The Best Spirits And Cocktails For 2016
Break out the pirate costumes and flaming torches. I asked a group of top mixologists and spirits writers what they’re looking forward to drinking more of in 2016, and both rum and tiki drinks are on everyone’s radar — well-made, creative tiki drinks though, they all wish to point out. Amaro, including some American-made ones, will be popular as well as offerings of lower-alcohol cocktails.
Session Cocktails — Kat Kinsman, Editor at Large at Tasting Table
“Day drinking is a beautiful thing, but tends to knock the night out of play. A
cleverly-crafted “Session Cocktail” (lower alcohol, but not a mocktail) can pair beautifully with bar snacks and keep the party going. Many of them are liqueur, vermouth, port or sherry based, and lofted by tonic, soda water or sparkling wine.”
The Digestif — John Winterman, Managing Partner at Bâtard
Save some room — John Winterman wants you thinking about your after-dinner drink in 2016. “As much as I love whisky — it seems to have reached a saturation point. Digestives are a civilized and graceful way to end an evening. At Bâtard we purchased an antique bar cart to hand-sell eau-de-vie, schnapps and amaro. These can excite and delight our guests who may not have tried them before. We carry a full range of Reisetbauer from Austria as well as selections from Purkhart and Zirbenz. We have another half-dozen amaro to round out our digestif cart. My bartender Harrison Hileman, prefers to finish a nice dinner with Varnelli Sibilla. More traditional brandies are on offer as well such as Bas-Armagnac and Calvados.”
Sherry Cocktails — Gregory Buda, Bartender at Dead Rabbit
“For a couple of years now, I have been trying to give this beautiful category of wines a gentle push and help people to realize how incredibly diverse and versatile they are, as ingredients or by themselves. In my industry, I have noticed people taking more of an interest, especially when they see sherries listed as ingredients in cocktails. Cocktails provide a great introduction to sherries, and they are an incredibly useful tool for me when designing a new drink. For myself, I have really been enjoying pairing sherries with the dishes that I cook at home.”
Apple-Based Spirits — Pamela Wiznitzer, Creative Director atSeamstress NY
“I’m looking forward to more apple-based spirits: applejack, apple eau de vie and calvados. There are so many great brands hitting the market, such as St. George’s Apple Brandy and Neversink. And applejack is a truly American spirit. Theress nothing better than reconnecting with the heritage of our country!”
Extractions — Mike Lay, Beverage Director at Broken Spanish
“In the last few years we’ve seen amazing homages to classics, re-energized tiki cocktails and boat loads of new artisanal spirits. In the coming year, we will see many more bartenders play with homemade extracts and oils to add new dimensions of depth. I’ve seen centrifuges, dehydrators and rotary evaporators becoming more commonplace. I think we will also start to see more and more bar programs tell a story with their cocktails rather than just a delicious menu.”
Infused Spirits — Joao Franco, Mixologist at Lebua Hotel Bangkok
One of the world’s highest rooftop bars is at the Lebua Hotel in Bangkok —
made famous in the movie The Hangover Part II. From his perch atop the city, mixologist Joao Franco plans making his own infused vodka and gins in 2016 to experiment with new cocktail creations.
The Spritz — Talia Baiocchi and Leslie Ann Pariseau, Punch
“For our upcoming book, The Spritz, we’ve been drinking them noon till midnight, from LA to New York to Venice. This year, we’ll probably continue along the path of the aperitivo and drinking more sparkling everything — champagne to pet-nat. While researching in Northern Italy, we would drink col fondo prosecco wherever we could along our road trip, so I’m crossing my fingers that we get more of that cloudy, weird goodness stateside.”
Classic and Tiki — Steve Livigni, Owner of Scopa Italian Roots, The Chestnut Club and Old Lightning
“A lot of cocktail bars are actually going back to a more classic approach again, and that makes me very happy as a customer. Simple, well-executed drinks just can’t be beat. On the other end of the spectrum, more and more great tiki bars continue to open and I’m seeing more Polynesian inspired and tiki drinks on regular menus. I’m very happy with a tiki drink in my hand. Despite the difference in presentation, both styles are all classics and that usually means they’ve been tried and tested. That’s good for the customer. I’m going to keep pulling for cognac to really take off this year, again.”
