by Jeffery Lindenmuth
Trying to predict The Next Big Cocktail is like trying to predict the outcome of a Presidential election. Despite all the polling, you could be right, wrong, or find that there is no clear winner at all. But for spirits marketers and retailers eager to discover the next trend, and for the men and women behind the bar, who will be called upon to mix up the next hot cocktail by the millions, is an exercise worth pursuing with Crossfire fervor. With one eye to the past, and the other peering into our crystal mixing glass, here are a few things to consider as we look to the horizon, for the next big cocktail.
The next big cocktail comes from a prevailing spirit of the era.
The popular Prohibition-era drinks we still enjoy today were crafted using the leading spirits of their time — gin goes in a Martini, brandy in a Sidecar. Currently, vodka dominates spirits sales with 26% of the total market, so it stands to reason that vodka is the most popular pour today, from vodkatinis to Cosmopolitans. The world’s most popular cocktail, the Margarita, however, represents the other side of the chicken or the egg debate. Accounting for 17% of mixed drink sales, it’s incredible that the Margarita depends upon a relatively small-production regional spirit. In this instance, the cocktail actually appears to drive the category with sales of tequila, up 5.8% for 2004.
With the Margarita as inspiration, a classic drink like the Pisco Sour, made with Peruvian brandy, or the Caipirhinha made with Brazilian Cachaça has the potential to stir a sleeping spirits behemoth, especially considering our growing Latin community. Could 2006 be the summer of the Caipirhinha?
Many bartenders, weary of vodka, would welcome such a novel spirit to their back bar. Robert “Drinkboy” Hess, the cocktail guru behind www.drinkboy.com, with its popular message board says, “I'd like to think that the reign of vodka is coming to an end, and that consumers will soon start spending more time with some of the other spirits that we all know deserve attention. I do think that we have seen time and time again the public wanting to discover new experiences, which provides a leverage for moving away from vodka and onto something else.”
Given the recent reign of the Mojito, Hess nominates rum as a logical choice for the next big cocktail, and as a way to wean the drinking public from vodka and ultimately back to richer spirits. Even northerly bars, like the new Cuba Libre at the Tropicana in Atlantic City, have found the Mojito firmly entrenched as their most popular cocktail. And other classic rum drinks, like the Hemingway Daiquiri and Dark & Stormy are appearing on more cocktail menus.
The next big cocktail is the creation of a bartender.
Whether it’s a classic revival, like the Cuban Mojito, or a modern reinvention, like the Cosmopolitan, the next big cocktail will undoubtedly come from a bartender, and most likely from the United States. Why? They always have. In The Gentleman’s Companion, 1939, Charles Baker predicts, “…the American has invented, and always will invent, more of the world’s good mixed drinks than the rest of humanity lumped together.” Do you feel the pressure?
Certainly there are exciting drinks surfacing throughout the world, and nearly all are the work of inventive bartenders with a penchant for creativity and an idle moment — the same people who have conceived almost every successful drink in history. The Moscow Mule, the Hennessy Martini and the Green Apple Martini may be worthwhile footnotes in cocktail history, but no amount of marketing dollars can compensate for a talented bartender with pride in their creations.
The next big cocktail needs a celebrity endorsement.
In days gone by it might have been President Grant congratulating turn-of-the-century mixologist Jerry Thomas on his pyrotechnic Blue Blazer, a flaming mix of whisky and water. Now we have the big screen with James Bond sipping a shaken martini and more recently a Mojito, followed by Carrie Bradshaw and crew downing Cosmos. Even The New York Times disseminates cocktail recipes with a regular column.
Angus Winchester, creator of Alconomics Ltd, a bar consulting business based in London, says, “The power of the media, or at least TV and film is huge as it is such a seductive medium. Whereas in the past novelists such as Fleming, Hemingway and Kerouac could make a drink cool, now it has to be ordered on some sort of blockbuster film or must-see TV — real water cooler stuff.” Somewhat affirming our previous nationalistic point he adds, “And to be honest, as something is not really a trend until it hits the U.S., it will have to come from there.”
The next big cocktail is something we’ve never imagined, or long forgotten.
