Sip & Savor The Future – Exploring Trends and Tantalizing Pairings in Innovative Craft Cocktails

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Article contributed by Joy Pouros, Culinary Software Services


Bars have long been part of the social fabric of America. While they are most commonly a place for friends to relax and socialize, they’re also a casual setting for meetings – the Boston Tea Party was planned at a tavern.

While bars are long standing institutions, what they serve has evolved over the years. Cocktails were first created in the 1800s, but really came into their own during prohibition, when fruit juice and other mixers helped disguise the poor quality of bootlegged alcohol.

In the mid to late 1900s, quality and artistry came second to convenience and mass production, as it was with microwave meals. But by the early 2000s, artisanal drinks were back in style, and craft cocktails have surged in popularity since then.

  • McKee Foodservice Sunbelt Bakery
  • AHF National Conference 2024
  • BelGioioso Burrata
  • Inline Plastics
  • Day & Nite
  • RATIONAL USA
  • RAK Porcelain
  • Atosa USA
  • AyrKing Mixstir
  • T&S Brass Eversteel Pre-Rinse Units
  • DAVO by Avalara
  • Easy Ice
  • Epiq Global Payment Card Settlement
  • Imperial Dade
  • Simplot Frozen Avocado

This resurgence reflects a broader cultural move towards appreciating authenticity, uniqueness, and artistry in the culinary realm. Today, the experience economy, social media, and other trends keep bars innovating to keep their patrons coming back.

What Pairs With A Good Time?

Wine has been paired with food for centuries. Historically, the pairing was relatively simple. Regional wine was paired with the locally produced food.

Here, science supports tradition. Research consistently shows that wine selection can improve the dining experience. Pairing spirits and cocktails with food is a natural evolution.

A good pairing isn’t only based on flavors, though that is a major component. There are other factors at play and the overall consumer satisfaction depends on the full experience.

Ambiance plays a big role in the overall consumer experience. This encompasses lighting, music, furnishing, and decor and how it interplays with the food and drink options available.

This multi-sensory experience impacts the consumer perception and behavior. Studies show that lighting changes how consumers perceive a wine’s sweetness and influences how fast they eat.

Aromas and presentation are other attributes that contribute to a multi-sensory experience. The same drink in a mason jar versus delicate stemware creates a different experience for patrons.

An exotic fruit garnish can make a relatively basic cocktail feel much more upscale.

95% of cognition is subconscious, meaning consumers are making decisions without consciously weighing rational pros and cons. The art of mixology is always evolving to meet consumer preferences.

Let’s take a look at how the industry interacts with consumer trends today.

Gen Z and Craft Cocktails

Gen Z is growing up, and they enjoy experimentation, valuing the unique aspects of a bar experience beyond just the drinks.

For them, it’s not only about the beverage but also the perfect fusion of good food, entertaining vibes, and an inviting ambiance – or, ideally, a combination of all three.

They are not easily swayed by traditional critics or ratings; their preferences are guided more by the opinions and experiences of their personal circles, either online or in real life.

They are the digitally native generation. Social media affects their choices in two ways – they are influenced to try what they see on their favorite apps, and they seek out things that will look good or contribute to the image they are curating with their own posts.

What they post is a reflection of who they are or how they want to be perceived. Craft cocktails fit neatly in their social-media-friendly lifestyle.

Location as Inspiration

With an increased interest in trying new things, the industry is seeing an increase in international drinks appearing on menus and in tasting flights.

Global influence isn’t anything new, though. Many common cocktails are the result of global cultural exchanges. Mai Tais are a mix of Pacific Island flavors; gin and tonics originated in India.

Margaritas came from Mexico, and are often the drink of choice at Mexican restaurants around the United States.

Location inspiration also contributes to the multisensory experience, as consumers seek to have a more authentic experience when eating ethnic foods.

Inspiration can strike locally just as well as internationally. Farm to table doesn’t just apply to food – there’s an increased interest in drinks where the ingredients can be traced locally.

