With the start of a new year, industry watchers come out with picks and predictions for what will be popular for the next 12 months. Understanding the various flavor profiles, spirits, products and cocktails that will resonate with consumers is particularly key in beverage alcohol, both on- and off-premise.
We reviewed several beverage industry trends reports to get a handle on what some experts think will be hot in 2023. Here are seven trends that we agree with for this year.
1) Ube’s purple reign.
Look for Ube, the bright purple sweet potato often found in Filipino desserts and bubble tea, to crop up in more cocktails. It’s a food trend highlighted in the 2023 Hospitality Trends Report, presented by the San Francisco agencies AF & Co. and Carbonate.
Ube is already on a number of cocktail menus. For example, the Oo-Bae Bae rum drink at the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort and Spa uses an ube syrup. Mixologist Tomas Delos Reyes has developed several cocktails that feature ube for Don Papa rum, including Ube Coladas and Daiquiris. As the 2023 Hospitality Trends Report notes, your concept doesn’t have to embrace Asian flavors—simply treat Ube as a purple version of a Southern sweet potato.
2) Brine beyond olives.
This dovetails with the 2023 Hospitality Trends Report’s drink of the year: Seafood cocktails, or “coastal” drinks that embrace oceanic flavors and ingredients, often with an eye-catching edible garnish. One example is the “Cioppino” cocktail at Bluestem Restaurant & Market in San Francisco, which includes salted tomato water, tequila, lime, citrus, serrano chili and clam juice.
For other brine ideas, Fig & Olive’s Dirty Martini uses a house-made escabeche (typically meats and fish marinated in spiced vinegar) brine. At CO/OP Community Table + Bar in Huntsville, AL, a fall cocktail called The Dirty South incorporated a pickled okra brine.
3) Sweet, sour citrus.
Beverage development company Flavorman predicts a shift toward “uncomplicated” citrus flavors, with growing interest in orange, grapefruit and lime, as well as other berry blends.
“Citrus flavors are still the same; loads of grapefruit and orange flavors for the past five years,” says Tom Gibson, Flavorman’s director flavor architect. “Number 1 is orange, but then there are a lot of variables like tangelo and different mandarins.”
Number 2 is various berry flavors — strawberry, raspberry, berry-blends and elderberry/elderflower, Gibson said, while other increasingly popular flavor extracts include botanicals such as butterfly pea flower, black tea and chamomile.
For its part, gourmet flavorings company Monin has named Hot Honey its 2023 Flavor of the Year, and launched a hot honey syrup. The spicy-sweet condiment is known in the culinary world and primed to make the leap into beverage, adding a firey kick to craft and classic cocktails that feature honey such as the Penicillin, Margarita and Bees Knees.
4) Colorful cocktails pop.
While Flavorman is seeing less interest in color in packaged beverages, others expect brightly hued cocktails to further pick up in 2023. Gabe Sanchez, mixologist and general manager at award-winning cocktail bar Midnight Rambler at The Joule in Dallas, is one who sees bright colors in drinks making a comeback, such as Midori Green and Curaçao Blue, to name a few.
Bartenders are already crafting cocktails celebrating Viva Magenta, Pantone’s Color of the Year for 2023. Organic Italian gin brand Engine teamed up with Pantone to announce the 2023 Color of the Year at Art Basel with the Fearless Club cocktail, made with gin, raspberry syrup, lime egg white and a sage leaf garnish.
The trend of colorful concoctions aligns with the Bacardi Global Brand Ambassador Survey 2022, in which 81% of respondents note the rise of “Instagrammable” cocktails being created and listed on menus in 2022.
Monin cites sensory takeover as a macro trend for 2023, noting that color concepts “are a quick and easy way of making each dining experience a moment to be savored.”
5) Getting experiential.
In addition to color, Monin also says that other eye-catching and emotion-evoking experiences are becoming more prevalent in restaurant and bars. According to Monin’s 2023 Trends page: “Incorporating textures, movements and theatrical components — bubbles, flames, outrageous ice shapes, tapioca pearls, dust and smoke — will become more mainstream and help elevate menu offerings.”
Operators should find ways to help create joy for their guests by weaving in elements of surprise and delight, nostalgia and familiar with a twist, says Monin. “Simple yet impactful ideas, such as taking a cocktail tableside or incorporating fun and unusual ingredients, should be considered.”
