As we enter 2024, we all want to know what the big drinks trends of the year are going to be. Calum Anderson, drinks development manager at Escapism Bars, which owns nine unique venues across Leeds, Manchester and Liverpool, gives us his insights on the trends he thinks will be huge in the sector this year.
The big trends of 2024
Sustainable cocktails have been a growing trend over the last few years and this will continue in 2024.
Creating cocktails in a sustainable way is all about reducing waste and make a concerted effort to reuse and repurpose ingredients that would otherwise have been thrown away. In some of our venues we have been reusing coffee grinds to make delicious coffee infusions, reusing citrus husks to make zingy cordials and repurposing oxidised wines to make syrups, reductions and aromatised wines.
As public awareness of animal welfare and the climate crisis grows, I think we’ll also see a surge in popularity of vegan cocktails, and there are now plenty of brilliant vegan alternatives of classic cocktail ingredients like eggs and dairy.
Consumers are also becoming more health conscious and more aware of the amount of units of alcohol they consume on their night outs, so I think the low and no sector will continue to grow to meet this change in habit.
There are plenty of great non-alcoholic cocktails and ingredients to choose from now, which will help fuel this movement more.
Finally, I have also seen the use of East Asian flavours like makrut lime, yuzu and lemongrass increase recently, and while these flavours are far from new, they are becoming more popular in bartending circles. Rightly so too, as they add a wonderful exotic complexity to drinks.
The categories set to grow in popularity
We have all witnessed the second gin craze first hand, and over the last few years gin sales have exploded in the UK with some incredible new liquids and expressions emerging as well as, inevitably, some which are probably best left unmentioned.
The question now is, what will be the next big thing?
Many people in the know have pointed to rum, and particularly to the spiced and flavoured category. We are already seeing this happen and sales from our rum selections are up across our different sites.
Another growing category is agave spirits, as consumers are gradually realising that Tequila isn’t necessarily that awful stuff you used to drink at uni. Quality Tequila is complex, refined and can hold its own against fine whiskies and brandies for sipping, whilst also being versatile enough to be used in a wide range of mixed drinks.
The growing appreciation of Tequila nationally also naturally leads to consumers becoming more open to tasting other agave spirits, such as its smoky cousin Mezcal or even more niche and less understood spirits like Sotol and Raicilla.
I think the agave category will continue to grow through 2024 and beyond, and I can’t wait to see what other amazing products will land in the UK and the wonderful cocktails that the talented bartenders across the country will concoct with them.
Spritzes have become very popular recently and this trend looks set to continue. This started with the Italian aperitivo classic Aperol Spritz, but we are seeing many different variations now becoming more widespread. I think these types of drinks are popular because they generally aren’t overly high in ABV and are light, refreshing and easy to drink, plus they look elegant and aesthetically pleasing.
In terms of style of cocktail, we are seeing a move towards a more minimalist aesthetic look, with a clearly defined focus on just one or two flavours alongside the base spirit. By keeping garnishes and glassware simple, more time can be focused on the cocktail itself, ensuring that the drink is perfectly balanced and the flavours clear and pronounced. Along with this minimalist style, we are seeing less fresh citrus juice being used and more cordials made with different acids such as citric, malic and tartaric. This allows the flavour of the cordial and spirit to shine brighter while still adding that all important sour balance and freshness to a cocktail.
The drinks to order and the lingo to use when you want to impress.
Ordering classic cocktails and having a knowledge of the different variations are sure-fire ways to impress your friends and your bartender. Learn the lingo too and you’ll make yourself look even better – do you want a perfect Manhattan, up with a twist? Maybe a 50:50 Sazerac or a bone-dry Gibson Martini, stirred and served up. Also, get to know your spirit brands and which ones you like, and request your cocktail to be made with your preference.
Another way to stay ahead in 2024 is by drinking Islay single malt, Japanese whisky or Mezcal.
What people will want from bars and venues
Everyone has such different wants and expectations from a night out, but we’re definitely seeing guests becoming more adventurous and wanting to try drinks and flavours they haven’t had before. Unusual spirits and cocktails, new craft beers and concepts, as well as lesser-known wines from around the world are all really popular right now.
I think we’ll also see guests looking for value for money, as well as escapism from the norm, which is something we know a bit about.