There are some interesting trends bubbling up in the drinking world for 2016. As new, innovative bartenders, brewers, and distillers seek to make their mark on the world we all benefit from the flood of new creations that are pushing boundaries and making new ground. Here are a few trends to keep your eye on this year:
1. Unaged whiskey – white dog, moonshine, call it what you will - this brash, raw alcohol is becoming a mainstream ingredient in trendy bars. New, upstart distlilleries can’t wait forever to cash in on the aged spirits (4+ years till they can sell!). In the meantime they have found an increasing market for fresh, unaged whiskey that highlights the sweet, clean taste of the grain before the flavors of the barrel take over.
2. Cider – This beverage is blowing up right now! Back in the early days of America, cider was ubiquitious and enormously popular. In those days cider mills truly dedicated to the craft made sure that no metal was used on the press so as not to taint the fresh juice with a metallic taste (long before stainless steel was available). Even the screw gears that pushed the halves of the press together were hand made of wood. Now that same fervor that swept through homebrewing 15 years ago is hitting its stride with the cider community. Look forward to seeing bold new combinations and variations like dry-hopped ciders from pretty much everywhere.
3. Those other cocktail ingredients... - For years there have been dedicated efforts by American distillers like Letherbee and Breckenridge to produce the herbally concoctions like Fernet Branca, Cynar, and other amaros. Now, all that work is paying off. They’re starting to get noticed, and more and more attention is being paid to back-bar spirits that serve as critical ingredients in many great cocktails. Vermouths are also getting more attention, so we can look forward to more choice that just Martini & Rossi. The best place to find out what’s new is by visiting your local craft cocktail bar. Most liquor stores only carry the big brands, but bartenders in-the-know will have a pipline to the good shit. Plus, when you ask a few questions most good bartenders will happily offer you a taste of something new.
4. Cold brewing – This is not so much a new trend, it has been going on for some time now. However, the limits are getting pushed again with many high end coffee shops offering it on nitro tap, and some even experimenting with barrel aging. Check out the next episode of Cocktail/Mocktail for a unique twist on cold brew. I’ve personally begun experimenting with cold brewed cacao, and while not there yet the preliminary results are encouraging. I’m really excited about this trend because it’s fun to do at home, and encourages a lot of experimentation .
There’s a lot of other great stuff happening out there, but you have to go exploring. Head on out to your local joint and see what's new!