Lonely Planet Writer

These are the cocktail trends for the year ahead

Just as we’re all getting over our collective hangovers from the 2017 party season, Lonely Planet is looking ahead to trends in cocktails for 2018. We caught up with a couple of the world’s best mixologists just after they flew out for London Cocktail Week to find out what drinkers should expect to see in the coming year.

Melbourne cocktail bar wins international award
Black Pearl wins cocktail ‘Oscars’ gong. Image courtesy of Black Pearl

Chris Hysted-Adams from Black Pearl in Melbourne’s inner north neighbourhood of Fitzroy, crowned the world’s Best International Cocktail Bar in 2017, told us to expect “new explorations of familiar flavours”. “Bar tenders are always questioning flavours. ‘How else can I explore the combination of coconut and pineapple? Is it incredible with tequila? Can the pineapple be used for a tepache?’ I think we’ll keep seeing new incarnations of classic combinations. The box we all used to think within has been broken.” This sentiment was echoed by Alex Lawrence, from London’s Dandelyan: “we’ll see new methods, quicker service, and the refining of even the most basic of things… Essentially, challenging the status quo is the next big thing. But in terms of innovation: fermentation is big, which is interesting as it’s actually quite a dangerous trend in the wrong hands!”.

Sherry cocktail anyone? Image by StockFood/Getty Images

Alex, with James Wheeler from Dandelyan, served up a fermented sherry cocktail, the Patrón Agave Sherry, at the Patrón Cocktail Lab for London Cocktail Week this year. Sherry is another one of the trending ingredients that has gathered pace in recent days. Ingredients in cocktails are heading towards the hyperlocal and exotic. In Australia ‘bush tucker’ or indigenous plants have been finding their way into cocktails, look out for finger limes, native currants and quandongs. Hysted-Adams also drew attention to ‘rotovapping’ (the commonly used name for the rotary evaporator) ingredients to add to cocktails, a device that can create an infinite amount of variation in flavour concepts and fusions.

Tequila goes high end. Image by Aydin Aksakal / EyeEm/Getty Images

In terms of spirits, Lawrence said the Tequila Highball was his new favourite. “Tequila is still not the most accessible spirit, and the connotations it comes with are still deeply rooted in cheap mixtos tequila from nightclubs. So if tequila is going anywhere it’s going towards less spirit-forward and more accessible serves,” he explained. One of Dandelyan’s most acclaimed and best-selling cocktails is the Patrón highball. Back in Melbourne, Black Pearl recently served a tequila-based cocktail called ‘25 Pesos’ with coconut oil washed Patrón Silver tequila, cognac, local muscat, a hint of maraschino and chocolate bitters –  “a new kind of tequila experience”.

Mocktails and low-alcohol cocktails are a new trend. Image by Anfisa Kameneva / EyeEm/Getty Images

We also threw in a question the strengthening ‘wellness’ movement and ‘conscious sobriety’ that Russell Brand’s 2017 publication Recovery is also tapping into. How did our bar experts see the world’s best cocktail bars responding to the sober trend in the year ahead? Dandelyan, which opened in the Mondrian building in 2014, has been doing well thought-out, non-alcoholic drinks since the day it opened. “It really came to fruition about six months in. The fact that it is a trend is important as it starts a conversation that does need to be had”, says Lawerence. “It should have been mandatory from day one for low- ABV (alcoholic strength by volume), non-alcoholic versions of cocktails to be on menus, so you can drink something good, that’s not going to make you feel drunk. Hysted-Adams added, “Using spirits to season cocktails is something the guys at ‘This Must Be The Place’ in Sydney have been doing since they opened. It’s a great way to introduce spirituous flavours into low-alcohol cocktails. It’s very clever stuff.” Alex thinks we’re also moving away from liquid being the key selling point and returning to real hospitality at classic cocktail bars, like Swift in London’s Soho.

For cocktail lovers heading to London in 2018, London Cocktail Week is an annual festival with masterclasses, a vibrant cocktail village, and brand new signature cocktails. Download the London Cocktail Week app to buy a festival pass then head to one of the hundreds of participating bars, restaurants and pop-ups all over the city in October.