Hush now ‘Dry January’ – as February appears on the horizon it’s high time we all started thinking about what we’re going to make our drink of choice for 2014.
If 2013 was the year of the Negroni and Aperol Spritz then 2014 is set to offer drinks-lovers a brand new wave of exciting discoveries. Our client, Simon Weston, co-founder of bottled aged PONTOON cocktails, has worked in the cocktail industry for 15 years and has counted Chivas, Absolut, Campari, Belvedere, Hennessey and Dom Pérignon amongst his clients – and he has also shared with us his definitive guide to which boozy trends we can expect over the next year.
Make sure to let us know if you try them….
Mise en Place
Waiting ten minutes for a cocktail is nobody’s idea of fun, so expect to see bars using a variety of techniques to speed things up. From serving punch (The Punch Room, London Edition Hotel), bottling cocktails ahead of service (White Lyan), using draught systems (Soho Diner), barreled ageing (The Artesian Bar at The Langham Hotel), and even carbonating.
But this isn’t just about expediting service – many of these techniques are fundamentally affecting the liquids themselves. Take bottling for example; time in glass results in a richer, more complex, better-integrated drink when compared to a freshly made counterpart. Tony Conigliaro has been quietly opening vintage Manhattans at 69 Colebrook Row for many years, and at PONTOON we run the only commercial aging programme, with four different cocktails conditioned in glass that you can enjoy at home, complete with tasting notes.
These days, even with a recent backlash against pretention, just a well-made drink is not enough. Expect bars to continue to emulate progressive restaurateurs like Heston Blumenthal and Grant Achatz by enhancing the consumption experience. London leads with bars like Zetter Townhouse and Worship Street Whistling Shop joined by The Talented Mr Fox – a Pop Up at One Leicester Street Hotel where their ‘Urban Foxtail’ is served in a mini wheelie bin.
Bars will continue to push drinkers’ tolerance of bitter. Bitters are to cocktails what seasoning is to food – they can heighten or subdue flavours, add depth and provide balance. Often they are the difference between a good drink and a great drink.
We saw Aperol explode last year, and this year will see the inexorable march of Fernet Branca into the mainstream. You’ll see oddities like Malört from Sweden (by way of Chicago) and great bitters like Unicum. But it won’t be all loud and brash – expect to see the gentle Suze creeping into White Negronis.
Expect the Esoteric
Last year The Robin Collective gave us Churchill Bitters, made with moisture extracted from the walls of the cabinet war rooms and used to create the War Room Martini at the Hyatt Regency Hotel. This year watch out for Ambergris, a rare and expensive ingredient more common as a fixative in perfume. Produced in the digestive system of sperm whales, sweet, musky, marine and white truffle rich, it finds a home in The Moby Dick Sazerac at White Lyan.
There is life beyond the Pickleback, wherein a shot of whiskey is chased by a shot of pickle brine which is said to neutralise both the taste and burn of the whiskey . Expect to see more vinegar chasers, Shrubs and Thai drinking vinegars. Even brewers are crafting fragrant and really sour beers.
The new artisan hobby horse; expect a house made vermouth explosion to rival the craft bitters. Look for wonderful small batch products like Spiced English Vermouth made with organic wormwood from Somerset, organic thyme from the New Forest, English wine from Three Choirs Vineyard in Gloucestershire. The Bristol-based The Ethicurean have also created their own blend using English wine mixed with own caramel and herbs from the walled garden.
With the 2014 Football World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics watch out for any drinks inspired by Central and South America – especially Brazil – expect Cachaca and the classic Caipirinha to be massive.
Gin flies still. Enduring stalwarts like Beefeater continue to be joined by innumerable boutique siblings – Chase, Portobello, Sacred, Sipsmith and Dodd’s to name but a few. Expect more pop ups, gin safaris, nano-distillers and limited editions.
Animal, Vegetable and Mineral
We have had fat washing, whereby a spirit is infused with the flavor of a certain fat, and everything vegetable continues to grow, but watch for stone rested cocktails, house mineral waters and terrior distillates – thanks Tony Conigliaro.
This year, everyone who is anyone will own a Yarai mixing glass and trident spoon. Bartenders’ tools will start to creep into the home thanks to purveyors like cocktailkingdom.com.
Don’t yawn – this is Science 2.0 – ‘Molecular Mixology’ has been left in the wake of the practical and progressive. Bars will use liquid nitrogen to instantly deep chill glasses, centrifuges to ultra clarify, and 1500-degree electrical hot pokers to set your drinks on fire like Booker & Dax in NYC.