Bartenders Predict the 2018 Trends In Mixology


Another year has come to a close and a new year has begun. That means it’s the perfect time to try something new (like Steve Harvey’s bonkers NYE get up). These include goals of getting back in shape, drinking less alcohol (good luck with that), and finally finishing the newest season of Black Mirror. But, there’s more to the new year than resolutions. It’s the perfect time for experts in various fields to make predictions for the year to come.

After focusing on food yesterday, we asked some of our favorite bartenders to tell us what bartending and cocktailing trends we should expect to see in 2018. So, get ready to see these ideas, techniques, and spirits a lot in the days to come.

Warm up with hot cocktails

Chris Williams, bartender and manager at The Meatball Shop in New York City

“Apropos of this weekend’s weather, I think that hot drinks are in the ascendancy. I’ve started to see places really take pride and put effort into thinking about, reimagining, and improving on classic hot cocktails like hot toddies, hot buttered rums, and ciders. Rather than just pouring a shot of whiskey into hot water and honey, bars are looking to explore and expand on what heat does to flavor and how that can be harnessed for amazing results. I think that ideas like the Dead Rabbit’s absolutely sublime Irish coffee have really opened people’s eyes to what is something of an untapped market.”

Eco-friendly products/facilities

Brett Esler, bartender at Whisler’s in Austin

“Recently it’s become apparent that the cocktail and spirits world has slowly started to become more conscientious about waste reduction, sustainability, and our impact on the earth. From eco-friendly product debates (e.g. straws) to newly-constructed sustainable distilleries (e.g. Richard Bett’s Sombra Mezcal) this is definitely something that will carry over and pick up steam in 2018.”

Mezcal over tequila

Meaghan Levy, bartender at the Lounge at Rose Hill in New York City

“Mezcal is one of the most diverse categories. Often mislabeled as smoky tequila, it is so much more. It is one of the few spirits that really shows terroir. Mezcals can range from super smoky to light and delicate. With such a diversity I only see mezcals continuing to grow in popularity.”

Applejack is back

Christy Pope, bartender and co-operator of Midnight Rambler in Dallas

“A is for Applejack! This will be the year of Applejack. The continued resurgence of America’s Oldest Native Distilled Spirit is heartwarming to see. With a new product on the market, Laird’s Straight Applejack 86 proof, this family owned company, continues to prove what’s old is new again. Applejack is a wonderful base spirit for cocktails, but it’s also a spirit that mixes well with other spirits, making it a very desirable product for bartenders. Applejack is also malleable — depending on how its applied in a cocktail… it can be both a light and easy (like a Vodka) or have base and depth and drink like a whiskey. One of a kind.”

Upping the wow factor

Homero Villarreal, general manager at LH Rooftop in Chicago

“More unique presentation with garnishes, glassware formats, and wow factors — like smoke — are going to be common in 2018.”

Vintage Rum is fun

Jesse Vida, bartender at BlackTail in New York City

“I’m noticing a big trend in vintage and high Ester rums. More and More producers are embracing the funky flavor profiles of Jamaican and other Caribbean styles of rum.”

h3>A return to basics
Tomas van den Boomgaard, beverage manager at Travelle Kitchen + Bar in Chicago

“I feel that bartenders will be going back to basics, using simple ingredients to make classic cocktails. I also think oils will be in, e.g. 3 different types of orange oils to make three different old fashioned cocktails.”

Cognac’s comeback

James Menite, bartender at the Plaza Hotel in New York City

“A trend I see happening is the emergence of Cognac in our industry. With the growth of super- premium brown spirits and high end cocktails being the norm, the opportunities for the spirit are here and now, especially since younger people (millennials) and women predominantly are major influencers. There is a rich history with cognac, and the spirit was a major component in vintage/classic cocktails, such as the Sidecar, French 75 and the original Mint Julep which is something consumers are seeking out in 2018. Bars are adding smaller cognac brands to their bar to compliment the major brands, all making delicious cognac (Hennessey, Remy Martin, Courvoisier and Martell). There are more and more cognacs coming finally to the U.S. because the cognac houses see the growth opportunities here.”

Disco cocktails aren’t dead

Gramercy Pictures
Nick Bennett, bartender at Porchlight in New York City

“I think that 2018 is going to be the year of the disco cocktail. Bear with me on this for a moment, I don’t think that we are going to revert back to the dark ages of the cocktail and start using Roses Lime Juice again. I think that we are going to take cocktails that have been discarded and shunned, like the Godfather or the Harvey Wallbanger, and shed some new light on them in 2018 with all of the techniques and focus on fresh ingredients that we have amassed over the past 15 years. The Amaretto Sour and the Grasshopper have been given a second life; I wonder which cocktail will take the next spotlight? The White Russian? The Surfer on Acid? The Blue Hawaii?” 

Artisanal whisky business

Brian Van Flandern, named ‘America’s Top Mixologist’ by The Food Network

“The American Whiskey landscape is in the midst of a revolution. While American Bourbon and Rye Whiskey has been trending globally for the past several years, there has been an unforeseen consequence from the micro distillery explosion. For 2018, the trend for consumers is to discover authentic whiskey’s made with artisanal grains. Whereas, American Whiskey’s are traditionally made with barley, wheat, corn, and rye… American distillers are reviving less used grains such as quinoa, oats, millet and most notably sorghum. These smaller producers are creating remarkable flavor profiles which are quickly growing in popularity.”

Calvados rising

Brian Means, bartender at Mina Group in San Francisco

“Expect to see more brandies on menus. Specifically cognac and calvados. They’re such versatile spirits and the last couple of years you’ve seen more affordable options like H by Hine Cognac and Drouin Coeur de Lion Selection Calvados hit the market.”

An emphasis on healthy cocktails

Rhachel Shaw, bar manager at Westbound in Los Angeles

“Lower ABV cocktails and “healthy” drinks. Green juices and veggies in your drinks. Get ready.”