The Worst Liquor Trends for 2016

This time every year we listen to the “experts” tell us what we should look for in the coming year. The hottest things that we have not seen yet, but will see soon.

The list of 13 trends coming our way published by the Nation’s Restaurant News offered some interesting opinions. They also offered some of the same advice that professionals have predicted for years.

Five of their 13 trends for the coming year struck me as particularly hap-hazard and, well, dumb.

Mocktails, beverages made in the manner of a cocktail only without alcohol, have one purpose. They drive up the check average. If a child orders a Shirley Temple over a Sprite, everyone makes more money. That is the idea behind advertising and promoting a Mocktail.

Sure, there are times when a designated driver wants to “feel included” by having something that looks like something else. That is another issue altogether. Why are we making it awkward to be the designated driver? Why would they not enjoy a coffee just as much?

The idea of a higher priced non-alcoholic drink is hardly a trend. When it is presented as one and not as a sales tactic to increase check averages, it feels dirty. Sure they are delicious, but no more of a trend than a Cosmopolitan.

Tropical Cocktails have been around since the Caribbean started catering to our tourist desires. Myrtle Beach, being a beach destination, knows all about fruity tropical drinks at higher prices. Again, hardly a trend.

The association with these drinks and our beach is what makes them sell. Now, if the sales in Ohio and New York start to rise because coconut rum becomes wildly popular, then they would have a point. On the whole, I do not see this as a trend that is new to us. Pina Coladas are going to sell at every resort on every beach in America just as they did last year.

Barrel-aged gin is what would be mixologists would consider a hip ingredient. It is nothing new. In fact, it has been a part of some European countries for centuries. On our shores, it has been around for a few years. But is it a good idea?

I lean toward the train of thought that I either want a gin martini or a manhattan. I never want some type of hybrid version of a half and half. I find barrel aged gin to be difficult to use effectively in a cocktail and a little too much like my favorite spirit bourbon to be used in a martini.

At the risk of meeting the aged gin fanatics in a desiolate parking lot with clubs and rocks, this is a fad instead of a trend. It is a marketing ploy for the gin business to cash in on the resurgence of the popularity of bourbon. Even the tasting notes on most websites use words more akin to that of bourbon.

Kombucha, a fermented tea, and matcha, Japanese powered tea, have been the drinks of choice in recent years for the “healthy celebs” of our culture. While I applaud their unique ingredient qualifications, the health aspect of the drinks is reduced when you put alcohol in the mix.

America has been on the search for a healthy cocktail for years. The truth is that this makes a drink a little less harmful than a Red Bull and vodka, but to call it “healthy” is a bit of a stretch.

Wine on tap is the worst idea on this list. A gimmick, yes. A trend, no. There is a certain romance about wine that we all love. In fact, that is what we are paying for. We love the sophisticated service that a glass of wine has attached to it.

When you remove that and put the same beverage in a “serve yourself” environment, you lose the very thing that we love. The argument will be preservation, volume and cost savings. All weak and avoidable points. In all my years as wine buyer for some major chains and fine dining restaurants, I never once used a wine on tap system. I never lost money either.

Wine on tap becomes a way for a restaurant to try to lure you into either more wine or better wine. Trust me when I say that I support both of those ideas. However, I want it to be served to me as it should be. Not standing in line waiting for my rations of vino.

In Myrtle Beach, we become creatures of comfort because we cater to what people want when they come to a beach destination. Sweet and easy drinks will continue their growth. Frozen drinks will always be a mainstay and shots are practically a religion around here. We can talk about those every year if we were so inclined.

So what is coming our way for 2016?

I suspect continued popularity of classic cocktails and their variations. We see that a lot these days and it is a load of fun blending the familiar with the innovative. Brunch drinks are due for a splash any year now. Mimosas, Bellini’s, Bloody Mary’s and softer liqueurs have a real place for our hangover tourist crowd. Finally, I think we will get back to proper service. The turn and burn mentality is played out on our beach. It should become “how many drinks can you make properly” instead of “how many drinks can you make”. At least I hope that is the direction.

In the meantime, drink what you like and be nice about it. Cheers!