Cocktail Trends Past & Future

We at Downtime Cocktails are always on the lookout for new inspiration, innovation, and ingenuity when it comes to creating cocktail recipes with Batch 22. Part of that process involves looking at what people are drinking these days—what they like for ingredients, preparations, and presentations, and what they are likely to favor in the future.  

Now that we’re firmly into 2023, it feels like a good time to take a look back at the biggest cocktail trends of 2022 (as far as we can tell) and also take a crack at predicting some of the emerging trends for 2023.

A group of friends holding mixed drinks

The big news from last year—according to Imbibe Magazine and other prominent beverage sources—involved Negronis, Chartreuse, and the continuing popularity of mezcal. Of the twenty most-searched cocktail recipes on the Imbibe site, five were actually some form of Negroni. Many were creative riffs on the classic recipe (bubbly Negroni, a sour Negroni, even one with Campari and star anise), and others were more straightforward substitutions of one spirit for another (subbing bourbon for gin, for example). Chartreuse figured into three of the top-searched recipes; this old-school French liqueur is notable for its herbal, floral, and spice character as well as its striking green or yellow color. Tequila’s smoky sister, mezcal, figured into three of the top cocktails at Imbibe as well. Those recipes, like many others, mostly take classic tequila cocktails and introduce a smoky element by subbing mezcal for tequila. Smoke was a definite trend that stayed strong in 2022—everything from smoking domes for cocktails to smoked salts to fat-washing with smoky bacon or pork belly.

Other databases confirmed many of the general trends identified by Imbibe. According to Google, the top ten most-searched cocktails included three variations of martini (Lemon Drop, Dirty, and Espresso), Negroni (at #5), a hot toddy, and a few tropical drinks. Topping the list was the Aperol Spritz, a simple and relatively light concoction highlighting the citrusy, herbal qualities of the classic Italian bitter aperitif.

A quick survey of other trendwatchers, including Food & Wine Magazine, Punch, VinePair, and Tasting Table, back up the notion that Negronis, martinis, and classic cocktail ingredients like Campari, Aperol, and Chartreuse dominated the taste buds of crafty and creative drinkers in 2022.

So what do we think is on the horizon for 2023? In truth, it’s anyone’s guess, but here are five predictions we’d like to make, based on limited data, our own hopes and dreams, and—well—general gut feelings (hey, it’s better than nuthin’).

  1. Tea makes a big comeback. Adding tea to cocktails is not a new thing, it’s been done since Colonial times, but it’s starting to gain favor once again. Teas offer a great way to add flavor and aroma without adding sweetness, so they offer a great balance when using liqueurs, simple syrups, and other sweet elements.
  2. Coffee continues its ascendance.  Goodbye Red Bull, hello classic caffeine. Before tea started its comeback, coffee was already finding its way into tons of cocktails, especially the ever-popular Espresso Martini. In 2023, more coffee-infused cocktails will appear and will solidify the use of coffee as a go-to ingredient (we’ve infused Batch 22 with fresh espresso beans, and it’s stupendous).
  3. Negronis on tap. This isn’t so much a prediction as an observation of what’s already happening. This classic cocktail is so popular with drinkers that many bars and restaurants are batching large quantities and putting it on tap. Composed of gin, sweet vermouth, and Campari, the Negroni is a perfect make-ahead crowd-pleaser (Sub Batch 22 for the gin and you’ve got a Batchroni, which we contend will please the crowd even more.).
  4. BarrelAged Expressions of Everything: Barrel aging has made its way into almost every corner of the beverage industry. Originally confined to whiskey, bourbon, and other brown liquors, barrel aging became a rage in the craft beer industry and then took off with all kinds of other spirits, including gin and vodka. In the year to come, more barrel-aged spirits will surely play leading roles in cocktail recipes.
  5. Aquavit Will Become the “New Gin.” Okay, this may be more wishful thinking than actual prognostication, but we’re not alone in thinking (and hoping) this may happen. Popular cocktail influencer, The Educated Barfly, contemplated this idea in 2022, but called aquavit “gin’s Scandinavian cousin,” way back in 2017. In 2021, VinePair ran an article that said aquavit is a substitute for gin that can anchor a “plethora of classic cocktails,” and lots of spirits sources make the obvious comparison between gin and aquavit; both are neutral grain spirits infused with botanicals and spices of one sort or another. Gin has juniper; aquavit has caraway. We happen to know firsthand how well aquavit substitutes for gin in a whole host of cocktails, so this is a message we are very enthusiastic about promoting!

Whichever trends you decide to follow in the coming year, we hope you’ll embrace a spirit of adventure, creativity, and excitement when it comes to choosing your cocktails. The possibilities for delicious innovation are literally limitless, and we look forward to exploring many of them with you in 2023. Cheers!

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