The 2023 Hospitality Trends Report also cites drinks finished tableside as something we’ll see more of in 2023. “Beyond the traditional cart, bars and restaurants are introducing modern tableside tricks like color-changing cocktails, the unveiling of smoke, or bursting of a bubble.” The presentations are Instagrammable, add a “wow factor,” and can help create a signature, bespoke experience that can drive business, the report says.
The Oak Steakhouse in Highlands, NC, offers guests a Cocktail Cart at Brunch on Saturdays and Sundays for tableside preparations of build-to-your-liking Bloody Marys and Mimosas, while at The Betty in Atlanta, tableside service comes in the form of a Martini Cart during Happy Hour (5-7pm) on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
Clique Bar & Lounge in The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas has the “Up All Night” rum cocktail, which is prepared tableside and topped with fresh blackberries, strawberries and whipped cream, plus an oversized sparkler.
6) No-proof proves profitable.
During its recent Liquid Insights Tour, Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits experts identified “low and no” alcohol as one of the top trends in the industry. Spirit-free cocktails in particular are here to stay and will move beyond the “Drynuary” and “Sober October” events to high-quality, year-round offerings.
The wide array of products replicating actual spirits gives bartenders something exciting to use when crafting delicious, non-alcoholic drinks with diverse flavor profiles, according to the 2023 Hospitality Trends Report. Monin says to look for zero-proof craft cocktails that capture an authentic spirit flavor without alcohol to show up on more menus nationwide.
Hotel chains including Hyatt, Hilton, Omni and Kimpton have introduced zero-proof craft cocktails, while Atlanta restaurants Southern Belle and Georgia Boy offer non-alcoholic pairings with their multi-course dining experiences all year long.
To list just a few examples, Yardbird in Chicago offers a spirit-free Cucumber & Lime Fizz cocktail option (cucumber, lime, egg white, Fever-Tree club soda); Little Palm Island Resort & Spa in Little Torch Key, FL, has the Get Lostini (muddled pineapple, muddled mint, ginger syrup, lime juice, ginger beer and Sprite); Oak Steakhouse Nashville created the Menta Limón (Ritual’s Zero Proof Gin, mint syrup and lemon juice); and the former Everyday Kitchen in Louisville, KY, offered the Harvest Moon this past fall (butternut squash, grapefruit juice, lime, sage and club soda).
Side Bar, a luxury nightclub and lounge in San Diego, in August launched a mocktail menu that includes the Pink Spicy Faux-garita (blood orange cordial, coconut crème, agave lime, jalapenos, black Himalayan salt). Sama Street in Brooklyn, NY, created a no-proof spin on its Shanghai Buck cocktail with the Baby Buck (winter melon tea syrup, lime juice, Angostura bitters and ginger beer).
7) A nod to nostalgia.
With people around the world facing ongoing tensions and uncertainties, experiences that stimulate nostalgia are in demand, according to the Bacardi 2023 Cocktail Trends Report. Consumers will seek out cocktails that transport them back to better times, with a recent Mintel study revealing that consumers aged 25 to 44 are most likely to enjoy things that remind them of the past.
This new landscape provides opportunities for bartenders to push the boundaries with experimentation, liberation and fun ingredients. Research from the Bacardi Consumer Survey 2022 reveals that in the U.S. and U.K., respondents were most likely to enjoy cocktails containing fruity (35% and 38%, respectively) and sweet (27% and 29%) flavors, signaling the emergence of more frivolous and carefree drink options.
The 2023 Hospitality Trends Report the macro cultural trend of brands leaning into nostalgia is manifesting itself in various ways within the hospitality industry—including childhood sweets getting the grown-up treatment. “We’re seeing restaurants and bars around the country introduce everything from cocktails based on sugary breakfast cereals and ice cream floats, to drinks with popsicles, pop rock rims, and even the return of the jello shot.”
The Bacardi 2023 Cocktail Trends Report also notes that bartenders have been experimenting with more fun, sugary drinks, such as ’90s and 2000s “cringe” cocktails like Cosmopolitans and Passion Fruit Martinis. The recent success of the Dirty Shirley indicates the appeal of sweet, colorful drinks that take people back to their younger days.