The 15 Hottest Cocktail Trends In 2021

Informational

A bartender behind bar making cocktail

The drink industry evolves just like any other. As technology advances, the cocktail scene changes in response to new trends and demands. 

For cocktail enthusiasts that want to stay ahead of the game, it's essential to know what's coming down the pipeline every year. So, we've put together a list of the top cocktail trends set to be taking over bars all around the country in no time!

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1. Pleasure Revolution

Glasses of colorful cocktails

Future cocktails will focus more on gastronomic mixology rather than alchemy. Watch for a rising trend for tiki and soft drinks with slushy foams and caffeine-laden tipples. 

The top spirits of interest globally are gin, mezcal, and tequila which grew particularly strong in North America. 

However, this focus will be concentrated on extreme beverages that burn, cool, tingle, and comfort your taste buds. The most popular cocktails are classics that intensify flavor, highlighting the tangy-sweet, spicy, and bitter smells.

2. Time of Creativity

A phone screen with the TikTok app

Social media also saw amateur mixologists produce quirky and delicious cocktails, including the Jodatini or the Fat Man. With this new trend, more people might go to bars to explore something extraordinary and unusual.

TikTok is the worldwide fastest expanding social media app. Use it to show off your creations and to raise awareness for your bar. You can have competitions between each team member to determine whose creativity gets the highest traction. You can even go viral!

3. Drinking Clean

Glasses of mocktail being served

Google is predicting that search results for the word ‘mocktail’ would increase 58% in 2022. Non-alcoholic beverages such as Lyre also saw increased retail sales by 400%. Drinks with low alcoholic percentages are also a big trend as people are becoming more health-conscious.

4. Rum is Here Again

Two glasses of rum-based cocktail

Rum has been tipped as the next big spirit in a long time, and we will see this finally taking shape this year. With new and exciting American producers appealing to young consumers, this alcoholic drink is set to smash records. 

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Older distinguished distilleries such as ‘Ten-to-One’ and ‘Privateer Rum’ have been aiming to target whiskey drinkers. Keep an eye open for rums with fresh and youthful names!

5. Hard Seltzers Ain't Going Home

Glasses of Hard Seltzer

The selling of hard seltzer during the pandemic has exploded, injecting into bars and restaurants between 2020 and 2021. With the cocktail and drink industry fighting for space, this is one trend we can see staying. 

Hard seltzers have an excellent bubbly taste and a lower alcohol content than most cocktails. With consumers wanting to enjoy themselves without getting too drunk, this could be the chicken soup for cocktail bars faced with high inventory costs.

6. Spirits Over Beer

Liquor vs. beer

We have seen craft beers become more prevalent as people look beyond their usual pint at the bar. However, this year will see an even more significant shift towards spirits and cocktail drinkers rather than those who like it cold and fizzy (or still). 

Craft distilleries are now creating interesting flavor profiles which show how versatile spirits are – they aren’t just about ‘vodka soda’ anymore.

7. Fancy Cocktails

Glasses of fancy cocktail

After the pandemic, cocktail bars will have to be more creative than ever if they want customers lining up outside their doors. This is because drinkers are more adventurous, so establishments need to up their game to keep the crowds coming back for more. 

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High-end cocktail bars may start offering self-service cocktail ‘kiosks’ where customers can create their unique concoctions from a range of different ingredients such as bitters and infusions.

8. Tequila and Mezcal on the Rise

Shots of tequila and mezcal with dried lime and sugar

Although cocktail fans will still be more interested in cocktails made with gin, rum, and whiskey, there is no doubt that tequila and mezcal are slowly but surely taking center stage. 

This is because tequila and mezcal are the perfect cocktail ingredients, thanks to their smoky, earthy flavor profiles that can be used in classic cocktails and new ones.

9. Bar Reinvention

A barista looking through a tablet

The cocktail bar scene has changed quite a bit in recent years. Many bars had become much more casual than when the ‘speakeasy’ craze first started in the early to mid-2000s, which will continue into 2021 and the coming years. 

However, new cocktail trends are also emerging, such as upscale drinking dens with old-school vibes like Tiki Bars (or even Polynesian pop-themed cocktail lounges).

Digital solutions would also be pervasive in this coming year to make bars more accessible to everyone. This thinking will be extended for a genderless approach to branding and bottle designs.

There will be an increase in flexible cocktail menus, with pre-batched cocktails and cocktail kits for the at-home drinkers. There would also be more organic spirits on offer too.

10. Exotic Drinks

A glass of cocktail with variation of fruits

We have seen many cocktail bars going back to traditional drinks, so this is also why we see exotic cocktails being on the rise. 

Adding the usual ingredients in cocktails will always be a classic. But with more people wanting to elevate their drinking experience, bars are pushing the boundaries of cocktail making.

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If you want to be more unique with your drinks, check out if there are any exciting spirits or wines from different parts of the world on your menu. 

You can even tell a bit about their history, so customers have something new and exciting to drink! If it's popular, try doing theme nights for international products.

11. Quality First

A glass of pink cocktail with beautiful cotton candy garnish

As cocktails become an increasingly mainstream drink, the emphasis has shifted from creating great cocktail bars where everyone can have fun together. 

This is why we are seeing more bartenders not only focusing on how it tastes but also trying to enhance the experience by adding perfect garnishes or using high-quality ingredients to make their concoctions stand out from the rest.

13. More Niche Brands

Small-scale bar with various liquors to offer

While everyone is busy enjoying new cocktail experiences, it only makes sense that more and more bars will pop up all over the place too! This means there's a lot of competition out there - especially within such a small industry.

As such, you'll be seeing smaller-scale distilleries popping up with unusual or rare types of spirits unlike you have seen before. These bars will offer less common citrus fruits and herbs and exciting flavors for infusions in their concoctions.

14. Beginner Friendly Cocktail Bars

Friends drinking liquor at a bar

One of the more significant trends you'll see this year is more cocktail bars geared towards novices, casual drinkers, and even complete newbies! 

These establishments won't just offer your regular cocktails, but they'll also introduce people to newer types of alcoholic drinks. A bar like this might not come up right away since the industry is already pretty saturated with all these high-end cocktail places. 

As such, low-key cocktail speakeasies or small underground establishments may open first before having a more extensive scale operation where people can walk in off the streets without a reservation made beforehand.

15. More Food Pairings

Friends hanging out, enjoying food and drinks

Expect people to go for cocktail-inspired dishes. Similar to how chefs create their twist on classic French cuisine, bartenders are now starting to mix some of the most popular foods with booze so they'll taste better. 

Cocktails have always been served alongside food or snack, but there's a certain level of complexity when it comes down to making them, especially since balancing flavors and textures is essential in this case.

Conclusion

It's always fun to see how the drink industry evolves as new cocktail trends and demands change. What do you think will be taking over bars this year and the following years? Let us know what trends are you most excited to try! 

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