We’ve gotten used to expecting the unexpected while venues and producers have shown a superlative degree of resilience and creativity.
Attempting a prediction has always been tricky, even to the best informed of guessers in the least chaotic of years, but while there are multiple spinning plates influencing the wine and drinks attitudes and behaviours in the horizon, it is reasonable to expect that the ten trends listed below will gain relevance in 2022 and the near future.
More Entertaining at Home, but Fewer Guests
Socialising in smaller groups at home means more intimate dinner parties, meaningful conversations and possibly longer soirées. It also means the focus is on quality and not quantity; think mixing cocktails for four instead of pre-making a batch for fourteen, or opening fewer bottles of better wine.
Practices like tablescaping, bartending at home and using drink-specific glassware (such as gin and tonic globes, Margarita coupes, etc.) are making a comeback as we look for ways to take our petit comité hangout to the next level.
Sustainable and Ethical Premium Drinks
The importance that younger generations place on a brand’s values is well-documented. When deciding to splurge on premium wines and spirits, consumers vote with their wallets, therefore factors such as carbon footprint, organic production, and ethical treatment of workers and the environment are more important than ever.
To name a few examples: Cork-produced Maharani Gin is made with botanicals sourced from a women’s organic farming cooperative in Kerala, India. Craft Beer powerhouse BrewDog proudly lets consumers know it is ‘carbon negative’ (meaning it removes more carbon from the air than it emits). Last Christmas, Redbreast Irish Whiskey launched a bird feeder bottle and a campaign to raise funds for BirdLife International, and its Irish affiliate, Birdwatch Ireland.
Wine and Spirits Expanding the Hard Seltzers Category
Hard seltzer is here to stay. The increasingly popular mix of sparkling water, alcohol and various flavours is proven to be a hit. With its sustainable and outdoors-friendly packaging, and its low-alcohol, gluten-free, easy-to-drink flavours, it is the drink that booze snobs love to hate and everyone else loves to have.
As the demand grows, the category will continue to expand. Wine-based low-alcohol spritzers and mixed drinks with premium spirits are adapting to the canned format and in some cases blurring the lines. For example, Ramona, a spritzer sold with the tagline ‘it’s wine, but cooler’, Barefoot Wine Hard Seltzer, Gordon’s Pink Gin and Tonic Premix Can, Mil Gin’ Spritz, and Jose Cuervo’s tequila-based Playamar Hard Seltzer, described as “a bubbly take on the traditional Margarita.”
Single-Serve and Small Formats
While not every drink enthusiast is mentally prepared for a can of sparkling watery boozy mango juice, the can format itself alongside other smaller presentations is gaining acceptance and popularity as well.
We’ll see more small presentations convenient for outdoors sipping or for those evenings when all we want is one glass to enjoy al desko without having to open a whole bottle.
Examples range from the Capri Sun-style serves like the fruity Smirnoff’s Frozen Pouches to high-end artisan cocktails in two-serve portions like the ones made by the bartenders turned manufacturers at Irish Craft Cocktails, from the good ol’ half-bottle wines to retailers and bars that now ship rare and luxurious whiskeys in small portions such as Drams Delivered (Celtic Whiskey Shop) or Dream Drams (Bar 1661).
Drinks Subscriptions and Discovery Boxes
Let’s admit it, getting a package in the post is one of those little things that get our hearts pumping, and subscription boxes of various types have tapped into our craving for trying out new things even while staying at home. The drinks industry was late to the online shopping revolution, but concepts like wine clubs and beers of the month have adapted quite well to the subscription box model and we’ll be seeing more of this in the near future.
For example, there is boxofwine.ie, which promises a selection ‘tailored to your taste every time’ (users fill a quiz to create a taste profile and then wines based on that preference are selected by their experts). The Nude Wine Club works more like a traditional wine club, with a monthly theme, a selection to match it and a monthly zoom call with an expert to accompany your tasting. For Irish Whiskey fans, there is Three Drams, a service that delivers three 30ml drams of Irish Whiskey from prestigious producers big and small.
Venues’ Creating Signature Products to Take Home
As food, drinks and hospitality venues explored new revenue streams and expanded their range to adapt to a changing world and uncertainty, some take-home options became quite sophisticated and popular.
Galway’s The Twelve Hotel, for example, developed a signature range of drinks named Brown Bag Cocktails, that they ship nationwide in Ireland. The aforementioned Irish Craft Cocktails started as the take-home version of drinks from Bar 1661 and are now a stand-alone brand available in retailers and events as well as online. Porterhouse Brew Co. has recently launched a collab range with all-female artist crew Minaw Collective that is available at their pubs and in selected retailers. For those looking for a boozy caffeinated kick, Vice Coffee Inc. is packing both Espresso Martini and Irish Coffees you can enjoy at home.
A new wave of drinks with diverse flavour profiles and presentations have one ingredient in common: CBD, a.k.a. cannabidiol, a chemical compound found in cannabis (not to be confused with THC). While the conversation and research is ongoing regarding its benefits and side effects, CBD-infused drinks are already popular and available at retailers such as Holland & Barrett, Fallon & Byrne and SuperValu.
With an increasing number of consumers cutting on alcohol, there is room for growth for alternatives that offer natural, hangover-free buzz-like effects. While still not as ubiquitous as seltzers or ready-to-drink cocktails, these are definitely a category to watch in 2022 and beyond.
Smarter Celebrity Collabs
Gone are the days of the empty celebrity booze endorsement. Nowadays, collaborations between drinks producers and famous faces run deeper, and a higher level of creative involvement and sometimes ownership of a drinks brand triumphs. As consumers and fans are better informed, celebrities have become smarter about where they stamp their faces on, and brands are more careful about the people they choose to be associated with.
For example, Teremana Tequila is a brand founded by Dwane Johnson and produced in Jalisco by a Mexican family-owned distillery. The recent collaboration between Lady Gaga and Dom Perignon is of a creative nature, but a very on-brand partnership. Matthew McConaughey has been the ‘Chief Storyteller’ at Wild Turkey since 2016 and the partnership has seen him in multiple speaking engagements and campaigns throughout the years.
Day Drinking Occasions and Aperitif Culture
As working from home has slain commutes and curfews mean doors close earlier, moving our socialising to the afternoon or the early evening makes sense. Boozy brunch and bubbly afternoon tea are hardly new, but they’ve become more casual and appealing to younger adults in recent years.
Aperitif or aperitivo time, so popular across Mediterranean countries, is another ally of early and moderate enjoyment of a drink or two. And while 2020 and 2021 saw a strong revival of long picnics, 2022 could be the year they get the glamping treatment with gourmet retailers and hotels already prepared to offer enticing hampers, wine of course included.
Smaller, Better Targeted Wine Lists
A wine menu doesn’t need to be encyclopedic to be great, in fact, a small but smart selection of bottles that make sense alongside the food offer of a restaurant at a price that is reasonable for the type of venue will land much better than a catalog-thick selection of randomness.
Various factors influence this trend: rising rents and smaller venues, a growing need to leave more room between tables, and the fact that many restaurants have sold some of their cellared inventory during the pandemic.
Expect more rotating and seasonal menus, more blackboards and more restaurants with concise but considerate lists that truly match their ethos and flavours.
WRITTEN BY GABY GUEDEZ