The Bacardi Cocktail Trends Report is compiled using insights from Bacardi’s global network of brand ambassadors, as well as bartenders and other industry experts.

The second annual edition of the report has just been published and reveals how recent shifts have shaped the beverage industry and also predicts the changes that will happen in cocktail consumption in 2021.

“The pandemic has shifted mindsets and accelerated emerging trends, and the Bacardi Cocktail Trends Report is a window to these changes,” says Brenda Fiala, Global Vice President, Strategic Insights and Analytics for Bacardi.

“These insights help us navigate the consumer landscape and set the course for future growth, as we enter a new year in which adults of legal drinking age are looking forward to re-establishing connection, creating new rituals, and toasting to simple moments of celebration with loved ones.”

The report highlights five key trends that will shape the cocktail industry over the coming year.

  1. The Home Premise

Not something to be feared, this is a possible opportunity for bars. The pandemic has made home the focal point of our social lives and changed the eating and drinking landscape forever.

But it’s not all about digging out the bottle of Nan’s Sherry and hoping to create a new cocktail at home. Initiatives such as virtual happy hours and live-streamed gigs have allowed people to recreate their favourite elements of bars and restaurants. With many bars now offering online cocktail classes and carefully concocted drinks delivered directly to our doors.

Cocktails in cans have also proved particularly popular. According to research by Bacardi, close to 30 per cent of consumers claim they plan to purchase RTD cocktails or canned spirit and mixers, with portability and convenience cited as key reasons for stocking up on a pre-made drink.

Fiala said: “Cocktails in a can are a hot trend, and the lockdowns appear to have increased their popularity as a safe and portable drink option. In addition, cocktails-to-go have really taken off, with bars and consumers embracing the trend at a fast rate as a viable choice for social occasions and this is a behaviour we expect to see continue in 2021.”

The report also states that with more consumers globally making cocktails at home, cocktail gift packs, offering easy shopping solutions and unique gifts, are set to be big in 2021

2. Revolution of flavour sensations

When Covid-19 restrictions ease and social life resumes, consumers will seek pleasure, nostalgia, and escapism, shifting their focus from enhancement to enjoyment. During what some are predicting to be ‘the second roaring 20s’, we will return to bars, seeking quality over quantity and perhaps to celebrate after a tough year.

A desire for extremes will dictate our drink choices in 2021, with sensorial experiences that range from the striking heat of chili through to super-sweet, sour, bitter and smoked flavor profiles. According to beverage company Flavorman, drinks that burn, cool, tingle and comfort will be in high demand in 2021.

As staples of classic cocktails that consumers are replicating at home, tequila and gin are enjoying record growth. The popularity of the margarita is surging in North America, and global interest in the negroni and gin and tonic remains high.

According to bartenders, almost two in five consumers are interested in classic cocktails with a twist. Gin, tequila, and rum represent the best premiumisation opportunities in many markets, with their role and importance growing during uncertain times. After a tough year, classic cocktails can provide a sense of comfort and nostalgia – and none more so than spirit-forward cocktails.

New and creative ingredients will add a fresh perspective to classic drinks when we’re back at the bar, with heat predicted to be key. Cocktails such as the chilitini, French chili 75, chili whiskey sour, chili libre, and chili bloody mary expected to become popular. This also reflects a wider shift toward fresh ingredients, including ginger.

3. Bar reinvention

Post-lockdown, consumers armed with newfound knowledge and appreciation of spirits and cocktails will fuel a reinvention of the bar. Venues will step up to offer more personalised and unique concepts for this spirits-savvy customer, who will seek out deeper connections with bartenders in order to learn even more.

Jacob Briars, Head of Advocacy for Bacardi, said: “Last year saw many people practice the art of mixology at home, using what they had on hand to master some classic cocktails. We think in 2021 that knowledge will lead them to experiment more, upgrading their home bars with premium spirits, seeking out new drinks and flavors, and once it is safe to do so, heading to their favorite bars with new appreciation and thirst for cocktails created by their local bartender.”

The pandemic has also brought a digital transformation into bars with easy ordering and payment methods increasingly becoming the norm.

While digital platforms can’t replace human contact, the Bacardi Global Brand Ambassador Survey shows that bartenders were exploring digital solutions in late 2020 and will continue to do so into 2021. As we move through this decade, these solutions, combined with new emerging technologies, will facilitate a new level of comfort for customers and make bars more accessible to everyone.

4. Different thinking from brands

Spirits brands will embrace imperfection and focus on improving sustainability and transparency in 2021 and beyond. As consumers become increasingly aware of the impact of alcohol production on the environment, brands are responding.

Moving into 2021, plastic packaging and the environmental impact of home deliveries will be at the forefront of people’s minds as they emerge from lockdowns, which necessitated a reliance on e-commerce.

Jean-Marc Lambert, Senior Vice President, Global Operations for Bacardi, said: “We know that people are increasingly thinking about the green credentials of the drinks they choose to enjoy. Doing the right thing by the planet and our customers is incredibly important to us.

“So from reducing energy and water use during production, to working with online retailers to reduce packaging, to launching the world’s first 100 per cent biodegradable spirits bottle in 2023, we’re doing everything we can to do just that.”

While the move toward local drinks has been gaining ground in recent years, driven by a desire for sustainability, the pandemic has exposed the reliance on global supply chains.

In 2021 we will see consumers follow through on their desire to support local brands and businesses, including bars and restaurants, which they developed during the COVID-19 crisis.

5. Mindful consumption

The no- and low-alcohol market shows no signs of slowing down in 2021. Embraced not only by non-drinkers but also those looking for more options, the no-and low-alcohol market is set to expand.

Sober-curious consumers are emerging as a strong cohort.

Globally, zero per cent ABV spirits have received more interest than any other spirits category – for the second year running. And despite headlines surrounding increased alcohol consumption last year, the Bacardi Global Brand Ambassador Survey 2020 reveals bartenders feel that the pandemic has accelerated the zero per cent trend, with consumers more open to trying zero per cent options as their usual routines are upended, more experimental ways of living emerge and new goals are set.

Bars are starting to take note of this huge shift, with many bars beginning to adopt hybrid menus that offer all drinks in both alcoholic and non-alcoholic versions.

Fiala said: “What really stands out in our insights is how huge mindful drinking has become in Western Europe this year – it is the NoLo capital of the world.

“As lockdown impacted our lives and routines, not only did people begin to seek out lower-ABV cocktails, they also enjoyed cocktails a little earlier than usual and started experimenting with longer drinks and alcohol-free options. That meant mindful drinking really took off and it’s here to stay.”

This article originally appeared in Bars and Clubs. For weekly updates on all the bar news from across Australia, subscribe to the Bars and Clubs newsletter.

Andy Young

Andy joined Intermedia as Editor of The Shout in 2015, writing news on a daily basis and also writing features for National Liquor News. Now Managing Editor of both The Shout and Bars and Clubs.

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