NASA recently announced that an asteroid discovered in 2018 is on course to career uncomfortably close to earth just before Election Day. It’s the latest curveball that 2020 has thrown our way, joining a list that includes unprecedented wildfires, murder hornets and an uncurtailed viral pandemic, making it a shoo-in for the title of Worst Year Ever.
While we can never really know what lies around the corner, it’s fair to say that back in 2019, none of us could’ve predicted what the year ahead had in store—even if one could, few would believe them. This becomes especially apparent when looking back at the predictions of PUNCH contributors Robert Simonson and Jon Bonné. Historically, the duo’s drink forecasting has proved reliable—hybrid wines did, in fact, garner respect in natural wine circles, and, in pre-pandemic times, escapist bars showed no signs of slowing—but the same cannot be said for the most recent batch of predictions.
Here, Simonson and Bonné revisit—and rewrite—their predictions for a year where just about nothing stayed the course.
The Cocktail and Spirits Stories That Will Shape 2020
From bartender-branded liqueurs to New York’s newest rising drinks destination, the cocktail and spirits trends that will make a difference in 2020.
No-ABV Cocktails Come Home Make It Overproof Instead
In the words of Lloyd Bridges in the spoof film Airplane!, “Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit drinking.” Make that “year,” and you have an idea of the communal revelation most Americans came to a week or so into quarantine. Home bartending, cocktail hours and liquor store deliveries skyrocketed. People were drinking like there was no tomorrow (and, who knew, maybe there wasn’t). Mocktails were not going to get us through this. Something stronger was needed.
Meet You in Times Square (No, Really) 2021
Hotel cocktail bars are a great idea—if the hotels have people in them, that is, and if the city and state allow them to serve food and drink. Neither was true come March. The pandemic cleared out the once-bustling area until the intersection of 42nd Street and Broadway looked like Main Street in a gold rush town after the gold ran out. Broadway shut down and offices were vacated, leaving nothing but withering plants and moldy coffee mugs and Elmos and Hello Kittys wandering around with no one to harass. Times Square will have to wait a while longer to experience its bibulous redemption.
Bartender-Branded Liqueurs Canned Cocktails
Instead of more bartender-branded liqueurs, we got a flood of new canned cocktails, a format perfectly suited to the new take-away, contactless drinking world. (Pick it up, wipe it off, crack it open, drink!) Some of these, like Social Hour from Julie Reiner and Tom Macy and LiveWire drinks from Aaron Polsky, were indeed bartender-branded. The rest of 2020 and probably 2021 will likely see more people jump on the canned cocktail—and maybe also the boxed cocktail—bandwagon.
A (Vacant) Bar in Every Port
“Want to make God laugh? Make plans,” goes the old saying. Nothing like a global health crisis to slow down expansion. Major cocktail bar brands were forced to press “pause” on their business projections in early 2020, as the struggle to hold on to the bars they already had took precedence over opening new venues. Amor y Amargo’s Brooklyn branch did not survive to see its one-year anniversary, closing in July. The opening of Dead Rabbit New Orleans, the first outpost of the popular New York bar, was pushed back to 2021. The arrival of the Chicago Mother’s Ruin, another extension of a New York brand, was delayed until the holidays at the earliest. But don’t expect this trend to fully reverse itself. Strong bar brands can weather storms better than most. Already, the branch of Cure at the New Orleans airport has reopened four days a week with a limited menu.
Every Country Is Gin Country (Almost)
Still true. There’s a lot of gin out there. And people, now at home and making more cocktails, are drinking more of it. All the blossoming home bartenders seemed to have suddenly discovered how very mixable gin is. During a nine-week period ending May 2, gin sales were up 42 percent from the same time last year, according to Nielsen data. Must be all those Quarantinis.
More of the Same
Nothing kills a spritz, not even COVID-19.
White Claw Kills Wine, or, The Actual End of Pretense
My big worry was that White Claw—and the whole world of other less-pretentious beverages—would simply subsume wine, that wine itself had become overly fussy and illogical. Obvi not on my 2020 bingo card? A worldwide pandemic and recession that would bring us back to why wine matters. And yet it wasn’t just about a crisis making us drink more, but also rediscovering context and meaning, remembering why wine brings its own sort of pleasure. Which isn’t to say there hasn’t been change: That old fetish of expertise worship got fully skewered—partly by COVID and partly by a spreading desire for social justice. Natural wine wasn’t exempt either. And my prediction of the end of pretense? Well, between the Court’s (second) reckoning and a hastened end to the posh side of wine service (and most white-glove restaurant service, for better or worse), I’d say that’s underway.
Tariffs Will Change the Way We Drink A Global Pandemic Makes Trade Fights Look Inconsequential
Still here, still shitty. But kind of background noise. Restaurants—and the ecosystem that feeds them—have had way bigger worries. Not that the federal government cares.
Wine in a Can Is the New
Well, this happened. Stuck at home, etc.
The Climate Change Conversation Goes on Fast-Forward Add Climate Change to the Pile
Mostly, everyone’s been too busy with that whole other crisis. But those record early harvests in France and apocalyptic wildfires in California arrived just in time to remind us that we’re screwed in a whole different way.
All Sparkling, All the Time
Say it again: Who doesn’t like bubbles when the world is going to hell? Time to amend the old saw about wanting Champagne in victory and needing it in defeat to include mainlining it, to counterbalance endless existential despair.
Cool-Hunting, 2020 Edition
Doubt that anyone is looking for new and shiny right this moment—but the New Argentina is for sure rolling ahead. But more pointedly, comfort is a thing. So, lots of liter bottles (thank you, California grape glut), even more cans, and rosé that isn’t trying so hard to be liked. And Margaritas. Always Margaritas.