Another year, another look into the future of the liquiverse. A good deal of my predictions for cocktail culture in 2010 were spot-on (I had no idea NYC would be getting three high-profile tiki bars when I wrote that post), so I'm feeling a little pressure this year, like I'm some kind of oracle. See Spice & Ice author Kara Newman's projected trends here, NY Barfly's crystal ball-gazing here, About.com's list of cocktail trends from around the world, and read about predictions for a mild increase in bar sales for 2011 here. Here's what I'm expecting from the NYC scene and beyond:
- Micro goes macro: In 2010, we saw Tuthilltown Distillery''s Hudson Whiskey line go worldwide with acquisition, marketing and distribution by the UK-based William Grant & Sons. The sale was considered a giant leap for the craft distilling movement as larger brands took notice. I'm guessing we'll continue to see small batch spirits take on more of the market this year.
- Bartender-owned bars: Word on the street is a number of high-profile bartenders are saving their pennies to open the bars of their dreams this year. In late 2010, The Drink, an all-punch nautical-themed bar in Williamsburg, was opened by a team including veteran bartender Frank Cisneros of Dram. Expect to see more of these rec-room-style bars serving crafty drinks--or, bartender's bars, if you will.
- Cocktails on tap: We've seen wine on draft, and as previously mentioned, mixologists are readying for alcohol-infused libations from the soda gun. El Cobre on Avenue A is serving Dark & Stormies on tap with Gosling's Black Seal Rum, lime and CO2. In San Francisco, Fernet (which flows like water there) is on tap at a couple of bars. It's only a matter of time before NYC gets fizzy with this trend.
- The punch bowl floweth: This is already old news in NYC, but I'm excited to see how other cities adopt this trend. I'm also hoping we see a wider variety of punch bowl sets on store shelves. However, I'm not too keen on the idea of drinking out of giant flamingo fountains--that just sounds unsanitary.
- Wood works: Whether barrel-aged cocktails are embraced beyond drink nerds or not, one thing is for sure--experimentation with various cooperage is a continuing trend. In 2010, for instance, we saw Excellia Tequila finished in Cognac casks and Maker's 46, featuring original Maker's Mark finished in barrels with staves of seared French Oak.
- Live entertainment: Expanding on 2010's love affair with piano bars, I wouldn't be surprised to see more cocktail bars adding vintage music, vaudeville and other shenanigans to the menu, with customers sporting more sophisticated attire to match.
- Anyone can be a mixologist: As educational programs teaching the craft of cocktail-making and organizations such as the USBG continue to go mainstream, more and more amateurs are finding the confidence to make complicated drinks. Some "bar-tweenies" could use more training. Of course, just like anything else, only the strong will survive--but the opportunity to get schooled is there.