1. Coffee creations
The Espresso Martini has become a popular digestif cocktail in restaurants thanks to it delivering a similar caffeine hit to the post prandial coffee, albeit one with an edge. Now bars and restaurants are looking to borrow techniques found in the burgeoning coffee category to update the drink and widen its appeal among drinkers. Brigadiers, the newly opened Indian restaurant and bar from JKS Restaurants, which is also behind the likes of Gymkhana and Hoppers, has a Nitro Martini on tap, which takes its cues from the nascent nitro coffee category. The drink is an Espresso Martini made with vodka, cold brew coffee, espresso liqueur and malt that is charged with nitrogen gas, which is used in the production of stouts.
National Bar group The Alchemist also does a take on the Espresso Martini with its Iced Charcoal Latte, a combination of Appleton Estate Signature rum, white cacao, milk, espresso, salted vanilla syrup and charcoal.
Earlier this year, coffee liqueur brand Tia Maria launched its Coffee Cocktail Month (April) as part of its Coffee Project aimed at promoting coffee in cocktails and highlighting profit opportunities for bars and restaurants. Instead of the Espresso Martini, its creations included the Flat White Russian and Tia Mint Americano, a creation that mixes Tia Maria with a double shot of espresso, sugar syrup, mint leaves and sparkling water.
2. Draught cocktails
Draught and pre-batched cocktails have been on the drink scene for some years now but, until recently, have tended to be the preserve of high-volume bars. But a rise in quality and their ease of use has meant that they are now cropping up in many more restaurants and bars. Brigadiers serves two draught cocktails, including its Cask Old Fashioned, which is rested in its cellar and hand pulled in its tap room.
Neil Rankin’s Temper, in Covent Garden, serves frozen Piña Colada on tap and Duck & Waffe Local, in London’s St James’s Market, has four on tap, including a White Basil Spritz (Bombay Sapphire gin, white wine, basil and apricot) and a Duck & Stormy (Bacardi Carta Negra, lime, coconut infusion and ginger).
Earlier this year, cocktail brand Funkin made it easier for pubs and restaurants to serve high-quality draught cocktails with the launch of its Premium Batched Draught Cocktails range. Four cocktails are available, all at 10% abv – a Pornstar Martini, Piña Colada, Pink Grapefruit Gin Collins and Mojito – which are among the UK’s best-selling and most recognisable cocktails, says the company.
“The benefits of stocking draught cocktails include consistent and perfectly balanced cocktails that are quick and easy to pour, a reduction in wastage (decanting liquids and over-pouring), shorter waiting times for consumers and less strain on bartenders, allowing them to more positively engage with clientele,” says Funkin managing director Andrew King.
The cocktails are dispensed from 20-litre one-way KeyKegs that contain 133 150ml serves. The shelf life is nine months unopened and 28 days once opened.
3. Ingredient one-upmanship
If you think that chefs are obsessed with putting unfamiliar and lesser known ingredients into their dishes – thanks to the rise, in part, in foraging – then they have nothing on bartenders these days. Cocktail menus at many of the UK’s top bars read more like an apothecary’s shopping list than a rundown of drinks, with mixologists keen to explore ingredients and flavours from across the globe.
At Oriole, in London’s Smithfield market, for example, cocktail ingredients include mulberry leaf root cider, cloudberry jam, buchu infusion, charred green juniper infusion, cacao leaf tincture, burnt bark syrup and tayberry vinegar. Meanwhile, at Dandelyan, at London’s Mondrian hotel, ingredients appearing in drinks include nixtamalized blue corn, propolis (a resinous mixture that honey bees produce by mixing saliva and beeswax with tree bud fluid), potato syrup and lanolin.
