2022 was a pretty good year for the booze industry. With the total global beverage alcohol value now exceeding pre-pandemic levels, the rebounding of the market happened much faster than many expected. With whiskey and agave spirits both booming this past year, and the introduction of new categories and regulations from the TTB, we eagerly await the trends in the drinks space that will take hold in the new year.
Will the Pornstar Martini finally show Americans its star power? Will we see a return to at-home drinking a la 2020? Here are 12 drinks trends to look out for in 2023.
American Single Malt
The recent proposition for legal standards defining American Single Malt should not fly under the radar for whiskey drinkers stateside. While this doesn’t mean we should expect a slew of new releases in 2023 — the aging requirements proposed by those same standards mean that’s simply not possible — it does signal that it’s time to take notice of this soon-to-be official subcategory. Judging by recent spirits brand acquisitions, the major players in the space already are.
The Tequila-fication of Mezcal
It was a big year for agave spirits with sales of tequila and mezcal overtaking whiskey in the U.S. This past year also introduced us to a number of new innovations in the mezcal space that have previously only been observed on the tequila side of agave spirits. From Ilegal — one of mezcal’s largest brands — we were given a 7-year-old añejo and Contraluz provided us with the first, to our knowledge, Cristalino mezcal. Are these the first dark clouds signaling major mezcal producers are seeking to emulate the successes of tequila? Possibly, much to the probable chagrin of agave purists. Whether good or bad, you should expect to see more mezquilas — not referring to Guy Fieri’s Santo here — in 2023.
Large Craft Breweries Becoming Beverage Companies
Credit: The Boston Beer Company
Diversification will rule the beer-making nation in 2023 as more large craft producers expand their portfolios to stay competitive. That means more hard seltzer, hard teas, hard lemonades, RTDs, and who knows what else.
Small Craft Breweries Pulling Back and Staying Small
Credit: The Lost Abbey
As those large craft breweries expand their portfolios, the exact opposite will happen with our beloved small breweries. (Being a midsize craft brewery? NOW? Have you seen the state of the economy?) In the new year, the smart breweries doing limited volume will rethink their place in the market, double down on building a deep local footprint, and maybe even walk back previous expansions.
A Return to Drinking At Home
Though lockdowns are over, residual impacts of the pandemic including ever-increasing inflation and persisting staff shortages may lead to the return of at-home mixology. With the idea of high-touch service practically nonexistent and food and drink often taking entirely too long to arrive, many consumers are losing interest in spending (too much) time in restaurants only to receive subpar service and be met with a high bill. Next year, more people will be skipping nights out on the town in favor of staying in and drinking from their home bars.
The Pornstar Martini
With the Martini as wildly popular as it is right now and cocktails like the Espresso Martini potentially peaking, we’re due for a new ‘tini riff on American soil. Despite the Pornstar Martini reigning supreme across the pond, it’s never quite taken off in the U.S. But 2023 just might be its year. With passion fruit making its way onto more and more cocktail menus and liqueurs like Chinola earning their way into the hearts of bartenders across the country, it’s only a matter of time before the playfully named Pornstar Martini finds success stateside.
The Resurgence of the Nightcap
As Americans’ interest in amaro continues to grow, many other categories of after-dinner drinks are finding their way into the spotlight. Next year, you can expect to see dessert replaced with — or complemented by — anything from digestifs and cordials to fortified wines. In 2023, the nightcap is back!
After over two decades of lobbying on behalf of consumer advocacy groups, the TTB announced in November of this year that wine, beer, and spirits will all be required to have labels displaying alcohol content, allergen information, nutrition data — including calories — and ingredients. Next year, expect to see these labels changing purchasing behaviors in a major way, driving even more consumers to “diet” beverage alcohol alternatives and perhaps having disastrous implications when it comes to diet culture as a whole.
Decadence at the Bar
Credit: Scott Semler
While some folks might return to their home bar for cocktail hour (see above), others will continue to indulge in drinking out, and the ways in which to splurge abound. With caviar bumps, Champagne sidecars, and drink prices $30 and up, cocktails are about to get a lot more extravagant. (Will the time finally be right for truffles?)
The Revival of ‘90s Martini Riffs
From gin and vodka, to some of the dirtiest versions we’ve ever seen, 2022 showed us just how powerful the Martini can be — just don’t call it a comeback. With the extreme uptick in popularity for the classic cocktail and its iconic V-shaped glass, next year we will — fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you see it — see a revival of the ‘tinis that once dominated the ‘90s. With Appletinis already popping back up on cocktail menus, it’s only a matter of time before they’re once again joined by Lemon Drops, Breakfast Martinis, and other sugary Martini variations (a.k.a. any drink served in a Martini glass) the world over.
The Continuing Rise of Pre-Batched Cocktails
In 2022 we saw a number of bars pre-batching their cocktails, for consistency and to make the lives of their bartenders just a bit easier. We’ll continue to see this trend behind the bar (and on TikTok) in 2023, and won’t be surprised if companies hop on the bandwagon, developing a number of ready-to-serve, pre-batched cocktails, too.
With yawning economic inequality and crippling inflation at hand, and people finally catching wise to crypto’s spectacular scammish-ness, we predict con artists will begin to look elsewhere for their marks. The esoteric world of rare wine and spirits is always fertile ground; expect it to yield some serious high-dollar swindles in 2023.