The Bacardi Crystal Ball

So, just what do we expect to be drinking this year? What will your favourite bartenders be serving? What will those who stock the bars be chasing? 

In an admirable effort to find out what we can expect, Bacardi asked some 7,000 of their employees around the globe, spread across more than 100 cities, to make the ultimate sacrifice and spend a day visiting bars to find out. They call it ‘Back to the Bar’, for some barstool research and this is the third year they have held it. 

But first, do bartenders really lead customers or do they simply respond to what their punters want? 

Nielsen CGA, who monitor all such things, have ascertained that 40% of revenue in bars is “influenced by bartenders”. So their impact is significant. 

Perhaps most interesting (read surprising, disappointing, worrying) is that 83% of bartenders noted how popular low-alcohol drinks have become. Yes, I know, responsible drinking and all that – which we strongly promote here at explore – but it just seems wrong. Google Trends tells us that there was an increase of 42% in online searches for “mocktail” over last year – surely compelling evidence of the decline of Western civilisation. In the UK, the no and low-alcohol spirits market is forecast to grow 81% by 2022. 

The next trend is less surprising. Almost a third of bartenders identified an increasing interest in natural products. Organic cocktails, anyone? We can get on board with that. 66% of bartenders noted that sustainable cocktails are the in-thing. How does that work? The ‘magic pudding’ of cocktails, just reappearing in the glass every time you take a sip? We could get on board with that, as well. 

Local and fresh is in! 91% of bartenders have confessed to using vegetables in their cocktails. I don’t know about the meek inheriting the earth but it certainly looks like the vegans will. 

So, what is your favourite ‘cocktail flavour profile’? Personally, I did not know I had one, but in Britain, almost half of the consumers identified their fave as ‘berry’. Which would seem to be berry indistinct. 

In a decision likely to send their teachers weeping to the bar as their former students murder the English language, 43% of bartenders ranked dark rum as the spirit most likely to be ‘premiumized’. 

Bartenders identified tequila as the next most likely spirit for ‘premiumization’ (forgive me) with 40% support. Then gin (37%), mezcal (29%) and vermouth (21%). These are international figures, but I would love to know if the figures were that high for local barkeeps for mezcal and vermouth. Perhaps they are. Perhaps these are the future. Worse things will happen to the planet in the next year. 

There is, however, strong evidence to support the belief in dark rum with 15% of that category now falling in the premium sector. Again, be interesting to know how close we, here in Australia, are to that figure. My feeling is that we get closer every year and the top dark rums will soon be seen as elite spirits, which sit comfortably with the best cognacs and whiskies. 

Among mixers, fermented products such as kombucha are popular with 51% of bartenders; 39% like to include coffee, 29% tea and 27% coconut water. 

There are, of course, all sorts of other statistics and figures and predictions, most of which relate to those in the industry. But kudos to Bacardi for this initiative. Always interesting to see what we are drinking and what we are likely to encounter in the future. 

And they must have been pleased to see the predictions for dark rum!

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