From de-alcoholised drinks and alcohol-free festivals to elevated cocktails and experiential venues, our Drink Trends February 2023 blog covers an array of interesting creations and openings:
Saying yes to NoLo – the popularity of Dry January
Less is definitely more, as more drinkers are confidently cutting back on alcohol, instead and to no or low-alcohol (NoLo) alternatives. Drives like Dry January along with product innovations and clever marketing approaches have all helped this.
Around 9 million people ‘completed’ Dry January across the UK this new year, according to Alcohol Change UK. And for those who wanted less restriction, ‘Damp January’ was a welcome alternative.
This year there were multiple drivers behind this. While many continue to be ‘sober curious’, exploring the health benefits of cutting down on booze, there are also more consumers cutting back due to the cost-of-living crisis.
New venues and approaches are legitimising and fuelling the sober curious movement. From NoLo venues, including both pop-up bars and permanent fixtures, to greater alcohol-free options in traditional venues, it’s easier than ever to find and enjoy NoLo drinks.
Mindful drinking specialists Club Soda opened a NoLo bar in London in late 2022, helping drinkers to find alcohol-free alternatives while still enjoying that ‘out out’ feeling. Over in the US, the Counter Culture alcohol-free wellness festival offered a different take on traditional hedonistic festivals.
All these efforts are made possible by NoLo drinks themselves being full of flavour and appeal. The non-alcoholic aperitif category is growing quickly from this, driven by the popularity of spritz-style drinks and bold citrus flavours. And non-alcoholic cocktails have evolved from sickly sweet flavours, with producers and bartenders alike taking the time to develop NoLo cocktails as complex and inviting as their boozy counterparts.
For off-trade, ready to drink non-alcoholic cocktails are becoming more commonplace too. Producers of these RTDs are differentiating themselves from traditional soft drinks through high quality ingredients, focussing on terroir or health benefits.
Kicks from new coffee flavours
For those who stuck to Dry January, alternatives ‘kicks’ from new coffees will have helped.
A number of new flavour combinations have been introduced in recent weeks, including Starbuck’s introducing a new Pistachio Cream Cold Brew alongside its relaunched Pistachio Latte, each using a vanilla latte syrup. Tim Horton’s (Canada) also brought out a new, limited edition creation, of vanilla lattes and cappuccinos topped with toasted coconut.
Over in the US, coffee chains have launched exciting new flavours sure to be seen on this side of the pond soon. A new sea salted caramel coffee has kept up a classic Autumn flavour, giving it a bold flavoured twist by adding sharp sea salt flavours. And coffee syrups containing turmeric, ginger and honey are making golden coffees.
Classic cocktails served in anything-but-ordinary venues
Experiential drinking continues to be popular, as consumers seek out new and unusual ways to enjoy spare time and spend hard-earned cash. Suiting this, Speakeasy bars have popped up around the world.
America, as the underground bars sold outlawed alcohol during the Prohibition Era. Modern-day versions emulate the character and exclusivity of the original venues, if not the illicit nature.
Often ‘hidden’, and almost always selling more ‘fun’ cocktails, Speakeasies offer an all-encompassing drinking experience.
In Manchester and London, Speakeasies are tucked away behind faux laundrettes and locksmiths. Once inside, drinks might take on the same ‘smoke and mirrors’ effect, with smoking cocktails being served. Or, building on the historic and defiant nature of Speakeasies, many aim to challenge drinkers’ thinking, inspired by people or events in history.
Most, though, serve the classic cocktails synonymous with original Speakeasies, including the Negroni, Manhattan, or Old Fashioned.
Cocktails with a twist – bold flavours and new creations
New, inventive or out-right extraordinary cocktails are being created as the 2023 trend for bold flavours grows, all using a range of spirits, mixers and garnishes alike.
Many of these contemporary cocktails use popular global flavours, particularly from Asia and Mexico. These include blends of botanicals like lemongrass, chilli and coriander, or regional spirits like sake or Baiju for Asian cocktails, and mezcal for Mexican cocktails.
In Mexican cocktails like Margarita’s, botanicals are being used as garnishes as much as infused ingredients. Fiery salted rim cocktails are being created using tajin, chamoy or chillies, for drinks that are hot in every sense.
Salted rim cocktails are fast evolving too, to create alternative options with all the aesthetic appeal and up-front flavours. Salt rims are being replaced with tangy sumac spice, sweet popping candy, or even dustings of crushed petals for floral scents and a luxurious feel. And why stop at the rim? For beautiful (albeit, a little impractical) aesthetics, creative bartenders are decorating whole glasses with cocktail garnishes.
Mixologists are adding new garnishes into drinks too, using everything from delicate florals and leaves to meringues and wafers and even patterned or shaped ice as eye-catching cocktail garnishes. Suiting trends for super sensory drinking, these cocktail garnishes complement, accentuate and elevate drinks.
Deposit return scheme delayed
A deposit return scheme set to be introduced for drinks packaging has been delayed. The government has been consulting on introducing the scheme, to encourage recycling of PET bottles and cans and prevent up to 85% of drinks containers from becoming litter.
However, a consultation response now reveals the deposit return scheme won’t come into force across England, Wales and Northern Ireland until at least October 2025. A similar scheme is due to be introduced across Scotland this summer.
The scheme would complement drives across the drinks industry to reduce negative environmental impact through recyclable, reusable, refillable or compostable packaging.
Stay one step ahead
Check out our other blogs for the latest drinks industry juice, or get ideas and inspiration from our trends reports.
Image source: The Food People 2023