Top 10 Cocktail & Wine Trends Revealed

Southern Glazer’s is excited to share the results of its 2022 Liquid Insights Tour, a coast-to-coast educational initiative designed to explore and identify the latest trends in cocktails and wine.


The Liquid Insights Tour kicked off in Houston in February, and included stops in Kansas City, New York, Las Vegas, Chicago and Los Angeles. Over the course of 111 days, Brian Masilionis, Director, On-Premise Commercial Strategy & National Accounts for Southern Glazer’s, led a team of its industry-leading mixologists to sample more than 400 drinks in 83 of the hottest restaurants, bars and hotels, compiling their insights to discover emerging cocktail and wine trends across the U.S.


Analyzing industry data and gathering insights within the beverage industry has long been a practice of Southern Glazer’s, where it is used for internal education and training of the company’s sales force and their accounts. Now, through the Liquid Insights Tour, Southern Glazer’s is sharing its findings more broadly to help a hospitality industry still reeling from the effects of the pandemic, and to excite consumers about wine and cocktail innovation being driven by a new generation of diverse bartenders, sommeliers and beverage professionals. 


“Our driving purpose for conducting the Liquid Insights Tour was to uncover innovative beverage trends and experiences across the country to ensure Southern Glazer’s continues to have the most knowledgeable sales consultants in the industry,” said Masilionis. “Throughout the tour, we evaluated the complete on-premise experience by examining product offerings, pricing, promotional approach, people, service and process.”  


Bridget Albert, Southern Glazer’s Beverage Trade Expert, added, “I believe Liquid Insights is a valuable program that gives its reader a rare behind-the-scenes look into successful working bars through the eyes of industry pros.”


The conclusions from this tour, coupled with Southern Glazer’s world-class wine and spirits portfolio, creates a leading wine and cocktail experience, with best-in-class customer service from coast to coast, for restaurants, bars, hotels and other on-premise venues. 


Top 10 Trends Revealed


Analysis of the findings of the Liquid Insights Tour revealed that top trends fell into three distinct categories:


·         Cocktail innovation

·         Wine trends

·         Execution and presentation trends


Top cocktail insights:


1.  Uncommon Combinations:


Bartenders were mixing spirits not commonly used together to create new and interesting cocktail flavor profiles. Creative combinations included a cocktail in Houston that combined Scotch and corn liqueur, one from Kansas City that mixed rum and cognac, another in Chicago using gin and mezcal, and a drink in Las Vegas that combined bourbon and añejo tequila.


2.  Beyond Basic Balancers:


The team found many cocktails that were made using an innovative variety of methods or modifiers to balance the drink or add layers of flavor. These included:


o   The use of acids, such as Meyer lemon, lime, blood orange, grapefruit, verjus (also known as verjuice) or acid powder;


o   Using sugars and syrups, such as burnt sugar, raw or unrefined sugar products (e.g., Turbinado, Demerara or black sugar), local honey, and in-house flavored syrups using ingredients like lavender, chamomile or even cola;


o   Incorporating salt, such as Black Lava, Himalayan, tajin, hibiscus, corn, gusano, Yukari or smoked salt to elevate flavors (and calling out the use of salt in the drink menu descriptions);


o   Herbs, coffee, tea and spices, including herbal or spice-based liqueurs such as Chartreuse, Campari or Falernum; incorporating coffee or tea such as chamomile, green tea, espresso and cold brew; using peppers and spices such as espelette, jalapeno, chili, Kashmiri, ginger and galangal; or incorporating a variety of bitters such as Angosutra and Amaros such as Nonino, Averna or Fernet;


o   The use of fats beyond animal fats, such as clarified milk, egg whites or whole egg, butter, coconut and olive oil and other plant-based fats, to add a luxurious smoothness or creaminess to cocktails;


o   The use of ice and heat such as stamped, flavored and smoked ice; the use of various forms of ice such as shaved and blended ice; and the use of flame, chilled vapor and heat in mixology.


3.   Caffeinated Comeback:


Once the darling of the 90s bar scene, the Espresso Martini took center stage as the standout cocktail of the tour. Around the country, mixologists are giving new life into this classic, incorporating a variety of creative ingredients such as amaro and coffee liqueurs or brandy with espresso or cold brew.


