Can you believe it’s going to be 2021 in less than two months? I can’t believe it either. It seems like just yesterday we were ringing in 2020, excited for a year that was going to be a time full of travel, concerts, and exciting new bars and restaurants. 11 months later all I can say is ...yikes. Let’s just forget this year ever happened and look at some exciting trends in cocktails for 2021.
To go cocktails
Restaurants have shown time and time again during this pandemic innovative ways to keep in business. Meal kits and themed dinners are just two ways venues are marketing their food, and are doing the same for their cocktail program. Various states and cities have relaxed their liquor laws to allow bars and restaurants to offer carry out drinks, a sorely needed source of income for venues that don’t also offer food options. Many of these ordinances are temporary, however, often expiring only a year after they were passed. But with no end to the coronavirus pandemic in sight, restaurant owners and bartenders alike are fighting to keep cocktail carry out permanent. Don’t expect your city to look like Bourbon Street any time soon, though.
Mocktails and “cleaner cocktails”
Raise your hand if you feel like you’ve spent way more money on alcohol during quarantine than you have before. Now put it down. The truth is, you actually didn't - while off premise alcohol sales have skyrocketed (Drizly reported a 391% increase in sales over what was actually expected for the month of May) it’s only because people couldn't consume on-premise at now shuttered bars, restaurants, or taprooms. The dollars you would have spent at a brewery are now what you use at your local liquor store. It evens out.
"Consumers are spending significantly less on alcohol because of the closures and restricts to the on-premise space. People are just transferring their purchases, not buying more alcohol in total." - Danny Brager, Senior Vice President of beverage alcohol at Nielsen
But while alcohol sales might have stayed the same, mocktails and “cleaner” cocktails are now hitting their stride amidst a pandemic, when consumers are growing more conscious of what they’re putting into their body. Whether it’s for health reasons (quarantine 15, anyone?) or just simply out of curiosity, the rapid rise of mocktail sales show no sign of stopping. Google searches for “mocktail” went up 42% last year, and since the pandemic began, nonalcoholic beverage brands such as Lyre have reported a 400% increase in online sales.
The pros are enticing - all the depth and taste you’re looking for in a cocktail and the social aspect of drinking, but without the calories, carbs, and alcohol. Mocktails are here to stay.
If there was anything good that came out of this year, it was having more time to pick up new hobbies. At one point, every other post on Instagram was someone proudly showing off their first sourdough; rollerblades and Nintendo Switches were flying off shelves. So it comes at no surprise that mixology too has become a hobby for many curious consumers, and will continue to be through the new year.
It’s an enticing art to get into - you’ll probably have a lot of ingredients and products at home already, and drink making kits are within reach with the click of a button or a trip to the store. Some more stats from Drizly - this past March, liqueurs, mixers, and schnapps sales were up 600%. Vermouth sales shot up a cool 1200%!
Social media proves to be a major catalyst for this trend. Mixologists and bartenders, unable to use their skills at bars and restaurants, are using the Internet to share their knowledge with curious consumers. Anytime of the day you’re likely to see a bartender hosting a masterclass or discussion live on Instagram, reaching thousands of viewers all over America and beyond. With the uncertainty of dining out home bartending is sure to be a mainstay.