Just as fashions in food tend to go in and out of vogue, so do trends in the bar world. So what did we predict would be big in 2014? Lots of soju and cider as well as wine on tap. And were we right? You betcha! So here’s what we foresee for New York’s cocktail scene in the coming year, including fizzy champagne-topped tipples, and a resurgence of vodka and rum!
Rum All the Rage: Owe rum’s current run to a renewed obsession with shareable Punches and Tiki; fun, tropical drinks served in coconuts, or totem-shaped glasses. For the former, indulge in massive bowls of the “Glasgow,” made with Angostura 1919 and Smith & Cross rums, mineral water, lemon oleo and nutmeg, on the lush rooftop of Gallow Green in Chelsea, or the multi-portion potions at the East Village’s Death and Company, such as the “Skellington Punch,” with Goslings Black Seal rum, apple brandy, pineapple juice and roasted pumpkin syrup. For the latter, find Ginger Mai Tai’s, Frozen Painkillers and Zombies at the all-tiki menu at The Woods in Brooklyn, or visit Fort Defiance on Thursdays for their celebratory, Polynesian-styled “Sunken Harbor Club” pop-up, featuring Fog Cutters, Gunga Dins, and oversized Volcano Bowls — which actually manage to straddle two trends!
Bubbly is Big: Now, we’re not saying you should dilute your Dom Perignon with cranberry juice and bitters, but champagne is being used in place of seltzers and sodas, to add lift to all sorts of effervescent cocktails. Take the “Felice Frizzante,” with Cocchi Rosa, vodka, prosecco and citrus at Locanda Verde, the classic “Arnaud’s French 75” at Maison Premiere, made with cognac, lemon, sugar and champagne (the perfect complement to their fantastic oyster selection), and the “Bottled Champagne Negroni,” at NoHo’s Saxon + Parole.
Vodka Gets Respect: Most acclaimed mixologists are quick to turn their noses up at astringent, one-note vodka, the traditional, inexpensive poison of choice at frat houses, often mixed en masse with gallons of grape juice or Gatorade. Well, Stoli and Absolut may never be cool, but refined, small batch brands are unapologetically being showcased throughout New York right now. Check out the non-judgmental “You Pick ‘Em, We’ll Pour ‘Em” menu at the Happiest Hour, where they’ll gladly sub vodka into any drink, “The Crack of Dawn” at the Third Man, made with apple cider, prosecco, and Zubrowka Bison Grass vodka (another muddle of trends!), and even a vodka-based “Grapefruit Cooler” at the esteemed Pegu Club, which previously, had all but banned the oft-insipid spirit.
Switchel on the Scene: In the same vein as cider and shrubs, colonial-era libations such as Switchel are big news in the bar world right now. So what, exactly, is Switchel? Made with water, vinegar and ginger, and frequently sweetened with honey, brown sugar or maple syrup, the “American Heritage Beverage” was generally served to farmers during harvest time during the 17th-19th centuries. Nowadays, it’s riding high on the love for Andy Ricker’s drinking vinegar-based cocktails at Pok Pok, popping up in tipples all over New York.
Tree-Infused Tipples: Taking the trend of savory, herbaceous libations one further, the burgeoning trend for 2015 is decidedly tree-inspired. We’re talking fir, pine, sassafras and bark, infused into bitters, strained into syrups, and incorporated into a number of aromatic spirits, such as Douglas Fir Eau de Vie and Stone Pine Liqueur.
Lots of Low Proof Options: Would you prefer not to be two sheets to the wind before dinner? More and more bars and restaurants are front-loading their drink menus with aperitifs — low proof libations that will get you buzzing without knocking you out. There are multiple “light spirited” options at the NoMad, such as the “All Betz are Off” with gin, black pepper, celery bitters and demerara, as well as Bacchanal, including the “Adonis” with sherry, orange bitters and vermouth. And Bar Chuko, the popular izakaya in Brooklyn, offers a number of traditional, easy-drinking sochu and soda water-based cocktails, flavored with lemongrass, ginger, raspberry and grapefruit.