This year, the drink world’s most pervasive trends could just as easily belong to decades past (the prevailing 1970s aesthetic; molecular gastronomy-esque foam) or decades in the future (cue the omnipresent rotovap and tech-forward backbars). But which of them have the staying power to remain in 2024?
We asked a handful of leading drink professionals, including Arvid Brown (owner, Room for Improvement), Miguel de Leon (wine director, Pinch Chinese), Jelani Johnson (head bartender, Le Coucou), John McCarroll (wine writer and distributor), Sarah Morrissey (bar manager, Le Veau d’Or), Jay Sanders (owner, Drastic Measures and Wild Child) and Jaya Saxena (correspondent, Eater) to get their take. Our own Talia Baiocchi (editor-in-chief), Chloe Frechette (deputy editor), Mary Anne Porto (associate editor) and Emily Timberlake (visiting editor) also chimed in. Here’s what they had to say.
Milk punch has been a bartender fixation for a long time, but now, it’s everywhere, sometimes with entire cocktail menus devoted to clarified drinks.
Miguel: Go. Do we really need to remove the color in our lives?
Arvid: Go. Although I think in some instances clarification can really enhance a concept, I often see it poorly executed (murky, or even chunky) or eating up valuable prep time for little discernible gain.
Talia: So long as it’s not 70 percent of the menu, stay.
Jelani: Stay. But not everything has to be clarified... In my mind, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. And don’t overcomplicate things that are tried-and-true.
Jay: Quality drinks that are consistent and shelf-stable? Sign me up.
Chloe: I’m all for clarifying some things, not everything.
Sarah: Eh, it’s not my thing, but it’s a staple now. I’ve seen bartenders take some questionable spirits, mix them together, clarify it and turn a bunch of crap into a decent drink. Stay.
Jaya: Look, I don’t really know what clarification does to the flavor of a drink. But I do think clear cocktails are very elegant, so just for aesthetics, I’m for it.
The Martini as a Personality Trait
Martini mania shows no signs of slowing down.
Chloe: Once the Martini became a fashion accessory, it was quickly followed by a surge of knockoffs that unfortunately resulted in much personal offense—I’ve never had so many bad Martinis in my life.
Sarah: Go. True Martini drinkers know who they are and how they take their Martini.
Jay: The Martini is a polarizing drink. It’s not for everyone. I’d rather hang out at the party of people that drink habanero Daiquiris and Margaritas as a personality trait 10/10 times.
Arvid: “The Martini is the best cocktail ever” is a hill I’m willing to die on. Is it my whole personality? No, liking Malibu probably is. I’ll never be mad at people who might love Martinis “too” much. Bring back the pitchers?
Jaya: Go. The Martini doesn’t need you.
Jelani: Stay, because when people finally discover that they love Martinis, it’s like a holy revelation. Anything that gets people genuinely excited about drinking, like figuring out exactly how they love their Martini, should be valued.
Talia: The Martini has been through far worse than its current Dirty Martini Girlie phase and come out the other end victorious. It does not need rescuing; it will, inevitably, rescue us.
Foam (But Seriously This Time)
Recently seen as a relic of the early days of molecular mixology, foam has made a comeback, and it hasn’t died down.
Arvid: I fucking love foams. They’re easy to make, look great and customers tend to ooh and ahh every time the iSi comes out.
Jay: I love foam. Love it. Imparting texture and flavor and a fun presentation? Where do I sign?
Miguel: Stay. IT WILL NEVER LEAVE.
Jaya: Stay, but keep an eye on it. I love a frothy texture, but I can see this getting out of hand really quickly.
Mary: My enthusiasm for foam has dubbed me Punch’s unofficial foam correspondent. They’re not going anywhere on my watch!
Sarah: We have egg whites for this. Enough.
Jelani: Go. Meh.
Talia: All I have to say is salted coconut foam. Stay.
Everything Is Italian
Talia: I plead the Fifth.
Jelani: Stay. Italians know how to eat, drink and live well. Taking a page from their books is always a good idea in my mind. 🤌🏾
Jaya: It’s gotten completely cringe, but what can I say, I’m a sucker for a spritz. I have been drinking them for a long time, and will continue to do so.
Arvid: Put amari in everything; nobody will be mad.
Jay: Go. I think we need to celebrate the Italian recipes and products and culture without shoehorning them into everything.
Emily: I love Italy, but for god’s sake, the world is a vast and wondrous place... Can’t we find some inspiration elsewhere?Miguel: Go. It’s... fine.
Every Cocktail Is Maximalist
All of the trends are happening everywhere, all at once.
