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Emerging alco-beverage trends in 2021

We have the rare opportunity to reset in 2021.  To move forward with practices that will allow the industry to re-emerge stronger than before, and to leave behind habits that are no longer serving for the better

As the clock struck midnight on December 31st, 2020, it signified a time to bundle up our learnings from the year before, and step forward, wiser, into 2021.  There are still many challenges that lie ahead, but the alco-beverage industry has proven to be both adaptable and resilient. So, let’s take a look at some trends that will be gathering momentum this year.

cocktail serves

Industry trends

Digital everything

Menus, payments, reviews, stock take, you name it.  The hospitality industry is progressively adopting digital as we look to reduce contactable surfaces and use technology to our advantage.  Not only is digital a great way to get up-to-date information to guests or colleagues quickly, efficiently, and safely, but it also saves on wastage. Time, printing ink and paper is readily saved by using QR codes to link directly to the online version. While we are still in the nascent phase with digital hospitality, I expect some incredible innovation in this sphere over the year.

Food and drink experiences

Beverages are becoming increasingly important as restaurants see the value that cocktails can add to their menus.  A cocktail that pairs perfectly with a dish provide guests with a new and memorable experience and this is now becoming a great way to generate an additional revenue stream.

Both consumers and the industry are looking for ways they can create a holistic dining experience where flavours work harmoniously between the meal and the drink. Given the number of chefs and bartenders hosting online masterclasses, you can now create restaurant-worthy food and drink pairings in your own home with ease.

Community collaboration

Chefs collaborating with bartenders. Bartenders collaborating with beekeepers. Community outreach programs supplying products to venues. Community collaboration is growing rapidly across both online and local platforms.

The movement towards digital sharing has also meant an increase in creative resources available. Where you once may have only discovered new techniques or ingredients at the venue, there is now a wealth of inspiration available on social media.

Johnnie Walker Black Label

Consumer trends

Mindful drinking

As consumers become more educated on how much and what they are drinking, the industry is embracing this movement by increasing offerings of no- and low-alcoholic serves.

This presents a new and exciting challenge for bartenders to recreate cocktails without the spirits they would often rely on to hero the serve. No longer will the designated driver sip boring juice. Instead, bartenders are finding ways to make the creative flavours and appearance found in cocktails available to those who choose not to drink alcohol.

Drinking at home

It became quickly apparent that cocktails were an enjoyable experience that was sorely missed when bars were closed. This yearning to recreate the feeling brought on by well-made cocktails directed consumers to upskill and learn how to make their favourite serves themselves. 

Having a plethora of talented bartenders at home also saw a rise in online cocktail masterclasses. Brands are now taking consumers on virtual distillery tours too, so there is no shortage of ways to experience cocktails and spirits in new ways, right from your living room.

Liquids that transport you

With the reduction in the ability to travel, brands are creating liquids that will allow you to experience the flavours of a region from the comfort of your own home.

Where Johnnie Walker Black Label is an award-winning blend of scotch from the four corners of Scotland, the Johnnie Walker Black Label Origin Series hones in on each of the key regions to showcase flavours from distilleries in that area.  The Speyside edition, featuring malt whisky from Cardhu and Glendullan distillery is a glorious expression of traditional flavours of Speyside – bright pears and apples with honey sweetness. 

If the flavours of Speyside tickle your fancy, then Copper Dog is a dram you should be drinking.  Recently launched in India, Copper Dog combines malts from eight Speyside distilleries to create a full flavour, yet approachable scotch.  Try it in a Ginger Dog or Apple Dog serve.

Copper Dog cocktail

Ginger Dog

Ingredients:

  • 50ml Copper Dog
  • 150ml ginger ale

Method:

Combine ingredients in an ice-filled highball glass and garnish with an orange slice.

lowland honey old fashioned

Lowland Honey Old Fashioned

Ingredients:

  • 60ml Johnnie Walker Origins Series Lowland
  • 10ml honey syrup
  • 2 dashes aromatic bitters

Method:

Add all ingredients into an ice-filled mixing glass and stir for 20-30 seconds. Pour over fresh ice in a rocks glass and garnish with an orange twist

Trending for another year

Sustainable practices

Certainly not a new trend, but sustainability will continue to be front of mind in 2021.  As a way to offset the increased single-use packaging from deliveries and new safety measures, the hospitality industry is putting its creative might towards minimising the carbon footprint of operating.

Items that were often thrown out are being used to make new and innovative ingredients. Coffee grinds can be converted into liqueurs, spent citrus husks can be made into syrups. Bartenders are looking at making the most of each and every raw ingredient they work with.

However, it is not only ingredients that are being looked at through a sustainable lens, Diageo is due to release the world’s first 100 per cent plastic-free bottle to house the iconic Johnnie Walker Black Label later this year.

Whether it is sourcing locally, reducing waste, or using biodegradable packaging, the alco-bev industry is committed to giving back more than we take from the environment.

Scotch Highballs

I spoke about Scotch Highballs in my 2020 trend predictions, and I will do it again for 2021.  Bright, bubbly and with endless combinations, the Highball is for everyone. It can be created in its simplest form of scotch and fizzy water or can be experimented with complex cordials or flavoured syrups.

Highballs are here to stay as the serve provides the ideal way to enjoy a dram at any time of day.

Below are some of my favourite highball recipes, but I give you full creative license to experiment here.  In all recipes, I recommend using plenty of good quality ice to ensure your highballs are kept cool and refreshing.

johnnie and peach highball

Johnnie Walker Peach Highball

Ingredients:

  • 50ml Johnnie Walker Red Label
  • 50ml peach tea (chilled)
  • 100ml soda water

Method:

Combine ingredients in an ice-filled highball glass and garnish with slices of peach or a sprig of mint.

Responsible drinking

Finally, an important and enduring trend that has been increasing in recent years is responsible drinking. Premiumisation and consumption habits of Millennials and Gen Z is moving consumers to choose quality over quantity when it comes to liquor. Brands are also placing increased importance on consuming alcohol responsibly by adding gamification to positive drinking messages. The recently-launched Balance Challenge (#thebalancechallenge) spearheaded by global cocktailian Lauren Mote was an engaging activity that not only reminded of the importance of drinking water in place of alcoholic beverages, but also raised money for Water Aid to continue their mission to provide clean drinking water all over the world.

Whether you are experimenting with cocktails at home, ordering from your favourite venues, or able to visit in person, 2021 will be about appreciating the enjoyment that can be brought by a well-made drink and ensuring we set ourselves up to enjoy responsibly for many years to come. Remember to visit DrinkIQ to know more.

Eavonne Eadie
A hospitality industry veteran with over 12 years of experience, Evonne Eadie is a WSET qualified spirits trainer and the Diageo National Reserve Brand Ambassador

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