As the year draws to a close, we begin to drink more. While this increase in booze consumption is virtually an irrefutable fact—like gravity or Kanye West bragging about himself—the reasons for it are varied and many.
Your in-laws are living in your den. You have 19 Christmas parties to attend. You accidentally made out with the boss’s daughter at the Holiday gift swap night. Or … maybe it’s something simple. If your New Year’s Resolution is to lose weight and drink less (cough, cough: cliché), it’s important to cram those last cocktails in now.
We rounded up eight cocktail trends we were excited to see in 2013, and we hope will remain in blenders and on taps, menus and blackboards for 2014 as well.
1. Craft Cocktail Slushies
Photo Credit: Jenny Adams
People threw some very austere spirits and some very old cocktail recipes into slushy machines this year. The result was the childhood nostalgia that only a proper brain freeze can deliver, while simultaneously satiating your über nerdy love of Pre-Prohibition cocktails.
Go drink them at… Mother’s Ruin in Manhattan. They’ve had a machine on the bar since 2011, and options change every few days, depending on the bartenders’ whims. We really enjoyed the “So What” cocktail, which was a classic Paloma, with grapefruit juice and premium blanco tequila, frozen and wearing a tiara of homemade five-chili molasses.
Or try others at… The Tippler in NYC; Battery Harris in Brooklyn; Trigger in Portland, Ore.
2. Low Proof Cocktails
Some bartenders went out on a real limb this year and informed customers that certain things on the drink list would get them less drunk. Rather than the expected pitchforks, tar and feathers, we saw a welcoming reception. “Our bestseller is The Gatsby,” Pip Hanson says. He’s behind the program at Marvel Bar in Minneapolis, Minn. and has been tinkering with what he calls Hyperdiluton, or the process of bringing the proof down to bring out new, more subtle flavors. “We have a nice Oban 14 in The Gatsby, and I put in tiny dashes of salt, Benedictine and apricot liqueur. We then dilute it with two ounces of water, served neat.”
Drink them at… Marvel Bar in Minneapolis, Minn.; Rappahannock Oyster Co. in Richmond, Va.; The Cypress Room in Miami, Fla; Jasper’s in San Francisco, Calif.
3. Creative Uses of Smoke in Drinks
A few years back, smoke flavors in a drink meant you were sipping a nice Laphroaig or maybe a single-estate mezcal. Then shit got bananas (with smoke, not bananas). Bartenders invented smoke guns to force an essence of char into a spirit. They began lighting rosemary on fire and all sorts of other oddball ways to make a drink taste like licking the cheek of a firefighter.
You gotta try… The Colorado Campfire cocktail, at Restaurant Kelly Liken in Vail, Colo. Ice cubes are placed in the kitchen’s meat smokers, where they melt into water. The water is then refrozen, creating a clean flavor with a campfire aroma. The drink has muddled grilled peaches, brown sugar Stirring’s Peach liqueur, pine-nut-infused Breckenridge Bourbon with four smoked ice cubes. Yeah, try making that sucker at home.
There are other cool smoke options at… Manifesto in Kansas City, Mo.; The Wayland in NYC; Restaurant 1833 in Monterey, Calif.
4. Great Beer & A Shot Pairings
Photo Credit: Jenny Adams
One of the best things that has happened in this whole cocktail revolution over the last eight years is that we are finally seeing a slowing of the annoying, hard-to-find speakeasy. That whole super-hipster, rock-star mixologist trend has calmed a bit, and it’s not all cocktails with 22 ingredients that you can’t pronounce. Some of the most awarded bars of the last two years have highlighted lowbrow décor, laid-back service with very classic cocktail lists. Inside those, you’ll usually find fun, interesting takes on the old beer-and-a-shot option.
We loved… Little Jumbo in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, because they go all out, coupling Jameson & Lighthouse Switchback IPA, a Calvados & Parallel 49 Old Boy, and a great combo of Kraken Rum & Lighthouse Keeper’s Stout—all on special.
