Every year sees new trends born, some that will stick and others that are destined to flame out. This year, “clean” wine continued its incessant spread. Meanwhile, cocktails to go and spiked seltzer show no signs of slowing.
Here, we’ve polled a number of beverage professionals on the movements that have defined the previous year in drinking, asking them which trends should stay and which should disappear in 2021.
From the world of wine, spirits, beer and cocktails we spoke to Talia Baiocchi (Editor in Chief, PUNCH and TASTE); Chloe Frechette (Senior Editor, PUNCH; author, Easy Tiki); Leslie Pariseau (Features Editor, PUNCH; author, SPRITZ); Tatiana Bautista (Assistant Editor, PUNCH and TASTE); Robert Simonson (Contributing Editor, PUNCH); Drew Lazor (Contributor, PUNCH; author, Session Cocktails); Aaron Goldfarb (Contributor, PUNCH; author, Hacking Whiskey); John deBary (Founder, Proteau; author, Drink What You Want).
Cocktails to Go
Tatiana Bautista: This was one of the few things that got me out of the house. Stay!
Aaron Goldfarb: STAY STAY STAY for the rest of damn time. The greatest thing ever.
John deBary: Stay. Any way bars and restaurants can generate additional revenue is a yes from me. Plus, anything that pokes holes in our country’s absurd liquor laws is a step in the right direction.
Drew Lazor: I hope they stay, even AfTeR tHiS iS aLL OvEr. Anything that helps bar owners pull in more revenue is a positive. It’s ridiculous it took a pandemic to get Luddite states like Pennsylvania to update its liquor laws for the 21st century.
Chloe Frechette: For every imaginable reason, stay.
Leslie Pariseau: I live in New Orleans, so this is a given, until it wasn’t for a brief, strange, sad period this summer when to-go was suspended. A New Orleans without to-go drinks is simply not cosmically correct. Stay forever, never leave. (And, Santa baby? To-go drinks for the rest of the country forevermore, too.)
Robert Simonson: Stay. This should have been legally allowed in every city years ago. Why should the traveling drinking world belong to growlers alone?
Talia Baiocchi: I hope this becomes such a staple that the cocktail to-go is the next big RTD.
Zoom Happy Hour/Virtual Drinking
Tatiana Bautista: Weekly happy hours with friends have really kept me sane during quarantine. But I’d much rather do that IRL (when it’s safe). Go.
Aaron Goldfarb: GO. Let’s get back to where you can quietly get loaded while you’re home alone and no one has to know about it.
John deBary: Stay. Sure, why not. If people are having fun why yuck that yum. Plus if they’re hosted by a bartender or drinks expert, it’s a great way for them to make money during what is sure to be a very long road to industry recovery.
Drew Lazor: I covered this for PUNCH early on, thus was an early adopter. Burnt out hard on the practice by June. I hit a point where leering at the choppy, pixelated faces of my friends—the Uncanny Valley of it all was exacerbated by the booze—became too chilling. I get that it’s a useful tool in these times, but it should get gone to make room for real-life happy hours once more.
Leslie Pariseau: Stay. I moved five months before the pandemic and Zoom drinks catching up with friends all over the country flattened the oddity of suddenly transitioning to screen drinks. I highly recommend integrating a little drunk Zoom Pictionary into your life.
Robert Simonson: Go. I have been happy to have Zoom happy hours when it was impossible to gather in person safely. But why opt for the imitation once the genuine article is once again available?
Aaron Goldfarb: STAY. I revel in their stupidity.
Drew Lazor: Jungle Juice with a master’s degree! For real, the closest I ever get to this is cranking every Slurpee draft handle at 7-Eleven to make a Frankenslurp.
Chloe Frechette: I can’t say I’ve done it myself, but as the keeper of an absinthe-infinity bottle, I can’t hate. Stay.
Leslie Pariseau: I don’t keep one myself, but I’m one of those people who freezes herb and onion stems for stock-making, so I understand the impulse. Stay.
Robert Simonson: Go. How to multiply the chance for error by three or four in one easy step.
Talia Baiocchi: Fractionally blending a Negroni at home and then aging it in your fridge is a sign that we have arrived at peak renaissance, no?
John deBary: Go. I mean the drinks themselves can stay, but I think it might be time to retire the problematic tiki framework altogether.
Chloe Frechette: Just when it seems like we’ve run out of flavor avenues to explore, bartenders push the limits of creativity and give us a new category altogether. Stay.
Leslie Pariseau: I’m for aperi-everything.
Talia Baiocchi: You can put Campari in my Mai Tai anytime.
Tatiana Bautista: They’ve been a dependable choice on the menu for me whenever I’m indecisive. Stay.
Aaron Goldfarb: STAY. The pandemic isn’t 100 percent over until I’m sitting at a bar shooting the shit with the bartender and a group of slightly buzzed tourists leans over me to ask, “Can you make us some spicy Margaritas?”
