From vermouth to high volume: Cocktail trends for 2018

Some of Vancouver’s top bartenders give their thoughts on what’ll be hot next year

Glass straws will be seen more widely as bars strive toward more sustainable practices. The Last Straw Co. photo
Glass straws will be seen more widely as bars strive toward more sustainable practices. The Last Straw Co. photo

Raise your glass to the end of 2017, a year that brought us one disaster after another, from raging wildfires to the near-daily perp walk of sexual predators. Between all that and the inescapability of frosé, it’s a year we’re mostly happy to forget.

And so we look forward to 2018. We checked in with some of the city’s top bartenders to discover what’s shaking for the New Year.

Sustainability

Bartenders are embracing eco-friendly practices in everything from replacing inefficient ice machines to reducing food waste, sourcing locally and banishing single-use products.

“At both the local and the international level, the focus on sustainability as not just a tangible thing but a mindset is continuing to be the most important trend,” says Lauren Mote, Diageo Reserve & World Class Global Cocktailian and co-owner of Bittered Sling.

“Bartenders are making real, impactful change.”

Justin Taylor, general manager of The Cascade Room, suggests that a good way to start is by targeting disposable products, especially straws.

“The elimination of single-use plastic straws from our bars and restaurants can have a monumental positive global effect,” says Taylor, who uses the glass straws sold by B.C.-based The Last Straw Co.

“It’s really where people are going,” says David Wolowidnyk, who is currently tending bar at Resurrection Spirits. “It’s less of a trend, and more of a movement.”

High-volume cocktails

Expect to see more and more big-batch cocktails, keg cocktails and cocktails on tap.

“The high volume of a keg cocktail allows for speed, consistency and a more aggressive pricing,” says Marc Slingsby-Jones, bar manager at Café Medina. “While there will always be a place for well-made, handcrafted cocktails, this trend makes cocktail drinking more casual and more accessible to people.”

Healthy(ish) drinks

Cocktails really will be good for what ails you as they’ll be made with healthy ingredients like kombucha, cold-pressed juices, acai and turmeric, Slingsby-Jones says. More importantly, we’re seeing more and more low- and no-alcohol cocktails that are still bursting with flavour and complexity.

“At UVA, we’ve dedicated an entire section of our cocktail menu to low-proof cocktails,” says Sabrine Dhaliwal, bar manager at UVA Wine & Cocktail Bar.

Odd Society Spirits makes one of the few local vermouths in B.C. Odd Society Spirits photo
Odd Society Spirits makes one of the few local vermouths in B.C. Odd Society Spirits photo

Vermouth

Related to the popularity of low-proof cocktails: the return of vermouth.

No longer a bit player in martinis and manhattans, the bittersweet aromatized wine has soared in popularity. Expect to see it enjoyed over ice with a twist, the way it is in Europe. Also expect to see more and more in-house vermouths made with local botanicals.

Culinary cocktails

Culinary techniques in cocktails are not a new trend, but there will be more chef-bartender collaborations in 2018.

“A focus on front and back of house working together is key,” says Mote.

And, as culinary skills improve, more bars will create their own garnishes, bitters, syrups, preserves and infusions.

“The more creativity we can have here will separate a great bar program from a good one,” Taylor says.

Hospitality

“The way I see the culture of bartending and how it fits in with today’s world is pretty old fashioned,” says Jay Jones, beverage and media director for Vij’s Group.

“We provide a service – an escape, a celebration, an indulgence. I’ve been fighting for sincere hospitable care to not just be a trend, but the reason we step behind the bar, every single time. Love what you do, be a professional, and do it all for your guest.”

Social awareness

After a year of unprecedented revelations about harassment and abuse in the hospitality industry, social awareness will be a major focus for bars and restaurants in 2018.

“For too long, sexual-natured slanderous jokes have been let slide because it’s ‘just the industry,’” says Grant Sceney, creative beverage director for Fairmont Pacific Rim.

“I think there will be more open dialogue about what is and what isn’t OK in the workplace.”

—by Joanne Sasvari

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