Drinks of the Year

Bartender is stirring cocktails on bar counter, toned image; Shutterstock ID 210529606
Bartender is stirring cocktails on bar counter, toned image; Shutterstock ID 210529606
In association with Living Ventures

What strange and exotic specimens will we be sipping throughout 2016? Here are a few of the unusual suspects.

Another year, another list of the year’s must-drink spirits and cocktails. If you’ve been in the business long enough, you know these things have a habit of coming around in circles. But it’s still enjoyable to see what’s getting people excited and where the buzz in the industry is happening.

Last year, it was all about the gin. It absolutely exploded in 2015, with over 260 new brands released. Figures like that are just unsustainable, and gin really has had its time in the sun now. So we’ll see a rationalisation of all those boutique brands, and only those with enough money for marketing will still be here at the end of this year.

A trend that’s set to stay is the craft beer and ales fad. I don’t think that’s quite peaked yet, and with the revival of traditionally brewed Czech pilsners, there’s some life in that sector yet.

Spirits-wise, this year I’d say you should look to tequila and whisky – especially Irish whiskey. They’ve been talking up Irish whiskey for a few years now, but I think this is the year it will really make some noise. Tequila too – as people catch on to the spirit’s softer, more mature side, and start sipping rather than slamming, it’ll really come into its own. We will be increasing our selection in The Alchemist, Australasia and Manchester House.

In general, our tastes are maturing somewhat, and we’re moving away from the sickly sweet cocktail, and more towards the grown-up traditional classics, like a straight-up martini. And we’re still experimenting with bitter and herbal tastes.

We’re changing all our menus in the coming months, and we’re definitely mixing things up a bit. We’re talking to food suppliers about importing strange and exciting new fruits and herbs, especially those from Japan and the east, to infuse our drinks with dramatically different tastes, and curious-looking slices of weird and wonderful fruits. People are a lot more prepared for trying new things out these days.

See also the trend in cocktails using beer, or cider as the base alcohol, some which you can already find at The Botanist – it’s a move away from the heavy ABVs, in line with the ever-changing NHS alcohol recommendations. People are starting to realise that you can have a delicious, refreshing cocktail or two without the need for spirits.

Team that with a few exotic fruits and it almost becomes a nutritious smoothie.

Well, almost.

THE GURU: Dave Ray knows a thing or two about premium spirits, and the cocktails that make them sing. Working for one of North West England’s most successful restaurant and bar companies, Living Ventures, Dave always has to be at the top of his game – tasting and trailing the latest trends. It’s a tough job.