Six Beverage Trends For 2018


There’s one thing we can count on for next year, and it’s … nothing. Change is here to stay, and this year’s top trends reflect the industry’s acceptance of this state. Successful hotels and restaurants are turning creativity into innovation and adapting faster than ever.

And there’s a lot of change to deal with—economic, political and social factors, as well as significant cultural shifts in the way people use restaurants and hotels. Hold on tight, folks, because it’s time to dig in and embrace the craziness.

The times, they are a changin’. In fact, “Change is the New Black” is the theme of our 2018 Hospitality Trends Report.

Our “trendologists” explore the world, collecting the hottest trends in restaurants and hotels to determine what’s coming in and what’s going out. For instance, wines we predict you’ll see more of include pinot noir, gamay, sauvignon blanc, Sicilian wines, Australian semillon, low-oak wines and restaurant groups with their own wine labels.

And when it comes to cocktail, we expect to see more of:

  •  Aquavit
  •  Vermouth
  •  Bitters (and bitter cocktails)
  •  DIY cocktail mixers including tonics, shrubs
  •  Activated charcoal latte
  •  Boozy freezer pops
  •  Sparkling water, from cult brands like Topo Chico to hard varieties such as Truly Spiked & Sparkling and White Claw

What else will you see in the coming year? Based on the intelligence we’ve collected, here are six beverage trends to watch for 2018.

1) Don’t Mock Me!

The mocktail is here to stay… just don’t call it that! We’re talking house-made tonics, elixirs, house sodas, shrubs, tinctures, and fresh-pressed fruit and vegetable juices.

Restaurants and bars are raising the bar with their non-alcoholic beverage options, often with a healthy spin. Think tonics that boast a purpose (health, energy), and add-on options such as chia seeds (for vitality!) that are driving up check averages.

Our client Park Group Cafe in San Francisco features a selection of juices with restorative health properties (shown atop), including the Revival and Mighty Cleanse. Other examples include the “Cheap Date” drink section at Rose’s Luxury in Washington, DC, and the “Vibrations” restorative tonics at AbcV in New York.

2) Farm to Shaker

Get ready for cocktails that are inspired by Mother Nature—and a desire (need!) to reduce waste. Using byproduct from the kitchen for cocktail programs and seasonally inspired ingredients, bar programs are showing their dedication to sustainability.

The trend goes beyond the glass, with an increased interest in reclaimed materials used in bar design and more attention to detail, including dishwasher water usage rates.

Trash Tiki Can Drink

Trash Tiki Can Drink

New York-based consultancy Tin Roof Drink Co. helps bars with ingredient sourcing, energy and water conservation and physical waste, while Trash Tiki, a pop-up concept and online platform, makes cocktails using the by-products of other bars or things that would usually be thrown away, such as coffee grounds, leftover fruit and avocado pits.

3) Nice Package

The world of wine packaging is changing fast! From cans, to boxes, tetra paks, wine kegs (disposable wine kegs!) and more, inventive wine packaging has opened the door to flexibility and higher profits.

Archer Roose wine box

Archer Roose’s 3-litre wine package

Millennials don’t care about what package their wine comes in, they just want it to be pretty—and they even feel better about buying wine in alternative packaging! Cardboard boxes are more environmentally friendly than heavy glass, and it’s helpful for producers too, greatly reducing shipping costs with the lighter loads.

Archer Roose produces artisan-quality wine at an affordable price point through alternative 3- liter packaging that appeal to Millennial tastes. Other examples include wine kegs from Free Flow Wines (Napa, CA), and canned wine from Cycles Gladiator Wines (Novato, CA) and The Infinite Monkey Theorem (Denver).

4) Raising the (Wine) Bar

High-end restaurants are opening adjacent wine bars, offering smaller food menus, affordable pricing and a casual way to access their brand. Guests want customization, but they don’t need massive menus. They crave quality experiences they can make their own.

Wildair wine bar in New York

Wildair wine bar in New York

Enter the wine bar, where quality is high, and the menus are small. There’s nothing to w(h)ine about here! Multiple concepts within the same space minimize risk for operators by driving traffic and optimizing efficiencies.

Wildair, an offshoot of Contra in New York, serves American fare with a focus on seasonal produce and natural wines. Other examples include Bar Crenn by Petit Crenn in Los Angeles, Little Pearl by Pineapple & Pearls (Washington, D.C.) and Ronsky’s Wine Bar (Chestnut Hill, MA.)

5) Just (Cold) Brew It

Cold-brewed iced coffee is here to stay, but expect to see more fun flavors and artisan preparations popping up at your neighborhood coffee shop. Coffee roasters are moving past the traditional cold brew and are experimenting with flavors ranging from the expected (hazelnut, vanilla bean, Nutella) to the unexpected (horchata, lavender honey, cardamom rose). This is a caffeinated trend we can get behind. Ice, ice baby!

Hillside Supper Club in San Francisco serves cold brew drinks made from Mr. Espresso beans and flavored with spices including cardamom and orange peel, while the city’s Andytown Coffee Roasters offers the Snowy Plover (espresso, sparkling water, brown-sugar syrup over ice with whipped cream).

6) Mezcal Madness

Naked and Famous cocktail

Westward in Seattle’s Naked and Famous cocktail

Mezcal is showing up on cocktail menus across the country, but this 500-year-old spirit is hardly new. Made from the agave plant native to Mexico, mezcal traditionally has a smoky flavor, distinguishing it from its cousin, tequila. Bartenders are thinking outside the box, playing with classic cocktails to create drinks, including Mezcal Negronis and Mezcal Mules.

For example, Westward in Seattle offers a Naked and Famous cocktail, made with mezcal, yellow chartreuse, Rinomato aperitivo and lime. Other unique mezcal libations include the Mezcal Negroni at Stoke in Charlotte, NC; Ode to Oaxaca cocktail at Urban Solace in San Diego; and the Salt Bae cocktail at Brimmer & Heeltap in Seattle.


Andrew Freeman is president AF & Co., a boutique hospitality- and restaurant-consulting firm based in San Francisco.

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