4.   Sophisticated and Spirit-Free:


Non-alcoholic offerings at the country’s top bars, restaurants and hotels are now just as elevated, delicious, and pricey as their alcoholic counterparts, featuring similar ingredients, flavors and presentations just without alcohol.


Top wine insights:


5.  Bubbly Is Popping:


Champagne and sparkling wines continue to climb in popularity on drink menus. Throughout the tour, more sparkling options were available by-the-glass and had a more prominent presence on top wine lists. In addition, bartenders are mixing sparkling wine of all styles and prices into their cocktails to add effervescence, crispness or sweetness to the experience.


6.  Wines Chill Out: 


Chilled selections of red and sweet wines appeared on menus across the U.S. Orange wines also appeared more frequently than ever before, often presented on menus in a combined rosé and orange section.  


7.  Tempting Trial With By-The-Glass & Premium Half-Bottles:


o   Curated by-the-glass (BTG) options are becoming more diverse to suit the shifting preferences of consumers looking to try new wines, with less duplication of flavors and more focused, curated offerings overall.


o   BTG wine offerings are also more balanced between domestic and international offerings than in the past, even in Los Angeles, a market known for its domestic California-grown wines.


o   There is also a growing trend in wines priced to sell with good value in either BTG or by-the-bottle formats to drive more orders and not just high margins. More of the top venues are now offering ultra-premium wines in half-bottles, tempting consumers to trade up and taste fresh, high-end wines on a two-glass basis.


Top execution and presentation insights:


8.  Batching for Speed and Service:


Top bartenders continue to innovate around batching their cocktails, including both partial (batching only non-perishable items) and full batching, and using citric and/or malic acid to extend freshness and maintain citrus flavor. The driving force behind this trend is the need for speed and to improve quality and consistency in cocktail preparation, which allows for more time to connect with guests.


9.  Entertaining Experience Enhancements:


Adding “flair” to the cocktail experience with the use of vapors, “air”, smoke or torch; the use of unique glassware; or the return of communal drinks to be shared; all are creating memorable moments for consumers.


10.  Meaningful Menu Innovations:


Restaurants and bars are evolving their menus beyond being a functional tool to improve the consumer experience. The team saw great storytelling, unique categorizations and humorous names paired with detailed drink descriptions. QR codes, which rose in popularity due to COVID, are now being used to deliver broader offerings and information – from curated, account-specific Spotify playlists to ever-changing allocated spirit offerings, all of which can be updated easily without needing to reprint menus.


Factors Influencing Trends


Backed by industry data and Southern Glazer’s internal insights, Masilionis and his team identified several key factors that are influencing these trends. These include:


·   Aging Population:


Throughout the country, Gen Xers and Millennials now represent a large percentage of consumers in bars, restaurants and hotels.


·   Demographic Diversification:


More ethnic diversity is driving preference shifts in terms of flavors and spirit and wine offerings. In addition, younger, more diverse workers in the hospitality industry are putting their stamp on programs while better reflecting the communities where they work.


·   Health and Wellness Preferences:


Among younger consumers, 21- to 54-year-olds with higher incomes are altering their alcohol consumption habits. They are seeking out natural and/or organic offerings, and low- or no-alcohol options.


·   Impact of COVID-19:


The ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic are still being felt in the hospitality industry. The pandemic necessitated the simplification of operations across the segment. In addition, the pandemic also increased the importance of connecting with guests and offering a premium experience to help hospitality businesses differentiate themselves in a highly competitive environment.


“These unique insights can be incorporated into any on-premise business to build greater success through strategic and innovative beverage programs,” said Masilionis. “Identifying which insights are relevant to your business and how to incorporate them using creative themes, highlighting seasonal ingredients, and tailoring cocktail and wine offerings to the demographics of your guests are all strong strategies. We continue to see the ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic throughout this industry segment, in terms of effects on the work force and on the consumers returning for the on-premise experience. We’re excited to offer these insights to help speed the recovery from the pandemic and make this segment stronger and more consumer-focused than ever.”


Southern Glazer’s customers can shop the Liquid Insights Tour on Proof®. Or, to learn more about how to incorporate these trends into your business, contact your local Southern Glazer’s sales consultant.