That may apply to produce used, like the Cucumber Collins in California, or the local distillery. How can you not order bourbon when visiting Kentucky?

Drinking Sustainably

Local ingredients also support another consumer trend – sustainability. This is one component of the recent surge in “mindful drinking,” where individuals are more intentional about what and how much they drink.

Using regional and seasonal ingredients minimizes the carbon footprint required to ship and store items. Reducing the amount of single-use items, such as disposable plastic stirrers or cocktail picks, reduces plastic production and the amount of trash in landfills.

Eco-friendly practices can also include sourcing local ingredients or creating zero-waste cocktails. Zero-waste cocktails get the maximum usage out of ingredients For instance, food based garnishes that are not edible, like twists, can be replaced with dehydrated fruit.

The new garnish  is both edible and has a longer shelf-life than fresh fruit, reducing the odds it will wind up in the trash. Excess fruit can be used for infusions and leftover wine can be used in the kitchen for sauces.

These are just a few examples of how to make the most of every ingredient to reduce waste.

These sustainable practices are better for the environment, align with consumer values, and often also have a positive impact on the bottom line. There’s no downside to less waste.

Something for Everyone: Inclusivity and Diversity

Consumer allergies and dietary restrictions are increasing. Close to 32 million Americans have a food allergy, and that does not account for individuals who avoid certain ingredients for health or lifestyle reasons.

Young adults increasingly describe their diet as gluten-free, low or no carb, dairy free, or vegetarian. Of course, best practices should be observed when it comes to cross contamination, but bars can do better.

Instead of viewing this as an annoyance to be worked around, bars can view this as an opportunity to be inclusive and welcoming to more people.

Establishments increase their audience by being clear in their descriptions so there are no unpleasant surprises and by offering drinks that comply with various restrictions.

The result is friends can gather and be confident that everyone in their group can find something they’ll be able to drink. This includes drinks without alcohol at all.

Raise a Glass to Mocktails

Gen Z is drinking less than Millennials, who are drinking less than previous generations. Today’s consumers are focused on health and mindfulness.

Dry January challenges have millions of participants around the world, many who end the month realizing they have more energy and feel generally better.

They don’t all become teetotalers afterward, but many are choosing to cut back on their alcohol consumption and be more mindful of their drinking.

That doesn’t mean they want to be left out though!

Mocktails are the perfect solution – all the flavor and fun without the hangover. Innovative mocktails, complete with garnishes and flavor, are still postable on social media.

Mocktails allow consumers who do not want to imbibe a way to live their desired lifestyle without sacrificing the ambiance and experience they desire.

Crafting the Next Pour

The alcoholic beverage industry is being transformed by the trends and preferences of today’s young adults. These young consumers are increasingly looking for drinks that fit their lifestyle and values.

Patrons are more eco-conscious, while also valuing experiences. Whether local or global flavors are on the menu, they appreciate how it affects the overall experience.

Consumers are increasingly practicing mindful drinking, scrutinizing how their drink choices affect their health or image.

All these trends combined result in a strong preference for drinks that accommodate dietary restrictions or preferences, establishments that engage in sustainable practices, and multisensory experiences that are fit for social media.

It might be a tall order, but businesses who meet their expectations will thrive.


Joy Pouros works as the authority writer in the Training department at Culinary Software Services, where she writes on topics as diverse as human resource issues to increasing profits.

Joy entered the industry working as a Nutritional Aide in the Chicagoland area before moving into writing and consulting.

Joy now specializes in marketing and public relations and writes for a variety of industries.

  • RATIONAL USA
  • AHF National Conference 2024
  • AyrKing Mixstir
  • Inline Plastics
  • BelGioioso Burrata
  • Day & Nite
  • T&S Brass Eversteel Pre-Rinse Units
  • Easy Ice
  • RAK Porcelain
  • Simplot Frozen Avocado
  • Atosa USA
  • Epiq Global Payment Card Settlement
  • McKee Foodservice Sunbelt Bakery
  • DAVO by Avalara
  • Imperial Dade
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