Having thoroughly charted the current cocktail zeitgeist, we asked some of the most creative drink-makers we know: What will the cocktail look like 10 years down the line?

As many in the drinks world can attest, our attentions have long since shifted away from the prerogative of simply updating historic formulas or mastering unique flavor combinations. Today, as the bar world looks towards a more inventive, and often sustainable future, drink creation is increasingly hinging on the notion of closed-loop cocktails, highlighting responsibly-made spirits and calling on stealth techniques like in-house fermentation and force-carbonation. For some, imagining the future of drinks means drawing greater inspiration from the realm of natural wine, in which transparency and minimal intervention are the norm; for others, looking ahead means divorcing drinks from traditional formulas altogether, envisioning a future in which ingredients, rather than existing recipes, form the springboard of innovation.

Here, five visionary drink-makers offer a single recipe that embodies the future of cocktails as they see it. 

Micah Melton | Zombie Panda 

For Micah Melton, beverage director of The Aviary, Chicago’s envelope-pushing cocktail bar (which recently opened a second location in New York), the future of drinks lies in updated takes on the classics. “You can push the boundaries and add complexity and innovation, but the drinks that hit home the most are the recognizable ones,” explains Melton, who believes that we’ll see greater attention paid to barroom ambiance in the years to come. In his Zombie Panda, he channels the playful and elaborate cocktail presentations that have become signature to The Aviary’s bar program, but builds on familiar flavors. A twist on the Pisco Sour, the drink is a force-carbonated mixture of pisco, citrus and lychee syrup, served over a bed of raspberry-flavored ice marbles. “It’s not intimidating, but its memorable,” says Melton.

Monica Berg | Credo Sour

According to Monica Berg, who helms Himkok, Oslo’s leading cocktail bar, the next few years will see a greater balance between locavore movements and sustainable industry. “Working with local produce and global brands is important,” explains Berg, “and I don’t think one excludes the other.” (Hers is a view shared by a number of forward thinking bar directors, who recognize the sustainable side of industrialization and are exploring that vision through an unconventional approach to drinks.) For Berg, this often means finding alternative sources for key cocktail components typically not sourced locally, like citrus. “Often we limit ourselves to citrus as the major source of acidity in bars, and I think that in the future this will become more diversified,” she explains. For her Credo Sour, Berg swaps out the expected lemon or lime for a lactic acid-based whey cordial that’s shaken with vodka, aquavit and Cocchi Americano. “If citrus is amazing where you live and work, then use it,” she says, “but if its not, then why not use something else?”

Sam Anderson | Tide Pool

“We’re going to see drink-thinkers influenced more and more by natural winemaking practices,” believes Sam Anderson, beverage director of New York’s Mission Chinese Food, who sees the growing interest in natural wine as a signpost for greater introspection in the spirits world. “I think we’re going to see a huge shift away from ‘traditionally’ and commercially distilled spirits and all the customary practices that go with that: barrel aging, high temperature triple-distillation, sweeteners and the flavor masking and clarification that is intrinsic [to that process],” he explains. Crucially, he hopes for a shift away from classic formulas, and towards a “freeform” approach in which ingredients dictate the resulting recipe. He offers the Tide Pool, a mixture of lemon verbana- and kombucha-infused distillate, an American-made aperitivo, passionfruit amazake and crisp, acid-driven pét-nat, for a drink that’s detached from preexisting formulas.

Peder Schweigert | Amiraali

At Minnesota’s Marvel Bar, general manager Peder Schweigert draws inspiration from the kitchen at neighboring restaurant Bachelor Farmer. “I’ve watched our kitchen zero-in on local, sustainable food, and I’ve watched that trend expand to our understanding of wine,” explains Schweigert, who hopes the trend will crossover into the spirits world. “I want us to be putting money in the hands of people who make high-quality products that taste better and that are made in a manner that’s transparent,” he explains. In the Amiraali, Schweigert and head bartender Matthew Voss shake together two such spirits—Duquesne Blanc rhum agricole and Gamle Ode Dill, a locally made aquavit—along with citrus and rancio sec. “Our relationship with Ed Hamilton [of Duquesne rum]… continues to build because we think he’s exploring that nuance in rum and respecting the traditions of the people he’s representing,” explains Schweigert. “Gamle Ode,” he continues, “offers a different opportunity, as this year we witnessed the harvest of fresh dill and its 30-minute drive over to 45th Parallel Distillery, where it’s immediately thrown in batches of aquavit.”

Ryan Chetiyawardana | Traveler’s Salad

In a more conceptual twist, Ryan Chetiyawardana’s drink alludes to a future in which single-serving cocktails have penetrated the stratosphere. “This new line of ‘traveler’ flasks help the space effort by carrying valuable seeds into space and to new lands,” explains Chetiyawardana. Built in a biodegradable flask, the cocktail consists largely of Scotch that’s produced with true transparency, and laden with seeds which, having undergone stratification on the trip, can be planted for research and supplies. To this he adds vinegar and the imagined addition of “naturally pest-resistant, ultra-tasty raspberry, grown from seeds on holistic farms that no longer need pesticides, fertilizers or antibiotic use.”

Many thanks to our friends at The Office NYC for allowing us to make a mess of their beautiful space.

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