Certainly classic revival cocktails have shown the potential to surface with renewed vigor, especially when mixed to suit the modern palate. Anshu Vidyarthi, general manager and drink creator at L'Escale Restaurant on the waterfront in Greenwich, CT is betting on something similar to his Temperance, a Mojito made with muddled raspberries and Marti mint-flavored rum. “Since there is only so much you can do to be creative with cocktails while still keeping them drinkable, I think bartenders are going to keep adding to the already existing wheel. Variations on a theme, if you will,” says Vidyarthi.
But with the increasing focus on flavors, first in the vodka category, then rum, and now even gin and whisky, the public may be keen for something genuinely new — something we can’t even imagine at the moment. This may sound like the Independent candidate actually winning the election, but when people grow weary of the status quo, anything can happen.
Cordials and liqueurs, that catch-all category, already hold the number two position in terms of distilled spirits sales. And, Robert Back, a beverage alcohol product development specialist, thinks it is from this field that the next big cocktail will emerge.
“I think the next cocktail craze will come from the food and beverage industry, in a flavor that does not exist in the alcohol industry today. The next cocktail will come from a spirit that is derived from those beverage profiles,” says Back. While green apple and chocolate Martinis made some inroads, Back believes a more outrageous flavor will eventually win hearts. He has personally created a chai flavored cream liqueur called Voyant Chai, and new liqueurs like Suntory’s Green Tea flavored Zen and Soho lychee liqueur, seems to take a page from the same playbook.
However, Back agrees the challenge for producers is to create great products, and leave the job of making great cocktails to the pros.
The next big cocktail is easy to make.
In order to gain widespread popularity, the next big cocktail will be simple enough for the novice bartender, and even the amateur to concoct. This means, no elaborate techniques, no three-month infusions or ingredients from the Amazon.
Fortunately, that palette of standard ingredients has continued to expand as more and more bartenders cross the threshold to the kitchen. Five years ago, who would have thought so many bars across the country would feature a jar of fresh mint? And in key cocktail bars, it’s easy to find a range of bitters, elderflower liqueur, and other lost ingredients.
So there you have it, take a staple spirit, or even one that few people can pronounce, add flavors old or new, hope for serendipitous sipping by a Hollywood star, and the next big cocktail could very well be created by you.
How About One of These for the Next Big Cocktail?
1 oz. Zen Green Tea Liqueur
2 oz. citrus flavored vodka
Splash of lime juice
Shake and serve in a martini glass.
1 tblsp. egg white
1 1/2 tsp. powdered sugar
3 oz. Pisco (Peruvian brandy)
1 1/2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
4 ice cubes
Combine the egg white and sugar in a mixing glass, and stir with a bar spoon to dissolve the sugar. Add the Pisco, lemon juice and ice cubes. Place a bar shaker on top of the glass and shake vigorously 9 or 10 times. Remove the shaker, place a strainer on top of the mixing glass and pour the Pisco Sour into a chilled cocktail glass or tumbler.
1 1/2 oz. Bacardi Razz
6 mint leaves
2 tsp. sugar syrup
10 frozen raspberries
1 splash chilled soda water
In a tall thin glass, muddle the rum, mint, sugar and raspberries with a mortar and pestle, and top with ice. Add a splash of club soda. Stir well and garnish with a mint sprig.
2 tsp. granulated sugar
8 lime wedges
2 1/2 oz. cachaca
Muddle the sugar into the lime wedges in an old-fashioned glass. Fill the glass with ice cubes. Pour the cachaca into the glass. Stir well.
Dark and Stormy
2 oz. Gosling's Black Seal rum
8 oz. ginger beer
Pour rum over ice, add ginger ale, and stir.
1 1/2 oz. light rum
1/4 oz. maraschino liqueur
3/4 oz. lime juice
1/4 oz. grapefruit juice
Shake with ice and strain into a chilled
1 tablespoon pomegranate seeds
2 dashes cherry syrup
1 tablespoon passionfruit syrup
2 oz. vodka
In the bottom of a glass half of the boston shaker muddle together a tablespoon of pomegranate seeds with two dashes of cherry syrup and a tablespoon of passionfruit syrup. Add the vodka and a couple of mint leaves and ice. Shake well and strain the drink into a chilled Martini glass. Garnish by expressing the oil of a lemon zest over the drink and discard, then float a small mint sprig on top.
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