Important Spirits & Cocktail Trends in 2019
1.) The Rise of Hard Seltzer
Probably the biggest trend we’ve seen is the rise of hard seltzer. Yeah – and we really hate that it’s so popular because every time you crack open a can of White Claw, a bartender somewhere sheds a silent tear. Like it or not, there’s a kind of populist, anti-intellectual trend that’s taken hold in our culture here in the US, and it’s kind of bleeding into the way that many people drink.
If you’re listening to this, we’re sure you’re one of the valiant defenders of flavor and quality, so this criticism probably doesn’t apply to you. But in case it’s not obvious, hard seltzer is just a highball in a can. They use cheap, grain neutral spirits and then pump it full of bubbles and artificial flavoring. But did you know that it only takes 30 seconds to make a highball that is head and shoulders above a can of hard seltzer?
All you need to do is pick your spirit, pick your bubbly water (flavored or not – we personally like grapefruit with scotch, lemon with bourbon, and lime with gin), and then combine them over ice in your favorite glass. Then, to top it all off, you can garnish it. And one thing is for certain, you’re not gonna shove a lemon twist in your can of white claw. So take that, hard seltzer! Even though you’re popular, you’re lame AF.
Next up in trends, we gotta throw in a shout-out to Tiki, that escapist blast from the mid-century past.
Tiki has been popular for a number of reasons, one of them being the penetration of artisan rum into the American market. High quality rum has been something that other parts of the world have known about for some time, but we’re finally starting to see some great, affordable bottles here in the U.S.
We also need to thank some great authors for releasing Tiki books in the past year, including recent interview guests Shannon Mustipher and Matt Pietrek. I’ll link to our interviews with those two fantastic authors over on the show notes page for this episode over at ModernBarCart.com/podcast, as well as our conversation with rum importer Chase Babcock of Saint Benevolence Rum, who is responsible for doing great charitable work and bringing delicious Haitian Clairin to the U.S.
The last thing we’ll say about Tiki is that a lot of folks have been taking time to throw copious shade at its less-than-admirable origins in colonialism and cultural appropriation. This is indeed the origin of tiki culture – and the two white guys who popularized it (Donn Beach and Trader Vic) raked in lots of cash by putting stylized depictions of native culture on display to delight their customers who couldn’t get enough of the kitsch.
We’ve seen some articles out there proposing that because of its history of exploitation, Tiki is a prime candidate for cancel culture. We’re still in the process of putting our thoughts together on this – because if you’re a white guy you need to think long and hard before volunteering thoughts on cultural appropriation. But let it suffice to say that when we do throw our hat into the ring, we’re probably not going to advocate for a world where we outright ban the Mai Tai, the Zombie, and the Jet Pilot. That sounds like a less delicious world, and we’re not for it.
Important Spirits-Related Legislation
In terms of current events, there is one EXTREMELY current event that you all need to know about if you’re invested in spirits and cocktails and that is the extension of the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act, which allows small distillers, brewers, and winemakers to avoid massive, truly oppressive taxes on what they produce. Without this one year extension, many distillers would have to pay a 400% increase in their excise taxes, which is crazy.
If you zoom out and look at the beverage landscape, prices are going up on things like Scotch Whisky and other imported European spirits due to the tariffs imposed by that dumbass in the White House. If, after this extension expires in a year, Congress doesn’t see fit to extend it again or pass permanent legislation, distillers could be right back in trouble, which means that prices on your favorite craft spirits will skyrocket, cocktails will get even more expensive at your favorite bar, and industry growth will be seriously stunted.
So if ever there was a time when everyday folks could chip in and help all the bartenders, distillers, and cocktail folks out there, this would be it. Please keep your eye out for updates about this legislation. Maybe set a Google alert to notify you when articles come out. And PLEASE – when someone like our friend Jaime Windon of Lyon Distilling shares details about how to lobby your political representatives on this issue, please take a moment to pick up a phone or send an email.
Your favorite spirits are being threatened, and you CAN do something about it.