Summer Beverage Trends
New Cocktail Trends & Twists for the Season
“You don’t necessarily need expensive ingredients to make a great cocktail.”
The average bartender will tell you that summer’s the best time of year. But not for reasons you might think. It’s not necessarily because they have the opportunity to finally emerge from behind that dark, dreary bar into the fresh air and sunshine of the outdoor patio.
It’s the idea of the summer cocktail, many will tell you, such as Brandon Phillips of Chicago’s Duck Inn, which he best describes as “mid-century modern and really embracing that vibe of a 1960s house party.” His favorite elixirs are those that are classic and simple yet easy to update, like the daiquiri.
“It is still one of my very favorite drinks of all time,” says the award-winning mixologist and head bartender at the restaurant located just shy of Cellular Field (home of the Chicago White Sox).
“It’s so much fun just swapping really simple ingredients (in the daiquiri), but doing it in an interesting way, whereas some of the more grandiose classics like a Corpse Reviver — which is a five- or six-ingredient cocktail — are fun to riff on, but it’s been built up to a point already and they are fantastic as they are. I really like to work with something basic and working up and up and up and blowing it out into something that’s still reminiscent, but very much my own and very different.”
Veteran Chicago mixologist Adam Seger witnessed the resurgence of the daiquiri during a trip to New Orleans this past spring. He credits its revival to rum, which is its main ingredient.
“It’s exploding on all levels here: aged rum, really small artisan rum, island rum,” he explains. “The daiquiri, I think, is going to be the really next big cocktail, but taking it back to the classic daiquiri with extremely high-quality rum, fresh citrus, sugar and that’s it; maybe a slight variation.
“It’s really kind of re-introducing people to an authentic daiquiri, and not that thing you see people walking around with on Bourbon Street with corn syrup and crazy, fake color. I am referring to the daiquiri that was created as a great, classic, elegant cocktail. ... I think it’s going to be a really exciting trend, combined with rum and all the influence New Orleans has internationally with Tales of the Cocktail, you’re going to see a lot of rum on cocktail lists this summer.”
Another big trend Seger is seeing is the rise of more wine-based cocktails. He says it started because of the resurgence of vermouth, which happened because of renewed interest in the Manhattan and Negroni.
“Now people are discovering that vermouth is amazing and almost the original bottled cocktail,” Seger says. “With summertime coming around and lots of patios opening, in the heat you don’t want quite as heavy a cocktail, but you do want something that’s really interesting and balanced. Wine-based cocktails are a great way to kill two birds with one stone.”
This season, Seger will add his name to the vermouth trend with the release of Balsam, which aims to re-invent the luxury vermouth category. He’s launching the brand with business partners Barry Young, a master distiller at Boyd & Blair Vodka, and Rodrick Markus, the master blender and CEO of Rare Tea Cellar.
He says that it’s “everything that is in traditional sweet Italian vermouth except the wine.” For summer imbibing, Seger has come up with a few simple uses: mixing one part Balsam with three parts red wine (from a fruity Malbec to a luxe Barbaresco); replacing vermouth with Balsam in a Manhattan or Negroni; on the rocks; or as an elegant aperitif chilled with champagne.
Looking for more ways on how to best showcase your bar program this summer? Brandon Phillips and Adam Seger offer a few more tips:
“Make your own syrups in vanilla or varying spices and you can easily have a new riff on a classic cocktail. You’re seeing it more and more with standard bars. We are going to get back to reasonably priced cocktails as bartenders figure out how to make their cocktails more affordable. You don’t necessarily need expensive ingredients to make a great cocktail.”
“There will be more fresh herbs and produce (in cocktails), as most mixologists will continue to follow the chef trend of keeping it really seasonal and supporting farmers markets during the summertime.”
“Using fresher and seasonal ingredients is less expensive because there is more on the market. Strawberries, peaches, blueberries, tomatoes, etc. will be less expensive when they taste the best. As long as you have the flexibility in your program to not be locked into produce out of season, if you stay in season, your costs will actually be less. And you can very easily just add a dollar more to the cocktail price for something fresh and local because people are willing to pay more for something special.”