Jay: Stay, but there are limits! I just would rather not have my local neighborhood bar chilling down my yard beer with liquid nitrogen.
Jelani: It’s easy to fuck up when there are a million moving parts to anything. It feels like people are starting to forget that not everything cool/esoteric/Instagrammable is delicious.
Arvid: I think it convolutes the mission, which is to create tasty, affordable drinks that feel approachable and affordable to guests, not just to impress other bartenders with how much they can cram into one glass.
Chloe: There’s a very uninspired sameness that is creeping into new bar openings as a result of this maximalist moment—you don’t need a rotovap, liquid nitrogen, boba pearls, caviar bumps or a clarified cocktail inspired by food (and certainly not all at once) to be a good bar.
Jaya: Go. For one thing, it feels like I’ve barely made it through one drink description on a menu before I’m asked to make a choice.
Sarah: I like that we have learned to have fun in bars again, I think that’s important. But you need to learn the rules in order to break them.
Miguel: I love drinking as many possibilities as the night will allow. If your bar offers a combo of something that seems familiar, but is, like, one side of batshit crazy, I’m all for it.
If you’re online, you’ve probably seen this glass lurking on your feed.
Miguel: Show me how gracefully you can drink out of one of those. They look like votives with feet.
Mary: We are now paying so much for a cocktail, and I would prefer to not spill half of it. Go.
Talia: I feel the same way about square coupes as I do about square plates and flat-bottomed bowls. This is not progress.
Arvid: Never owned one, never drank from one... If I’ve made it this long without, I guess I don’t mind going a bit longer...
Jaya: Harmless! Even if it’s not your aesthetic style, what’s there to hate?
Chloe: I like to do this bit with stemware where I pretend I don’t know how to hold the glass and I just wrap my whole fist around the stem like a caveman would and I think this would be a good glass for that. It would almost certainly spill, which is a plus for me.
The ’70s Basement Aesthetic (Again)
Miguel: MAX IS BACK DISCO FRESCO HELL YEAH.
Mary: The ’70s are cool to me, but I could do without their basements.
Arvid: I love retro cheese. Gen Z latching onto ’70s culture is basically my dream scenario.
Talia: So long as I don’t have to enter through a garage sale, fine.
Jaya: I am 30 or 40 years old, you are not getting me to sit in a public bean bag chair. Go.
Emily: I’m into it, if only as an antidote to the hyperluxe, we-offshore-all-our-accounts “Succession-core” aesthetic that is so gross and so pervasive right now.
Chloe: This feels like the product of bars remembering that they’re supposed to be fun. Stay.
Jelani: Yes, yes, yes. Love this vibe.
High-Tech, High-Concept Cocktails Taking Over
Miguel: We’re still doing molecular gastronomy shit these days?
Jay: As a person using a rotovap, I fully endorse. However, I don’t think it imparts as much flavor as all our Instagram reels molecular mixologists would suggest, and I’d love to see it more as a tool to help develop drinks instead of the clout-fueled equipment arms race that it has become.
Jaya: This is the kind of thing that turns me into an old crank. I know there are some cool things you can do with flavor, but it does not seem worth it to me for the inevitable price passed on to consumers.
Arvid: Although new and better ways of doing things are always appreciated, I do think there is such a thing as overcomplicating something. A bar that is simple, delicious and affordable will be a once-a-week destination for me versus a spot where every drink is force-carbonated, acid-adjusted and clarified to oblivion and costs $20. Bartenders making drinks to impress other bartenders actually turn a lot of them off.
Sarah: I only say “stay” because I’ve seen new cocktail bars using a thermal circulator to keep hot drinks hot. That’s genius. Other than that, it’s the same way I feel about dehydrated citrus garnish. No thanks.
Mary: I’m into it for the nonalcoholic applications, especially because the landscape of store-bought N/A products can be confusing to navigate.
Talia: We’ve seen the food world go through this same cycle, and we came out the other end realizing that this works in the hands of few, not many. I love it as a means of pushing the envelope, not as an imperative.
The Wine Bar 2.0
John: All my favorite wine bars turn into restaurants, so I need this. Say what you will about the “cocaine chic” aesthetic, but it beats the hell out of the sexless neo-Scando/Everlane meta.
Talia: After a long, dark winter for the wine bar... Fill my tavern glass, turn down the lights, and play the (super obscure B-side) hits.
Miguel: Biased opinion, but I think we throw down a good vibe.
Jelani: INTO IT.
Emily: There should be more places to drink good wine and listen to Italo disco, not fewer.