Eau de Vie — Christian Krogstad, House Spirits Distillery
“I enjoyed a lot of different Amaros last year and plan to continue that trend, seeking out some more esoteric European brands, as well as some from American craft distilleries. I also recently rediscovered the Clear Creek pear Eau de Vie. Steve McCarthy and the crew at Clear Creek have been making this for nearly thirty years. Realizing that great craft spirits could be make in America was one of the motivators for me to start House Spirits Distillery — their pear EdV is still that good and significant to me. It’s great on its own, but I really like it in a sidecar-type drink: the lemon really makes the ripe pear flavor pop.”
Daquiri — Chino Lee, Bartender at The Bithouse Saloon
The Blackstrap daiquiri will be filling my glass this upcoming season. Big and bold from the rum, but balanced with a dark sweetener, such as muscovado sugar, and a bright bite of fresh lime.
Domestic Amaro — Adam Minegar, Head Bartender at The Raines Law Room
Many on this list have professed their love of Amaros, but Adam Minegar is enjoying a new breed of American versions of the Italian digestif. “I’m interested in the American riff on this category we love so much in the cocktail world. There are a lot of very talented folks making bold moves with American Amaro. The Leopold Brothers in Colorado make the killer Highland Fernet, and the Breckenridge Distillery makes a delicious, more mild bitter liqueur. Amaro in cocktails will not only add some bitterness, but also provide subtle flavors from the dozens of herbs and spices used to make it.
Savory Cocktails — April Wachtel, Mixologist at Swig + Swallow
I love food and cocktail pairings, so I seek out low-proof and savory cocktails — which complement food better than boozy stirred or citrus/sweet driven drinks. I’m excited to find more unexpected culinary ingredients that push the boundaries with texture and methods of flavor extraction: oils and vinegars, mushroom, soy sauce, pickle brine and other saline elements, as well as lower proof cocktails with sherry, vermouths, and other fortified aromatized wines in the base.
Rum — Justin Thompson, Bartender at The Flatiron Lounge
“Rye is calming down and bourbon is coming back, but Rum has my vote for 2016. Most bartender have a love for tiki drinks and I believe this summer will be huge for Rum. I’m a big fan of Ed Hamilton’s rum line — amazing stuff. ”
Amaro — Prairie Rose, Cocktail Writer at Bit By A Fox
“I’m looking forward to drinking more of anything that has Amaro in it. I love that we are starting to embrace the complex bittersweet Italian digestif outside of Italy, and bartenders are exploring and incorporating different versions of Amaro into all sorts of yummy cocktails. I’m also a huge fan of the lower alcohol cocktail trend and the uptick in popularity of Aperol Spritzes and Vermouth-based drinks. I look forward to drinking even more booze-light tipples.”
Tiki Revival — Tony Sachs, Spirits Writer
“I’m hoping the tiki revival of the last year keeps going strong. It’s a beautiful thing that the category has been rescued from grenadine-and-fruit juice hell by bartenders who understand the appeal of goofy umbrella drinks but also understand the art of making great cocktails. And of course great tiki drinks need great rums. Every year, I think this will be the year that rum finally catches on as a sophisticated sipping spirit. One of these years I’m going to be right! In the meantime, it’s great to see lots of first-rate rums coming from the usual Caribbean/Latin suspects but from here in the States as well.”
Specialty Whiskies — Emily Arden Wells, Writer at Gastronomista
Distillers are always looking for new ways to finish their whisky, and Emily Arden Wells is a big fan. “I’m looking forward to drinking more bottles like Jameson Caskmates and the Bowmore Mizunara Cask.” The Jameson Caskmates finishes the whiskey in stout-seasoned casks and the Bowmore is the first single malt scotch to be finished in casks made from Japanese Mizunara oak. And, like many others here, “I want more creative tiki cocktails.”
East-Asian Cocktails — Robert Haynes-Peterson, Spirits Writer
“I think were going to see a continuing expansion and evolution of East Asian-influenced drinks. With new spots like Bar Goto and Leaf in the U.S., and stellar American bartenders like Chris Lowder and Frank Cisneros making extended stays in South Korea and Japan respectively, we’re in for a whole new world of blended styles, flavors and experiences.”
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