Jono Mayes, National Bartender Advocacy Manager at Campari Group UK, shares his valuable insight - especially those who develop cocktails, drinks, or even brands - across the many trends we give consideration to when it comes to drinks ideation.
After several years of uncertainty, the return to a more relaxed and comfortable time has become more and more prevalent. We can see this, from sports to fashion and international food brands, to everyday consumer items. By its nature, this trend is cyclical, and the recent years have accelerated the outcomes that this ‘over the shoulder gaze’ gave to the past for relevance today. This notion has manifested itself in many ways with the same simple feeling at its core, the return to simplicity and familiarity.
We can see this demonstrated diversely across the world of drinks; from well-known cocktails that have had their spotlight in the past and are making a resurgence to the forefront of menus - to the addition of ingredients that evoke associative flavours to more challenging cocktails, allowing them a familiar, reassuring edge and bringing confidence to the guest.
For example, the Cosmopolitan, Mojito or the Piña Colada, once thought to have had their limelight, are making come-backs - taking their simple, original recipes to more contemporary themed re-brands around their classic structure. The constant throughout these drinks and their evolution is that the core flavour remains the same. So, while we’re applying a more modern approach with the drink’s visual representation and composition, the ingredients can lead us to the same place - something familiar and nostalgic.
To bring this concept to life let’s look at a couple of examples* of the Piña Colada from some iconic UK-based bars. Firstly, there’s Lab22 in Cardiff who have seen their menus pick up international awards and the bar overall be named top of the UK’s Top 50. The Klaro Colada takes the flavours of coconut, pineapple, and rum, to then clarify and present the drink in a futuristic, mind-bending aesthetic.
While nostalgia’s influence can appear across broad trends, it can manifest in more niche ways that take the concept to the extreme. We see this here in a trend that began in New York but spread quickly via Instagram and increasingly…Tik Tok.
What could be more comforting than the flavours of your favourite breakfast cereal? A simpler time where the choice between Coco Pops and Sugar Puffs was the dilemma of the day. Inspired no doubt by the success of Momofuku’s Milk Bar’s Cereal Milk, bartenders are infusing cereal flavours into spirits for pops of sweetness, flavour, and nostalgia in their cocktails.
The impact of social media in cocktail consumption in the On Trade is ever present. Statistics we see, show that over a third of consumers take a photo of their cocktail every time they order one. While this began with static images to post on Instagram, we are seeing an increase in serves that have a kinetic element and lend themselves to short form video. Cocktail Tik Tok is full of questionable how-to recipes that play to the algorithm but not necessarily the palate!
Elaborate garnishes have always been part of so many areas of cocktail culture, they’re supposed to be fun drinks, right?! We know that many bars adopt a more stripped-back look to their drinks with great consideration given to the liquid and vessel it is presented in, and it is this minimalist approach in drink design that we consider here.
A way to view minimalism is, “Aesthetically, minimalist art offers a highly purified form of beauty. It can also be seen as representing such qualities of truth as it does not pretend to be anything other than what it is.”
While this is true for two or even three-dimensional artwork, we in the world of bartending have the advantage of an additional sense to engage with. Taste and the overarching perception of flavour enables us to surprise and delight the customer with complex, exciting flavours hidden behind seemingly simple-looking liquids.
If we think of the simplest of cocktails, those stirred down and spirit forward drinks, they can often be the most challenging to the uninitiated palate. Few drinks look as minimalist as a Gin Martini, where the citrus peel garnish has its oil expressed and discarded - yet its flavour is anything but.
Since 2007 and the first iPhone and Instagram three years later, the ‘Instagrammability’ of a drink has become a leading factor in the creation of new cocktails - especially for a more mainstream audience. Among many bars at the leading edge of innovation and awards lists, we see a high proportion of drinks that exude a beautifully simple visual style.
Tayer + Elementary’s ever-changing Negroni variations are presented in short, wide, glassware with thin base and profile which, with the help of immaculate large ice cubes, makes the experience of the drinks flavour feel that more intense.
Similarly, Drink Kong in Rome delivers mesmerisingly-flavoured drinks where big, crystal-clear ice (and hardly a garnish in sight) reflects and refracts the neon lighting in the venue to mega-Instagrammable levels!
The next evolution of drinks design, especially in the mainstream, faces new challenges and opportunities in creating drinks that really win on the menu.
How drinks live beyond the occasion will be key – how they translate to social media in a way that consumers love to share is only going to grow. If we look through cocktail related posts with millions of views on TikTok, many simply wouldn’t translate to a bar offering - but the reasons behind their popularity can influence what we do.
Reimagined classics. The relevance of classic cocktails is key to welcome new cocktail drinkers to the category. Accessible twists on classic drinks influenced by insight on flavour trends has enabled us to significantly grow the number of Negronis, Old Fashioneds, and Daiquiris enjoyed on the high street. They tap into broad trends we see in nostalgia, but in a way that dials up parts of the classic flavour profile to incorporate seasonally relevant flavours.
And finally – sustainability, which is a term that is very much open to interpretation (this should be a whole essay in itself!). The journey an ingredient takes to our glass is increasingly something the consumer is considering, and so it should be. We are in the business of luxury products - cocktails should create a little escapism - but our care and respect for the ingredients we use should be told in the drinks we present.