Find others on the menus at… Ace Bar in Denver, Colo.; Time Restaurant Whiskey Bar & Taproom in Philadelphia, Pa.; And dozens of other spots around the country
5. House Carbonated Sodas
Photo Credit: Brandon Cummins
In-house carbonation has been going on for quite sometime, but it reached mainstream status in 2013. We hope it’s around forever. There’s something whimsical and delightful and just plain awesome about fizzy, bubbly sodas made specifically for you. When you toss gin in them? Well … ain’t nobody mad about that.
Check out the options at… The Rieger Hotel & Grill Exchange in Kansas City. “This is something we’ve been focused on at The Rieger since our opening almost three years ago,” says Bartender Ryan Maybee. “We feature a house-made tonic, a ginger beer, our kola, and a seasonal rotating soda. Right now, we’re doing a Root Beer, and using it in a riff on the Calimocho cocktail. The recipe consists of a Spanish Garnacha, Fernet Branca, Root Beer and Orange Cream Citrate from Bittermen’s bitters.”
Or drink the… The Dizzy Blonde Negroni, created by Abigail Gullo at SoBou in New Orleans. “It’s Casoni 1814, dry vermouth, gin and Cointreau, served carbonated in a old fashioned soda siphon,” she explains. “I really want to break into old timey sight gags when I whip out that thing.”
6. Cocktails on Tap
Photo Credit: Acacia Falzone Photography
Again, this is a trend we’ve had around for more than just a year. However, we like it a lot and it deserves celebrating for becoming more mainstream. Cocktails on tap are just what they sound like. It’s a spout. When you pull the tap, a craft cocktail pours out. Bartenders are vigilant in making sure you don’t suffer flavor, and this new method of drink delivery also means you don’t suffer 20 minutes in a crowded cocktail den waiting on your drink.
Head down South to… Rarebit in Charleston, South Carolina. This lovely restaurant/bar is pouring out their famous version of a classic Moscow Mule from pretty brass taps atop the bar. The ginger beer and limeade, which is actually a lime cordial, are made in-house. Your vodka is premium, and your cocktail comes in a beautiful copper mug.
7. Esoteric Veggies in Our Cocktails
Photo Credit: Brian Hawthorne
Years ago, I climbed on top of a barstool at my favorite local haunt, The Wayland, in Manhattan’s East Village. I ordered a house Margarita and was served their “Garden Variety,” which came with fresh kale juice. Not one to drink healthy things by choice (a juice cleanse in my house would require an IV and a roll of duct tape), I raised a skeptical eyebrow before sipping. It’s now one of my all-time favorites. Bartenders are consistently reaching for veggies like beets and sweet potatoes, and we actually saw a butternut squash land in a blender one night last week.
Ask for… The Highland Masala, created by Eric Simpkins at The Lawrence in Atlanta, Ga. The base is chai-infused Scotch. Then you get juiced sweet potato, lemon, pressed ginger syrup, Peychaud’s bitters, egg white and a barspoon float of Nux Alpina walnut liqueur.
8. Breakfast Cereals in Cocktails
Yeah. This is a thing. Before noticing it was a thing, someone slid me an Old Fashioned made from booze infused with Cocoa Puffs cereal. I was all “WTF?! This is way beyond gimmicky!” Then I drank it and was all, “Whoa. That’s freakishly delicious.”
Now they are popping up everywhere. Moral of the story is—Cheerios aren’t just for lowering your cholesterol anymore. They are now for getting you sloshed.
Drink your breakfast at … Russell House Tavern in Boston. You’ll find not one or two, but several cereal-based libations. There’s an Applejack drink infused with—you guessed it—Applejacks cereal and a Golden Graham Manhattan. Yes, please.
Find other fun cereal creations at … Jeepney in NYC; The Broken Shaker in Miami, Fla.; PDT in NYC