Consumers may mark the passing of 2014 with a midnight glass of bubbly, but odds are they’ll begin and end the evening with cocktails boasting a burst of cinnamon, a dash of ginger or a hint of mint. Flavored spirits grew more popular this year, and the trend is set to continue growing in 2015 with the rise of more artisan and small-batch products.
Cinnamon has been a particularly popular flavor for whiskey and other spirits this year, but ginger has been on the rise and next year is likely to bring even more ginger-flavored spirits and ready-to-drink cocktails.
“It fits in well with that savory-sweet spice trend, so if you’re going to mix it in anything else, it will provide those notes to the finished product,” said Kirsten Wemer, lab manager at Flavorman in Louisville, Ky. Her company works with clients to create new beverage recipes. “Ginger is the next cinnamon.”
Flavored spirits have been around since the 1980s and preferences are cyclical, but often when perennial favorites come back around they come with new twists, Wemer said. Citrus vodka and apple-flavored moonshine hardly ever go out of fashion, and favorite flavors like orange and raspberry may stand alone or mix with other favorites like chocolate to create something slightly different.
“Clients all want their own special spin on it,” she said. “For example you can start with lemon, but then add a few ingredients to make it your own lemon, like a proprietary formula. We’re seeing that a lot in the craft space, with people wanting to differentiate themselves from the big guys.”
Mint is also growing popular again, she said. It’s cooling and mixes well with other flavors, so there’s the potential to create new flavors of orange mint or vanilla mint, for example. Science allows for the innovate subtle new flavors, but rising demand from adventurous consumers is fueling the growing trend.
“I think it’s the foodie culture and craft movement in general,” Wemer said. “We see it a lot with the distributors, the trend is for unique, small-batch. It’s because of the foodie culture and the exposure to TV shows and different ingredients — people are willing to try more things and pay more money for them.”
The trend is extending to mixers — tonics flavored with elderflower and other herbs and spices are growing increasingly popular, and cocktail fans are experimenting with new combinations such as bourbon and craft tonic, she said.
As the economy recovers, consumers are opting for higher-quality spirits. The volume of distilled spirits rose 2.2% in the U.S. last year, according to the Beverage Information & Insights Group’s 2014 Liquor Handbook.
For consumers who are still on a budget, ready-to-drink options are also getting more interesting.
“When people think of that, they think of bad margarita mixes or Skinnygirl cocktails. There’s nothing wrong with Skinnygirl, they sparked the category, but people are coming out with more complex flavors now, to go along with the craft movement.”
Is your bar serving up new flavors for 2015? Tell us about it in the comments.
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