Bar Beverages: Back to the Basics, But with a Twist  1/6/2017

Over the past holiday season – which also included my birthday – I had the opportunity (and pleasure) to visit a variety of bars and restaurants with friends and family, and was able to experience firsthand some of the trends noted by attendees of ECRM's recent On-Premise Adult Beverage EPPS.

One of these overall trends, validated by several of my friends’ drink selections, was a return to old standby classics like gin and bourbon. "I see the industry as a whole getting back to the basics and not being too complicated," says nightlife and bar expert Niccole Trzaska, who has managed some of New York City's hottest bars, and who hosted a mixology demonstration during the EPPS meeting. "Bars and restaurants are relying on brands to cut the bull out of mixology and keep it fresh, cool, and easy to execute, without compromising the flavor and quality of the ingredients."

During her mixology demonstration, Trzaska discussed this as well as how bar operators can train their teams on what she refers to as the Five Ps of Mixology: Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance. She also gave advice on how to bring the back-of-the-house and front-of-the-house together by utilizing the kitchen and bar to collaborate with ingredients and seasonal flare. "For example, I prepared some candied orange slices for the group to taste so they could see how simple it is to make a sustainable, seasonal garnish that will save the venue money.”

One trend I reported on from ECRM's Global Wine, Beer and Spirits EPPS was the movement toward portability and ready to drink packaging, and this trend was also evident among the on-premise attendees interviewed. "People are interested in alternative serving formats for wine and spirits like kegs and cans," said one bar operator in attendance.

"It was interesting to see a lot of ready to drink items like BuzzBallz and Owl’s Brew," said Trzaska. "They really did a great job with their branding and the product stands true to the visuals. Some of the standouts were Stillhouse, Branded Spirits and BOM BOM – great branding and very good production. The vessels for these brands where on point and in-line with their culture."

Seed to Table
At the ECRM Foodservice: Natural, Organic & Better for You EPPS, we learned how consumers – particularly Millennials – are demonstrating a greater interest in transparency, clean labels, and knowing the origins of the foods they eat. The same is happening with wine. "They are interested in smaller wineries," said one attendee. "People want to know where it comes from, they want organic, and most important, they want to know the story behind the wine."

And speaking of smaller batches, craft beers are still very popular, with a little twist, according to attendees: now bars are starting to experiment more in mixing cocktails with these beers. "Amoretti has these amazing beverage and pastry enhancing mixes that you can add to a beer or a wine or even as an entire ingredient in a cocktail," says Trzaska.

One trend that was consistently noted by attendees was the growing popularity of all things sweet: sweet wines, rosés, and sangría. "Sweet, sparkling, and refreshing is a trend right now," with rosé and lighter wines becoming very popular."

Putting the Barrel in the Bottle
A runaway hit at the EPPS meeting was not an adult beverage at all, but rather a new innovation that enables bar operators to age whiskey "three years in 24 hours."

Called Whiskey Elements, from Time & Oak, it consists of a stick of oak notched across the grain – in the choice of oakey, maple, vanilla, smoky and peaty flavors – that when inserted into a bottle of whiskey, takes advantage of accelerated transpiration via capillary action to enable the whiskey to quickly absorb the rich flavors of the wood.

"This can be added to any distilled spirit to give it that barrel aged flavor overnight," says Trzaska. "Joshua from Time & Oak has gone through all of the science to ensure that this is all natural and true to the real oak flavors. This is great for bar programs that really enjoy having control over their cocktails and consistency in flavor infusions."

Too bad my bartender didn’t know about these last month – my friends and I could have experienced top-shelf flavor, without paying top-shelf prices!

Below is a video of the Whiskey Elements product and how it works.

A video on how Time & Oak's Whiskey Elements work

Joseph Tarnowski

VP Content

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