Winter cocktail trends
Winter cocktails did not disappoint over Christmas time, with mixologists in bars or on socials creating impressive recipes and aesthetics using festive themes.
Classic Christmas visuals inspired a range of colourful, sparkly and extravagantly adorned drinks over Christmas.
Blue cocktails – a drinks trend from summer 2023 – were out in force, topped with crushed ice, cream or icing sugar to create kitsch ‘winter wonderland’ visuals. Ingredients like cranberry, hibiscus or cherry were used to create St Nick-inspired red cocktails too. And edible glitter added extra shine to cocktails, while Champagnes, Proseccos and Cavas all lent their bubbles to a range of fizzy, glitzy cocktails too. Champagne was particularly popular in cocktails this Christmas too, as the ‘little luxuries’ drinks industry trend gained traction – the Candy Cane Champagne cocktail sprinkled crushed starlight mints over the blend of peppermint schnapps with champagne. Garnishes of sweet treats or botanicals elevated a range of classic and limited-edition cocktails too – think sprigs of rosemary, dried citruses, or glazed cherries, along with colourful sprinkles and candy canes.
A range of Spritz-style and Sweetini cocktails that are so popular in the summer months were reimagined for Christmas drinking too. Mulled wine spritzes and prosecco spritzes were filled with festive ice cubes while sweet takes on Martinis offered all-out indulgence.
Big flavours, evocative of Christmas festivities and feelings, are ideal to create one-off festive cocktails.
Festive punches, perfect for parties, combined an array of flavours. In bars, these ranged from a simple winter Pimms, infused with wintery garnishes like apple and spices, and an all-out Yorkshire Punch, combining three different liqueurs with gin, fresh fruit juice and Yorkshire tea. For the at-home drinkers, brands and supermarkets ensured a range of seasonal flavoured spirits and RTDs were available, including Sugar plum, Stollen, and Christmas Pudding flavoured liqueurs, and MOTH’s Christmas crackers, with gifts of mini RTDs.
Warming spices complement mulled wines and flavoured spirits while ginger gives extra kick to classic cocktails – like the gingerbread Negroni, made using Campari and ginger bitters. Botanicals like nuts and dried fruits – from whole raisins to burnt date, and whole almonds or almond liqueur – add sweetness and depth to traditional flavours. And woody notes can be infused into cocktails too, using ingredients like amber and sandalwood or birch beer to give depth of flavour and transport drinkers to cosy nights by open fires.
Rich & Warming flavours
Rich and warming flavours transported drinkers too, like winter citruses for extra Vitamin C and cheery berries giving a variety of tastes. Clementine and mandarin flavoured spirits gave an up-market lift to always-popular citrus flavours, while cranberry and cherry were used to riff on classic cocktails.
Playful mixologists took the combo of lemon and honey, an essential for the winter sniffles, and used the remedy to remake a range of whisky and scotch based cocktails. Hot ciders and hot buttered rums offered their own warming flavours too, with mulled ciders offering a fresh alternative to traditional mulled wines.
Rich flavours were also created using flavourings and syrups, like sweet maple flavoured drinks and sophisticated chocolate cocktails, the latter made using chocolate infused gins or additions of salted chocolate flavourings. Dessert style drinks elevated this further, blurring the line between afters and apperitifs by using rich, sweet flavours and edible garnishes.
All these festive flavours made it easy for mixologists to create full flavoured no or low alcohol (NoLo) mocktails and cocktails too. Almost all festive cocktails can be reworked into NoLo versions now, building on the big creamy flavours, fruity ingredients or spicy additions instead of the spirits or wines within.
Drinks industry news
The growth of these NoLo options will be favoured by the growing numbers of young adults choosing to cut down their drinking. A new study by Rekom has found that around half of under 34s in the UK are avoiding alcohol more often. Amongst 25-34-year-olds, 54.3% say they drink less on a night out compared to a year ago, seeing average spend on these occasions dropping by 2.1%.
Drinks giants Bacardi has offered its predictions for 2024’s drinks industry trends. From external research and interviews with bartenders, Bacardi’s latest Cocktail Trends report says trends will be influenced by the ongoing premiumisation of spirits and cocktail culture that offers escapism and nostalgia. It also forecasts the use of new techniques, technologies and ingredients, including unique and innovative aging techniques, natural ingredients and flavours, and tech-driven drinking experiences.
Drinks go digital
Artificial intelligence (AI) is the newest ingredient being experimented with by drinks producers. Brands have been using AI to develop new recipes or flavours as well as create labelling and marketing materials.
Coca-Cola’s Y3000 zero sugar drink was “co-created” with both human and artificial intelligence to generate a berry-cherry-like drink. Hell Energy Drink, launched in Hungary, used AI to determine both its flavour and packaging. And in Asia, AI has been harnessed to create a range of new ready-to-drink cocktails, including Jojo Shochu Soda, a cocktail which AI was programmed to create as a pairing for traditional Japanese foods.
AI is also increasingly being trusted to develop the labelling and marketing messages for drinks brands. Becks, Absolut and Martini have all used it for campaigns. The technology is helping online shoppers to make more informed choices on purchases too, with chatbots assisting with finding drinks suited to flavour preferences, nutritional needs and allergy considerations.
In the US, drinkers can compare human-developed to AI-led cocktails, by sampling offerings from Axelrad bar’s ‘Humans vs Machines’ menu. And mixologists around the world can use BarGPT, a web-based AI cocktail tool that can create recipes, instructions and names with just a few prompts.
Similar technology to this is also being used to create drinks in real-time. In Australia, Deep Liquid’s T(AI)ste bars create new beers based on customers inputting their criteria and specifications into an app that then instructs a special mixing system.
Work with us
Already thinking about this year’s range of festive cocktails? Or wondering how you can use both human and artificial intelligence to keep up with the latest drinks industry trends?
At Simpsons, we’re experts in the development and manufacture of flavours for all drinks categories. Chat to our team today to see how we can support you to grow or refine your ranges this year.
Image source: Trendhub The Food People 2024