4. Low-alcohol cocktails
The temperance movement is gaining momentum with more people swapping cocktails for alcohol-free alternatives (see below), but not everyone wants to cut out all the booze on a night out . This has given rise to a new wave of low-alcohol, easy-drinking cocktails . Brigadiers serves a number of low-alcohol, all-day drinks, including the Mango Shandy, made with fermented mango and ginger soda and IPA; the Bamboo Martini – a combination of fino sherry, Cocchi Americano, celery and olive; and the Mosaic Spritz, made with aperol, tropical soda, Mosaic hops and prosecco.
Duck & Waffle Local’s Breakfast Fizz has been designed to ease drinkers into their morning meal with a light and refreshing creation that blends Grey Goose L’Orange with pink grapefruit and burnt toast infusion. Gin brand Gordon’s has launched two low-alcohol, ready-mixed cocktails in two flavours, lime and grapefruit. They contain less than 0.5% abv. “Gin is booming at present and there is currently a real unmet demand from consumers for a credible low or non-alcoholic gin alternative that has the same depth of lavour and sense of occasion as an alcoholic drink,” says Diageo’s Charles Ireland.
5. Zero-proof cocktails
Not to be confused with mocktails, which traditionally have been fruit-driven alternatives to cocktails aimed at both adults and children, zero-proof drinks have taken off thanks to their taste pro ile being much closer to alcoholic drinks. Seedlip, which is claimed to be the world’s first distilled non-alcoholic spirit, has led the way in this area in the past few years with its two variants – Seedlip Garden 108, made with hand picked peas and hay, and a complex herbal base character of spearmint, rosemary and thyme; and Seedlip Spice 94, which combines all spice berries and cardamom with lemon and grapefruit peel – and is now available in more than 100 Michelin-star restaurants across the world.
The company isn’t finished yet. At last month’s World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards in Bilbao, the company gave a sneak preview of its latest creation, Seedlip Harvest 36, which it says is the first dark distilled non-alcoholic spirit in the world. The expression is described as a ‘smoky and rich blend of malted barley, vanilla, coffee, oak, smoked manuka wood and spent cognac cask’. At the moment it is just a one-off, according to founder Ben Branson, but there’s every chance it will be hitting bars and restaurants in the not-too-distant future
6. Whisky-based drinks
The bar world has been looking around for the next spirit to usurp gin’s dominance, with rum recently mooted as the front runner following the news that sales crashed through the £1bn-a-year barrier for the first time thanks to the rise in popularity of rum-based cocktails the Piña Colada and the Mojito. And yet it is cocktails made with whisky that are likely to have the biggest impact over the next year or so, with bartenders looking to use the spirit in more creative ways. Adam Handling’s soon-to-open restaurant The Frog Hoxton will include a bar, called Iron Stag, designed by the chef in collaboration with award-winning bartender Rich Woods and Matt Whiley, aka The Talented Mr Fox.
Here there will be an emphasis on aged whiskies as well as the bar’s own casked whisky and Handling says whisky-based cocktails are going to play an important role on the drinks list. The Frog has teamed up with Glen iddich in the past and will do so again once the new site is running. Brigadiers, meanwhile, is using Johnnie Walker whisky in its four-strong whisky and sodas offer. Carbonated and bottled in house, the drinks are designed to make whisky-based drinks more approachable (and more female-friendly) so that they can be drunk with Indian food. The drinks include Flora Dora – Johnnie Walker Black with raspberry and ginger; and Golden Duck, made with Johnnie Walker Gold, methi cordial, pear and cider.
7. The crossover cocktail
Crossover cocktails are sometimes considered bastardised versions of a classic, in that they tend to be well-known drinks where the original spirit or a key ingredient is switched for another. Yet done well, they can add a new dimension to a traditional cocktail and potentially bring in new drinkers as a result. Temper in Soho, winners of this year’s Cocktail List of the Year, serves a ‘Temper Your G&T’, a combination of mezcal, tequila, aperol and tonic, for a smokier version of the classic drink, and also has a range of ‘Neil’s Negronis’, whereby customers can tailor the classic drink to their tastes, again by switching gin for mezcal or tequila.