The cocktail world is full of new innovations. Some are super interesting and some are, well, not so much.
We decided to take a gander at some of the hot new trends in liquor to see if they are worth your while (after all, throwing a party isn’t a cheap proposition – so read up if you don’t want to waste your time or money). Since we’re in the liquid world, we’ll evaluate using familiar lingo – for the ones we like, the glass is half full. For the ones that we think you should skip or modify – it’s not that we’re trying to be a pessimist, but they are half empty.
Trend: Absinthe Is Back
It’s only been a few years since this storied spirit has been legal in the United States – spirits fans have embraced the über strong liquor, which was banned due to its alleged hallucinogenic properties (which have subsequently been proved to be a total myth). It’s exciting to be able to whip out a bottle at your home bar and sip a glass, just as the great artists in 1920’s France did, but you have to really like anise to enjoy the stuff. It’s essentially the liquid version of black liquorice. One way to make it flavorful is to add whiskey, bitters and syrup and make a Sazerac.
VERDICT: Half Empty – once the novelty of this spirit wears off, the aftertaste is still there. Unless you jazz it up with other ingredients, the bottle will gather dust on your shelf. Or you will drink it only when a novice is in the house.
Trend: House-Infused Liquors
Pre-flavored booze is great if you’re in a pinch for time, but bars around the country have discovered that flavored liquor really tastes better when it’s DIY. If you look around some of the hottest lounges, you’ll notice big urns full of vodka or other spirits with fruit, veggies and herbs soaking in them. The ingredients impart the flavor without using a mysterious blend of chemicals – it’s simple and tasty, even though it takes extra time. There are so many flavors you can use to infuse – even marshmallows. Try marshmallow-infused vodka for sweet Marshmallow Cake-tinis. Or get even crazier with bacon, chocolate and even wasabi!
VERDICT: Half Full – we much prefer the house-infused spirits to the factory-flavored stuff, if only because we know what’s in them. Liquor companies use countless chemicals to recreate the flavor of a lemon, so why not just use an actual lemon? These infusions are really easy to make at home. For instructions on how to DIY, check out How to Infuse Your Own Vodka.
Trend: Carbonated Liquors
When bartenders wanted to add some bubbles to your cocktails, they used to reach for a bottle of Champagne. Now liquor companies are adding fizz right to their product. A slew of carbonated liquors have entered the market, making mixing easier for bartenders to use one less product while concocting a beverage. Even though it’s convenient, a lot of the new products are essentially alcoholic soda – meaning all those bubbles distract from the crazy amount of sugar in the bottle.
VERDICT: Half Empty – The bubbles in these new labels are typically masking a super sweet product. For a drink with sparkle, like the Berry Bellini Cocktail – stick to the traditional bubbly. Champagne adds a nice texture without adding sugar.
Trend: Bitter is Better
A lot of cocktails these days aren’t afraid to skew toward the bitter flavor palate. Traditional Amaro are everywhere – these are herbal spirits like Cynar and Amaro Nonino that contain unique (and secret) blends that are more savory than sweet. Although novice drinkers might need a little time to adjust, (perhaps start out easy with The Kiss and Tell cocktail and add the optional bitters), each label has a unique and memorable flavor that makes for interesting mixes.
VERDICT: Half Full – These things may be an acquired taste, but once your tongue adjusts, you’ll be drooling for a second round. Also, many of these are used traditionally as aperitifs, to stimulate the appetite before dinner or as digestifs to help settle the stomach after a hearty meal. Try one in tandem with your next big Italian meal and you’ll see why this is one trend worth celebrating.