Mixology: Beyond “shaken, not stirred”

January 14, 2013

You will always have your rum & coke regulars and cosmopolitan queens but many are  looking forward to the unique concoctions mixologists bring.

The art of mixology has received considerable attention over the past few years and it isn’t slowing down anytime soon. Classic cocktails are making a comeback and mixing drinks is considered by some to be a craft worth admiring. After all, experimentation with taste, appearance and the various elements of the earth can make or break a cocktail.

It might sound slightly pretentious but I prefer to think of it as a new way to enjoy food and drink. Regardless of your thoughts on the matter, Sunset Magazine said it best: “It’s a world of new spirits, of ever wilder ingredients… In an era of fast food, craft cocktail bars are places where drinks take time and the end result is about quality.”

Here is what you can expect to find in the bars this year:

  • Food in your drink: No, that piece of bacon didn’t fall into your glass on accident. That slice of kiwi and orchid petals are supposed to be in there. It’s not just mojitos and Bloody Mary’s who get vegetables thrown in. Food adds a little flavor and extracts that extra kick your beverage wouldn’t bring otherwise.

If you are particularly inclined to listen to the experts, just listen to what Aidan Demarest, beverage director of the Hotel Roosevelt’s Spare Room has to say on the matter. Demarest’s own contribution to the culinary cocktail craze is his signature Figgy Smalls, a mixture of of fig jam, egg white, lemon, bitters, thyme essence and Bulleit bourbon with a bacon wash.

  • Summon the trees, gather the locals: Barks, leaves and all other forms of nature are finding their way into cocktails. Many mixologists are collecting the freshest berries, greens and other ingredients from local farms. Additionally, locally produced spirits and beer are becoming quite the norm (more on that in another post.)
  • Flavored vodka: This trend has received mixed reviews but it is a popular trend and it is here and it’s not going away any time soon. So for all who have endured shots of bubble-gum vodka (guilty) or have taken up issue with s’more flavored Smirnoff, I apologize.
  • A bar within a bar (within a bar): Some people just couldn’t be bothered about the newest in cocktail confections. They would prefer to have their standard Coronas and maybe a kamikaze shot if the mood strikes. And that is perfectly fine. But for those who are interested in the more intricate fixings, it has become increasingly common for bars to have smaller stations inside the venue that focus primarily on craft brews and specialty drinks.
  • Gatsby: Classic novel The Great Gatsby is coming to theaters this summer. The long anticipated film is the instigator for any number of theme parties. I suspect several bars, clubs and restaurants will take advantage of this blockbuster as people pick up interest in this era’s favorite drinks.
  • The Speakeasy: I’m going to go out on a limb here and say my friends are responsible for this trend, having dubbed their bachelor pad “The Speakeasy” back in 2010 and they lived up to the name handsomely. More likely, however is that the number of prohibition-era inspired joints have spurred from a serious case of the 1920s throwback.
  • Ready-to-drink: The problem with a well-made, carefully crafted cocktail is the time spent making it. Most people, particularly in the bar scene don’t want to wait 20 minutes for their drink. At the same time, cracking open a bottle of a pre-made cocktail just doesn’t seem appealing. Luckily ready-made cocktails that retain flavor and quality are becoming more and more common. Bottoms up.

At the end of the day, only time will tell with what defines the mixology and cocktail trends. Culinary cocktails, local resources, flavor-infused vodka… I wonder what 2014 will bring.

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