Top Bartenders Pick The Cocktails Of 2019

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Top Bartenders Pick The Cocktails Of 2019

Words by Ms Johanna Derry

13 December 2018

From tequila you wouldn’t slam to artisan tonics to go with your gin – the future of drinks, according to those in the know.

Ten years ago, only your granny drank gin. Now we all do. Such is the nature of trends in drinks; one year you’re ordering an overblown super-sweet concoction served with a paper brolly and a cherry, the next you’re smugly sipping a simple and slightly bitter negroni.

What will the trendsetters have us sup in 2019? In October, at the 2018 finals of World Class – a global drinks competition to find the world’s best bartender – the trends of the future were out in force. Millennials famously aren’t drinking anywhere near as much alcohol as the generations before them, but that’s not killing a good night out, thanks to non-alcoholic alternatives such as Seedlip. Bars aren’t just under pressure to ditch the plastic straw. Finding ways to use or cut out citrus peel, ice and other waste is a source of inspiration for bartenders. And there’s always the challenge of making something Instagrammable that’s still banging to drink.

The finalists had been whittled down from about 10,000 entrants and fought their way through regional, national and then global rounds to show off not just their skills at mixing drinks and at making you feel welcome, but also how they interpret the trends. Here, they, and bartenders from around the world, share the spirits they’re most excited about and how we’ll be drinking them next year.

If the thought of whisky makes you wince with memories of peated drams promising to put hairs on your chest, UK winner and bartender at Last Chance bar in Nottingham, Mr Daniel Warren, aims to change your mind. Yes, he’s a self-confessed whisky lover, but where people eulogise about single malts, he’s more pragmatic.

“I’m much more interested in blended scotch,” he says. “The flavour is incredible, which makes it very versatile.” He recommends mixing scotch with soda. “It’s one of the best drinks,” he says. “It’s something anyone is capable of making, whether you’re in the world’s best bar, your local pub or at home.”

Perhaps it’s sacrilege, but Mr Michael Hajiyiannis, bartender at Ruby in Copenhagen, takes it a step further. “Whisky’s very versatile,” he says. “It works well with soda, but also with ginger ale or coconut water. Don’t be afraid to play around with it.”

So ubiquitous is the gin and tonic these days that it’s possible to forget this is a cocktail, albeit one of the simplest. So while Australian Mr Orlando Marzo, overall winner of World Class this year, agrees that whisky is on the rise, he doesn’t think our passion for gin is going to disappear soon. We will, however, branch out from the standard G&T to experiment with other classic gin cocktails such as a Tom Collins. “It’s simply gin, lemon, sugar and soda water, a cocktail that will appeal to anyone, yet it’s one bartenders can still get creative with,” he says. “I like serves that everyone can enjoy. For me, a Tom Collins is a versatile and long-refreshing drink. It ticks all the boxes.”

While the trend for artisan spirits has been around for a while, there’s no point caring about your liquor and not paying attention to your mixer. As we all learn a bit more about the booze we’re drinking, we’re getting pickier about all the elements in our glass.

“A decade ago, you’d have got a gin with a really poor tonic and some ice,” says Mr Tim Philips, co-owner of Dead Ringer and Bulletin Place in Sydney, Australia. “Now you request your gin, your tonic, your ice and your garnish. It is a cocktail, not just a mixed drink.”

He’s noticed people “brand calling” their mixers as well as their spirits when they order their cocktails. “It’s not just tonics. There are artisan soft drinks – sodas, colas and ginger beers. People want everything in their drinks bespoke and I think it’s great.”

The days of slamming down shots are long gone. Tequila and its cousin mezcal are being made to be drunk responsibly these days, and it would be a waste to do otherwise. Mr Philips thinks our enthusiasm for whisky will tip into a love for mezcal. “In Australia, everyone’s drinking unaged rye whisky and mezcal,” he says.

These sippers aren’t just on trend because of the Mr George Clooney/Casamigos effect (Mr Clooney sold his brand of tequila to Diageo for US $1bn in 2017). If you ask Mexico’s best bartender, Mr Marco Aurelio Dorantes of Fifty Mils in Mexico City, he’d say – though perhaps he’s somewhat biased – there’s a good reason why tequila is on the rise. “Tequila makers understand better what people are looking for in a spirit, and now you can get a much higher-quality drink.” The variety and connoisseurship behind tequila make it Mexico’s answer to scotch, a spirit you can truly geek out about.

If the booze is not for you, for the first time you have the option to drink something grown up that’s zero ABV. Ditch sugary concoctions for cocktails based on non-alcoholic distillations. “We want to be healthier and to live for longer,” says Seedlip’s Ms Claire Smith-Warner. “So we’re more concerned about what we consume and how much.” It almost goes without saying that good bars will have alcohol-free options on their menus. But long drinks made with single shots, and low-ABV spirits such as vermouth are in the mix, too. “Part of a healthy lifestyle is drinking in moderation,” she adds. “In the future I think not drinking will become as mainstream as vegetarianism is now in food.”

Illustration by Mr Brian Danaher