John deBary: Stay. Giving people what they want is the fundamental essence of hospitality. There’s no reason to deny people enjoyment because of the perception of something being passé or off-trend.
Drew Lazor: Ask basic people, get basic answers. Keep ’em coming. Woooo!
Chloe Frechette: There’s a reason they’re popular! Stay.
Leslie Pariseau: I’ll drink spicy Margaritas all night, heartburn be damned!
Robert Simonson: Stay. You can’t fight city hall. The drink is too popular. And, you know, it ain’t bad at all.
Aaron Goldfarb: STAY. I can’t help it—they still dazzle me.
Chloe Frechette: There is something undeniably fun about drinking a clarified anything. Even though I understand the process, I’m always amazed at the tricks it plays on the brain (and palate!). Stay.
Leslie Pariseau: Delighted every time. Stay.
Talia Baiocchi: If you’re asking me if I’d like a clarified Piña Colada, the answer is yes.
John deBary: Go. There certainly is a need for greater transparency in alcohol labeling, but this is not it. I’m immediately suspicious of anything “clean” because it usually relies on misunderstandings about food science and is essentially a fear-based marketing scheme dressed up as concern for the customer’s well-being (hello, it’s alcohol!). This is another example of how harmful power structures like white supremacy and classism can operate by dictating who gets to call what “clean” or “dirty,” and who makes money from it.
Leslie Pariseau: This is woowoo wellness marketing gone one step too far. Perhaps you can market skincare and crystals and celery juice this way, but it’s really a stretch when you’re talking about booze. Much of the language around low-intervention wines is problematic and confusing, but “clean wine” sets up a faux dialectic that is entirely unnecessary. Go, go, go.
Talia Baiocchi: This is, more or less, the apocalypse. Go.
Tatiana Bautista: I’ve had about a 50 percent success rate with canned cocktails, and they’re extremely convenient. I think there’s still room for them to improve. Stay.
Aaron Goldfarb: GO. You’ve had nearly a year at home to learn to make a cocktail yourself.
Drew Lazor: I’ve tried a lot of good ones this year—and some bad ones, which is to be expected. But these should stay. Just as with cocktails to go, any expression of the bartending craft that’ll make industry folks some money right now is nothing but positive.
Robert Simonson: Stay. Like to-go cocktails, this is another silver lining fostered by quarantine. Producers have upped their game and a good number of canned cocktails are now quite good. Beach days and picnics await sometime in the future. We’ll want these as an option.
Talia Baiocchi: See above re: to-go cocktail. I’d love for us to be getting some of our RTDs from our local bars. But I am also all for the expansion—and further improvement—of the widely distributed canned cocktail.
"Crushable" As a Wine Term
Tatiana Bautista: I can’t say the word “crushable” without picturing a frat bro crushing an empty beer can to his forehead. Go.
Drew Lazor: I would classify every single wine I tried in 2020 as “crushable.” Keep it. This is terminology people like me can intimately understand.
Chloe Frechette: Wine is notoriously difficult to talk about so if “crushable” can convey the profile of a wine to those who might not understand “high acid” and “low tannin,” I’m all for it. Stay.
Leslie Pariseau: I echo Tatiana’s sentiment. And while we’re at it can we nix “patio pounder”?
Talia Baiocchi: Let’s add “porch pounder” to the list while we’re at it.
Fluffy Citrus Cloud
Tatiana Bautista: The fluffy Garibaldi was my most-made cocktail of 2020. Stay.
Aaron Goldfarb: STAY.
Chloe Frechette: Only the Grinch doesn’t like fluffy citrus cocktails.
Leslie Pariseau: It’s 10 a.m. on a Tuesday as of this writing, and now I’m craving a fluffy citrus anything.
Talia Baiocchi: Who doesn’t love a big fluffy citrus cloud?
Aaron Goldfarb: STAY. I still think they’re cynical gimmicks from international conglomerates, but I’ll wait and see.
John deBary: Stay. Some of these bottles look cool as hell.
Chloe Frechette: Excited to see where this goes. Stay.
Talia Baiocchi: To me this is a welcome expansion of borders, and a way to better understand a master blender’s point of view.
Dressed-Up White Claw
Tatiana Bautista: OK, so I may be biased because I wrote this story. But after realizing the genius of topping mango White Claw with a pineapple nutcracker during a sweaty New York summer… I’m sold. Stay.
John deBary: Stay. Two-ingredient cocktails are the essence of what it means to mix drinks.
Drew Lazor: Bit more of a Truly fan to be quite honest, but I got respect for Claw Nation. I’m a sucker for fun built-in-can cocktails. Stay.
Leslie Pariseau: I still shiver at the thought of the sip of White Claw I drank last year.
Robert Simonson: Go. Dress up White Claw all you like. It’s still wearing cargo shorts.