Kimpton cocktails

What will be the “it” drink of 2020?

December 31, 2019
By Alana House

Nielsen has given its verdict on the top drinks trends for 2020, with seltzers, low-alcohol and premium spirits leading the forecast.

It predicts alcoholic seltzer – which finally hit Australian shores in early November with Lion’s Quincy – will continue to thrive, with the introduction of new flavours, packaging and formulas.

Quincy alcoholic seltzer

Alcoholic seltzer has been hugely popular in the US, however Nielsen said “growth rates for hard seltzer are unlikely to match those of summer 2019 [the drink’s growth peak in the States], as the base of business grows substantially.”

However, “we will see an increase in sub-segments of hard seltzers, focused on attributes like higher ABV, healthy ingredients and features, bolder flavors, and heightened product development and innovation around hard kombucha and hard coffee,” Nielsen noted. “These options won’t make as big of a punch as leading seltzers on the market today, but will attract a different type of consumer/drinker.”

It also sees strong growth for spirits sales, “building on an already upward trajectory.”

Nielsen believes that spirits growth in the off-trade will be boosted by whisk(e)y, tequila, cognac, RTDs, as well as Tito’s Handmade vodka – which is experiencing double-digit growth. Premium and ultra-premium segments will “continue to outpace the category at the expense of lower-price tiers”.

“Spirits have the advantage of a versatile product range with multiple drink types, flavours, styles and mixing opportunities,” Nielsen notes.

Similarly, it also predicts ready-to-drink cocktails will boom with a focus on “alternative packaging” and twists on traditional cocktail flavours.

It also notes the “rising popularity” of spritz-based cocktails, so watch out for “new takes on classic drinks” which will allow low-alcohol sherries, vermouths and sakés to shine.

Nielsen suggests “growth in the beer industry will focus on nearly everything but beer” as “brewers of all sizes will invest and innovate in ready-to-drink cocktails and even traditional spirit products.”

Additionally, “beer brands will continue to try to play in the space adjacent to cannabis through products that use hemp and emulate the olfactory experience of cannabis.”

Nielsen said wine won’t fare so well in the US.

“Table wine will face downward trends, with the biggest losses coming from lower-priced wine in bottles, as long as the economy continues to be healthy,” Nielsen writes.

However, the company does see a few bright spots: sparkling wine, “driven largely by Prosecco;” rosé; wines from New Zealand and Oregon “with potential also from Eastern European countries;” wines in cans and alternative packaging; wine spritzers and wine-based cocktails in cans; and wines that enter “into the health and wellness conversation, via lower ABV and biodynamic wine.”

Nielsen believes health and wellness may be among the biggest drinks trends of them all for 2020.

This shift will be led by younger generations and will impact drinking quantities and preferences,” it predicts. “Consumer desires will drive more transparency in labelling and supplier product innovations.”

As a result, expect one of these to be the alcoholic seltzer of 2020, according to Nielsen: lower ABV spirits/cordials; lower ABV ready-to-drink cocktails; lower ABV and lower calorie IPAs; alternative beverages with no/low sugar and carbs and other low-calorie options; non-alcoholic craft beers, “with major craft brewers starting to play in this space;” and active, lifestyle-oriented drinks.

Kimpton spotlights drinks trends for 2020

Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants’ sixth annual Culinary and Cocktail Trends Forecast predicts lower-alcohol spritzes will take center stage at bars in 2020.

Each year, the Kimpton Culinary and Cocktail Trends Forecast reveals the most anticipated and innovative flavours, ingredients, and philosophies that chefs and bartenders will explore in the year ahead.

Trends are uncovered through a survey of more than 130 chefs, sommeliers, general managers, and bartenders from more than 75 Kimpton restaurants and bars.

Kimpton cocktail trends

Influences from Mediterranean regions will shape bar menus according to 46% of respondents.

The industry will see light, refreshing, often low-alcohol spritzes all over bar menus in 2020. These lower sugar, crisper cocktails are the next evolution of the Spanish Gin & Tonic, which took over bars a few years ago.

Spritz culture will also affect coffee programs, according to nearly a third of respondents. Drinks like the Espresso Tonic will be requested all year round.

Grilled, roasted, and fire-blasted fruits, as well as tea-infused spirits and syrups, also rose to the top of the trending ingredients in this year’s forecast, with bitter vermouths and wine as cocktail ingredients as runner ups.

Aromatic (inedible) garnishes were cited as one of the up-and-coming trends bartenders are most excited to experiment with in the coming year. Examples include spice sachets with cloves and allspice, burning sticks of wood, or even absorbent, scented squares of paper clipped to glassware.

Expect to see the rise of alternative-grain spirits like Baiju, Shōchū, and Soju—spirits that originated in China, Japan, and Korea, respectively.

Mezcal will continue to dominate in 2020, with more than a third of respondents choosing it as the predicted spirit of choice next year. Bartenders are having fun with the smoky spirit and using it to reimagine traditional cocktails in unexpected ways. For example, one Kimpton bartender pairs mezcal with rum, macadamia orgeat, La Colombe espresso, and caramelized pineapple for a smoky, sweet, rich cocktail.

Whiskey highballs — a trend largely driven by the popularity of lighter Japanese whiskeys — are predicted to gain a cult following next year, followed closely by alcoholic seltzers and the return of the Paloma.

This drink is most commonly prepared by mixing tequila, lime juice, and a grapefruit-flavored soda, served on the rocks with a lime wedge.

Botanical-infused sparkling drinks is cited as the non-alcoholic trend bartenders will most likely experiment with, followed up by alcohol-free spirits and up-leveled teas with exotic fruit flavors like guanabana, lulo, and passionfruit.


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