Can anyone ever know the future? Nope. That won’t keep us from trying to predict it, though—especially when it comes to drinks. With 2022 fast coming to a close, we asked a few forward-thinking experts to make educated guesses as to what the year ahead might hold for the spirits, cocktail and bar industries. Some of the responses surprised us.
For instance, are you ready to start thinking about French 75s in space? What about ever-more-expensive cocktails? Or the rise of shochu, the Japanese distilled beverage that’s long been poised for bar cart stardom?
Here’s what the pros see on the horizon for 2023.
1. Expect More “Guilty Pleasure” Cocktails
Bartenders will double down on combining escapism and nostalgia into whimsical drinks, whether based on rediscovered classics from the ’90s or comforting dessert-style cocktails. Social media-worthy visuals will also be part of the package.
“With all the Dirty Shirleys and espresso martinis in the world making a comeback, a simple Harvey Wallbanger seems ripe for a resurgence on the horizon,” muses Nicholas Bennett, beverage director at Porchlight in New York City. “Its recognition and simplicity are perfect tools for a bartender, plus the [oversized Galliano] bottle will make a great weapon in the inevitable zombie apocalypse.”
2. Low- and No-Alcohol Drinks Will Command Attention
Across the board, bartenders say they plan to serve drinks that will appeal to those who are limiting or omitting alcohol.
Lauren “LP” Paylor O’Brien, proprietor of consultancy LPDrinks and season one winner of Netflix’s Drink Masters, foresees “a focus on understanding no- and low-alcohol-by-volume (ABV) products and the ways to incorporate them into drinks to make the best end product.”
Similarly, Ashley Christensen, who oversees Raleigh, North Carolina venues Fox Liquor Bar and Death & Taxes, predicts more emphasis on booze-free cocktail lists and bars, “and more sobriety in the [bar] industry as a whole.”
That’s supported by the rise in non-alcoholic bottlings and premixed drinks, as well as retailers and e-commerce platforms selling those products.
“No-alcohol products can be sold anywhere with no restrictions, including online through major retailers like Amazon,” notes Adam Rogers, research director for North America at drinks market analysis firm IWSR. “By contrast, the sale of traditional-strength spirits remains largely limited in major online retailers.”