Jaya: Stay. I’m not really the clubbing type, but I love the idea of going dancing and not having to spend $15 on a watered-down whiskey–ginger ale.
Sarah: It should stay, but be a real wine bar. Meaning: wine bar hours (open at 3, close at 1), wine bar prices (not a list of $35-a-glass wines that are also the same wines on everyone’s lists). For many of these, it’s a lot of copy and paste.
Arvid: Demystifying wine, making it less pretentious, more approachable and more fun—how could anybody argue against that?
Mountain Dew + Suze, absinthe + root beer, mezcal + Fanta—they’re all part of the growing group of high-low highballs.
Emily: Stay. This is nothing new. Back in the day, we used to mix Hpnotiq and Zima. We called it the “Zegema Beach.” Let the kids cook!
Jay: Drink what makes you happy.
Miguel: Stay. These drinks are also just so easy?
Arvid: My favorite two-ingredient cocktail is fernet and root beer. I’m all about this. Bartenders have been doing idiotic 50/50 shots forever, I think this is just an extension of that.
Jaya: I was on board as soon as I tried John deBary’s absinthe and Yoo-hoo cocktail. It’s great to remember that a good cocktail is a bodega stop away.
Sarah: Do we need this on a menu, really?
Jelani: Maybe it’s just 16-year-old me still having a soft spot for Mr. Boston Blackberry Brandy and root beer. It gets people who don’t usually drink these kinds of spirits to try new things. I’m about it.
Complaining About Chartreuse Shortages (It’s a Trend!)
Regardless of the growing availability of substitutes, for the liqueur’s most devoted fans, nothing can compare to the real thing.
Emily: Go. If you haven’t been stockpiling your favorite ingredients in an underground apocalypse bunker, that’s on you.
Jay: I’ll complain until the monks tell me to shut up. Joke’s on them, though, those silent sorcerers.
Arvid: The Chartreuse shortage, although unprecedented, is not a wholly new predicament. We find the next most comparable substitute (then celebrate how much more affordable it is!) and move on. Our staff has latched onto Génépy des Alpes of late, and you know what, it’s fucking delicious, and better yet, available... for now. Go.
Mary: Go. The online Nuclear Daiquiri community can cope with this, and so can you.
Jelani: If we all collectively pray harder like the Carthusian monks, maybe they’ll produce more soon. Chartreuse aside, the distillery puts out nothing but incredible spirits and liqueurs. It’s our god-given right as Americans to complain that it’s hard to get!
Talia: If we scream loud enough into the abyss, will the monks hear us?
Glou-Glou as the Predominant Natural Wine Aesthetic
Jay: Go. Only because wine trends come and leave as swiftly and as fiercely as all those sommeliers in training when they are asked to work a brunch.
Miguel: I don’t really need to think about glou-glou wines, which is exactly their point, though I do think I can’t do more than one during, say, a meal. I’d rather drink something a little more serious or focused. Helpful as a style descriptor, but not as a stand-in for natural wine.
Arvid: Always down for wine culture to be a little less precious and a little more fun. I think glou-glou is very much a part of that movement.
Jaya: I don’t understand the point of drinking if you’re not having fun, so yeah, let’s keep the vibe going.
John: Go. We’ll miss it immediately but it’s time to do four to five years of talking about rocks again.
Sarah: Oh god, I can’t.
Jelani: I dig it! It’s keeping things fresh and fun. Wine shouldn’t be this overly serious, precious Old World thing; it’s still just booze too. It’s making good drinking more accessible to a lot of groups.
Talia: I don’t love the sameness that glou mania has given us, but I can’t help but want to drink it.
Food as Drinks
The culinary cocktail has changed. You may have seen a recent menu that reads: French toast. Tom kha soup. PB&J.
Jaya: I’m generally drinking while I eat, or somewhere near a meal. So pairing a French toast Martini with my pasta makes for some real dissonance.
Miguel: I’m 50/50, but at least now there aren’t quotation marks around them, Thomas Keller style.
Arvid: Love it. I have a whole menu changeover planned around embracing this trend. Sometimes the results are gross, but that’s honestly part of the fun.
Sarah: This trend seems to circle back around a lot, especially with the craze of the dirty Martini. I don’t hate it (love peppers, black pepper, fruit, etc.) but if it’s too chef-y, I’ll probably only order it once and never again.
Jelani: I’m all about listing like-flavors to give people a better idea of what they’re getting into. I see nothing wrong with calling it what it’s aspiring to be.
Jay: I think food as drinks can be so clever. Bring me more. In fact, let’s have all our rotovap friends make me a pastrami on rye-distilled aquavit.