A glimpse into the evolution of cocktail trends

Cocktail Drink with Olive in it

By Roseline Victoria Vijayakumar

In the wake of the pandemic, restaurants have intensified their efforts to offer patrons a sense of normalcy, while at the same time surprising them with exciting new concoctions. The recent resurgence of classic recipes with unique flavour combinations and the return of retro cocktails such as espresso martinis and highballs depict the evolution of cocktail trends. 

Ready to Drink (RTD) cocktails are in vogue due to their adherence to quality and the convenience offered. Creative Beverage director Grant Sceney from the Botanist Restaurant in Vancouver says, “RTDs are not detrimental to quality as the attention to detail is the same. If anything, it is more consistent. In most bars now, there’s a lot more work behind the scenes and as craft cocktails take a long time, the RTD evolution speeds up service.”

LCBO’s 2023 Q1 quarterly update states that RTDs account for 12 per cent of the reported $1.5 billion in alcohol sales. Among these, seltzers, sodas and coolers account for 36 per cent of RTD sales, while pre-mixed cocktails, light coolers and cocktail coolers make up 18 per cent. Top-selling RTDs include Cottage Springs, White Claw, Twisted Tea, Mott’s, Black Fly and Mike’s Hard. A market-analysis report from California-based Grand View Research projects that the global RTD cocktails market will grow at a compounded rate of 14 per cent from 2023 to USD$2.4 million by 2030.

Millennials, who comprise the majority of the RTD market, seek flavourful yet low-sugar options, leading to a surge in demand for RTDs emphasizing natural ingredients and unique refreshing flavours. Herbal, botanical and citrus flavours are gaining traction for their subtle sweetness and perceived health benefits.

During the holidays, restaurants are abuzz with customers eager to indulge in seasonal delights. The Botanist offers a curated selection of specialty cocktails rich in seasonal flavours, including spiked eggnog, mulled cider, gingerbread Old Fashioned and hot buttered rum. 

It’s evident the focus has shifted from the ingredients to new and innovative techniques. Restaurants now offer immersive drinking and convention-free experiences. Mixologists showcase their creative side by infusing classic methods with a touch of the modern by using vinegar, distillates, shrubs and cordials to enhance the sourness of drinks, often re-purposing typically discarded ingredients such as citrus rinds, avocado pits and pineapple husks for inventive cocktails. 

“It’s been an ongoing trend where the culinary approach has sometimes focused on theatrics,” says Sceney. “However, people are delving more into the way chefs work. We need more culinary approaches in terms of flavour compounds and what is added to the drink.”

The strong hand of premiumization is evident, along with a wave of eco-conscious consumers who value transparent sourcing, environmentally friendly practices and the unique narratives behind brands. This mindful drinking trend is not just a movement but a lifestyle that has driven ethical and sustainable practices, especially in the beverage sector. 

The beverage alcohol industry stands at the cusp of a spirited revolution with the magic of the perfect sip resting in the ethos behind the cocktail. Many bartenders now focus on zero-waste practices, ensuring that every element serves a purpose. As Sceney puts it, “Our restaurant is called Botanist, and it’s focused on the elements around us. It’s not just whipping something up and putting it together; there’s a lot of thought put into each cocktail prepared, ensuring nothing goes to waste.”

In this new era of mixology, trend-setting innovations and eco-consciousness will continue to shape the way we raise our glasses, transforming every sip into a narrative to relish.

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