Ever have a bacon martini? I haven’t, but my mind was blown the day I heard of such a libation. How about tea infused whiskey? I had this soothing concoction at Metropolis Wine Bar in Brattleboro, Vermont as have been vowing to make it at home ever since.
Alcoholic beverages date back to nearly 7000 BC and have since become a major global industry. And with any industry, to stay relevant with changing audiences there must be an evolution in the product offering.
Last week we discussed the top five trends in appetizers for 2013. Today, we’re hitting the bar scene to learn about their bar software and systems and sharing this year’s spirit trends, compiled by the National Restaurant Association.
And as a quick heads up before we get into the list: if you’re local to Providence, Rhode Island, be sure to check out Providence Cocktail Week, going on September 21-28. Over 20 bars and restaurants will be participating throughout the city with special menus and events. The Top Shelf Event Series features local-area distilleries and live music, with the closing party at The Dorrance.
Now, let’s get into the top five trending spirits!
1. Micro-distilled/artisan liquor
As the name implies, micro-distilled liquors are created in small batches. Time and attention can be properly paid to the spirit, and the end result typically has a unique flavor that you cannot find in large-batch liquor. The small batch styling also creates a higher perceived value for consumers looking for something different.
The world of artisan liquor is getting wild – literally. Sub Rosa Spirits in Oregon is creating infusions by soaking fresh herbs and spices in vodka. The resulting product is selling fast – Batch Eight of Saffron is sold out nationwide and Batch Six Tarragon is nearly sold out.
2. Locally produced spirits
We’ve hit a point in time where people are once again focusing heavily on the community they’re a part of. Not that this is some new concept, but the trend in buying and supporting local businesses is very strong now. But this concept hasn’t stopped at food – locally produced spirits, wines and beer are involved too.
If you’re a Washington state local, you may have seen this trend coming as deregulation took place in spring of 2012. Industry expansion was coming to the local community and options are available.
One such local distillery is Oola, whose gin is the winner of a Triple Gold at the 2011 MicroLiquor Spirit Awards.
Bitters are used to flavor alcohol beverages while adding a little extra alcohol into the drink. Although there are a variety of bitters, most are traditionally made with herbs, spices, fruits, and roots. They often have a bitter or bittersweet taste, and serve to balance out drinks – particularly ones that could otherwise be overly sweet.
A trend in the local restaurant scene is the in-house production of bitters. Sam Gabrielli, bar manager at Russell House Tavern in Cambridge, makes his own orange bitters and peach-anise bitters. His orange bitters have been called “pithier and spicier than many mainstream labels.”
4. “New Make” whiskey
According to BourbonBlog.com, new make whiskey is whiskey “in its most raw and elemental form before aging.” Sometimes referred to as “White Dog” or White Lightning,” new make whiskey is increasing in popularity amongst whiskey aficionados.
Heaven Hill Distilleries, Inc., headquartered in Bardstown, Kentucky, offers a new make whiskey series called TRYBOX.
The first option offered is simply called New Make, which after the barrel aging process becomes Evan Williams Straight Bourbon. The other new make option is Rye New Make, which becomes Rittenhouse Rye after aging.
If whiskey is your potent potable of choice, try a new make to experience the flavor of whiskey straight from the still.
The difference between mezcal and tequila confuses some people because they are both made by fermented juice from agave plants. So what is the real difference? Tequila is only made from the blue agave plant in specifically designed areas of Mexico, primarily in Jalisco. Mezcal, on the other hand, can be made with a variety of different agaves, with the espadin agaves as a popular choice.
So why the sudden interest in mezcal? The Mezcal PhD blog has some great insight, and according to it, “Mezcal has only been regulated and certified since 2005!” Hence the newfound interest in this agave-based spirit.
There is a noticeable difference in taste between mezcal and tequila because of the way each spirit is prepared. Mezcal has a smokier flavor because the agaves are roasted in earth ovens. Tequila is steamed, so it lacks the smoky taste.
For any connoisseurs interested in production of spirits, mezcal is made in small batches with no chemicals. The same cannot be said for all brands of tequila.
If you’re in the Boston area and looking to try mezcal for the first time, check out Saloon in Somerville’s Davis Square. They have Del Maguey Chichicapa Mezcal and Del Maguey Pechuga Mezcal available.
If you’re on the hunt for a new cocktail at your bar, try experimenting with these five trending spirits. If you’re already using them, feel free to brag about your concoctions in the comments!