Simon Hopkins, bar manager at one of our favourite Sydney burger joints, Surly’s Bar & Grill, has offered his predictions on the – literally – hot cocktail trends for 2019.
Surly’s is a Tennessee-inspired dive bar in Surry Hills that serves up an impressive array of whiskeys and house-smoked meats in addition to burgers and fries.
Hopkins recently partnered with Tabasco for its 150th anniversary to create a Smoked Jalapeno Margarita and a Chili Chocolate Old Fashioned for the occasion, with the Margarita even landing a permanent spot on the Surly’s menu.
Here’s what he had to say about the trends in spirits.
What were the top cocktail and spirit trends of 2018?
Locally sourced and zero waste ingredients. The whole trash tiki and sustainability moment has really taken hold in the industry, bars create a lot of waste, we need to be more conscious of that and try to minimise it.
What was the most popular cocktail on your menu over the past year?
Our smoked jalapeño margarita, which utilises either habanero or chipotle Tabasco sauce for the customers. It has a desired flavour profile blends really well with a good reposado tequila, fresh lime juice, chilli salt and agave nectar. It’s refreshing but has a kick, and is great to cleanse the palette after some greasy food.
What cocktail trends do you see emerging in 2019?
Low ABV and No ABV cocktails – people want to enjoy their night for longer or enjoy a drink without the after effects.
Are Australian tastes in cocktails changing?
The Australian palette is getting more and more sophisticated, the level of cocktails being served are at a world class level and the consumer is reaping the benefits of that.
What’s your favourite spirit to work with and why?
Bourbon, hands down. There are some amazing American whiskies to work with. Woodford Reserve for instance has over 200 detectable flavours, so it’s just about what you want to pull out of it.
What was the personal mixology highlight of the past 12 months for you?
I came in second at the Woodford Reserve Australia Cocktail Competition (pictured main and above) after winning the state final. I was competing against people I have looked up too in the industry for a long time, so wining really meant a lot to me.