficult to break boundaries and stay ahead of the trend curve. It is impossible to predict what the next ten years will bring so it would be sensible to focus on the next twelve months. Here are my top picks for the trends we may see in 2020/21

Hybrid Menu’s

Sobriety and no/low is 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’. Menu’s 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 alcohol or alcohol free back in 2017. The concept was designed to ensure all guests have the exact same experience regardless whether they are drinking or not. Journey in Chelsea have recently taken this a step further by developing a series of food and beverage tasting menu’s that

utilise the hybrid philosophy. Their set menu’s are not only available with flavour identical 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.

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 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 allow freedom of discovery to 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 with heavier 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.

Plant Based Drinks

Plant based products will continue to increase in popularity in 2020 and with it bars will be adapting their cocktail menu’s to appeal to the increasing vegan market. A simple substitution of animal based ingredients can offer vegan alternatives to classic cocktails. A classic whisky sour for example 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. The relatively flavourless liquid creates a stable foam and all of 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.

50ml Bulleit Bourbon

25ml Lemon Juice

15ml Maple syrup

3 x dashes cherry bitters

20ml Aquafaba

Whilst these micro trends are changing the way in which we operate, it is most exciting to see that 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. 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.


**an abbreviated text originally written for the Diageo Bar Academy

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