Cocktail Trends from the World's Most Imaginative Bartenders

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Cocktail Trends from the World's Most Imaginative Bartenders

A few weeks ago, Bombay Sapphire held the Most Imaginative Bartender Competition in London. It was a showcase of the most talented and original bartenders from the United States and Canada. During the event, Paste was able to interview some of the bartenders about the trends they are currently seeing in the cocktail world. Here are a handful of the trends catching the eye of some of the most imaginative bartenders in North America.

Rebecca Burkart

Bartender at Canard in Houston

Recently, Burkart has noticed a trend in bartenders using Sherry more than in years past. “Sherry can be so unique in flavor from one varietal to another and often can play well as a modifier in a cocktail or even the base spirit,” Burkart says. “It is nice to see it behind the bar again as more than just an after dinner sip.”

She’s also noticed the emergence of house-made fermented fruit and vegetables. “Tepache, for example, which is fermented pineapple with baking spice notes,” Burkart says. She sees this trend increasing as it is easy to work with and has endless possibilities. “But it can be very finicky when working with natural yeast.”

Her favorite trending ingredient in cocktails though, is egg white substitutes. “There are other ingredients such as Aquafaba or Soy Lecithin that carry the same protein structure as egg whites and can also give a cocktail that frothy finish but without the sulfuric aroma,” she says. Because nobody wants a stinky cocktail.

Brenda Terry

Bartender at Fodder and Shine in Tampa

In the States at least, and especially in Florida, Terry is seeing an expansion of palate preferences from patrons. “People are becoming more adventurous when they head into cocktail bars,” Terry says. Some are even allowing the bartender to take the wheel, enabling the bartender to throw out flavor profiles to help guide the patron through the experience. “Bitter, boozy, stirred, refreshing and herbal…And with a more educated and trusting consumer in our pockets, bartenders now are having even more fun behind the bar and pushing spirits they hold dear onto guests that are now amped to try them.”

Michael West

Bartender at Cocktail Affairs in San Diego

West is seeing gins, whiskies, rums and tequilas being made in totally unique and brand new ways. “We have Tequila brands creating single vintage expressions, and a whole new category of New American gin is hitting bars,” West says, adding that whiskey companies are aging in barrels never thought of before to create ideal flavor compounds, mouth- feels and aromas.

“On the other hand, we have a large breakthrough in spirits being created in small villages by authentic traditions, such as Mezcal,” West says. He’s also seeing unique brandies emerging, like Singani, a Bolivian Brandy. “Spirit companies are really paying attention to quality right now,” West says.

As for the cocktails themselves, he’s seeing a lot more vegetables being used, along with different vine flowers, teas, and savory and umami ingredients. “We are in a time where will see the best cocktails ever. Period. In a time where we have access to so many different spirits, produce options and information,” West says. “The cocktail world is our oyster. There are no limits on what we can do to enhance the cocktail experience.”