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Bartenders Wish These Trends Would Die in 2018

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In the cocktail world, innovation breeds attention, attention breeds trends, and trends breed … a lot of frustrated bartenders. While everyone can get behind bars doing more and more to up their cocktail game and become better establishments for their customers, there are a few well-intentioned trends from this year that have done the opposite. We asked bartenders from around the country which trends they most hope will die in the new year; here are their picks for throwing on top of the 2017 pyre.

Unnecessary Glassware

“I’m tired of overly complicated glassware shapes and presentations. I want to enjoy a cocktail, not figure out how to actually drink it.”  — Johnny Swet, co-owner of JIMMY at The James, New York, NY

“Copper Cups. I’m not just talking copper mugs. There are copper pineapples, gnomes, rabbits. Think of an inanimate object; they probably make it in copper. Just because the cocktail is in a cool cup, doesn't make it balanced....The copper takes away or masks many of the flavors in the cocktail, wasting the hard work the bartender just put in to make a great cocktail. While creating cocktails with social media in mind is incredibly important, you do not want to compromise the flavor of the actual drink.” — Cassie Hesse, beverage director at Ellis Adams Group

Black Cocktails

"I would like to see activated charcoal phase out. It does not do a whole lot for the actual flavor of the drink. Visually, you lose a lot of what you want out of the drink." — Brian Vong, manager at Polite Provisions, San Diego, CA.

“I don’t see the appeal in drinks with squid ink or activated charcoal to make them look black. It just appears unnatural and unappealing. And activated charcoal is potentially bad for you!” — Johnny Livanos, bar program director at Ousia, New York, NY

Frozen Drink Machines

“I’m all for frozen cocktails but slushie machines have no place in a bar. Most cocktails (there are a few exceptions) aren’t suited to be served out of a frozen slushie machine: proportions are often skewed from a normal cocktail, as traditional cocktail recipes either don’t freeze well or taste out of balance if not altered. Often times this means that there will be a ton of unnecessary added sugar. We serve drinks frozen at Three Dots and a Dash, like the PanDan Painkiller. However, we do it by combining all ingredients and freezing them for 24 hours before blending the drink smooth.” — Kevin Beary, beverage director at Three Dots and a Dash, Chicago, IL

iPad Ordering

“Can we please get rid of those abominable airport terminal ordering iPads? I know they’re meant to improve efficiency, but are we really trying to eliminate conversation altogether? Tell you what: instead of talking to a human being about how much I enjoyed my visit to Denver, I’ll just tap my knuckles on my chin twice, my nose once, and my forehead three times. That means I want a Goose Island IPA.” — Brian Bartels, managing partner at Happy Cooking Hospitality (Fedora, Bar Sardine), New York, NY

Over the Top Garnishes

“Ridiculous Bloody Mary garnishes. Do they really need a whole chicken, celery, skewers of shrimp, pickled vegetables and whatever else you wanted to jam into one drink?! They can order food.” — Juyoung Kang, lead bartender at The Dorsey at the Venetian, Las Vegas, NV

“I wish that overwrought garnishes would go away. Growing up in Chicago, I was no stranger to sky high Bloody Marys, but this trend has snuck its way into the cocktail scene from nearly every angle. About the only place it works and makes any sense is in tiki drinks, but it drives me nuts watching someone spend almost equal time creating the drink as they do garnishing it. Nine times out of 10, the garnish is only an immediate ‘wow’ factor, and then it's placed messily on the bar top and left to die. When you have a bar menu with several drinks with garnishes like this, the bar ends up becoming a mess and service slows down considerably. It's just fussy and unnecessary.” — Eirikur Hallsson, bar director at Gloria, New York, NY

“In 2018, I hope we 86 the wacky, over-the-top garnish trend. It's fun and crazy, but when the focus of the drink is what's above the rim, I think we need to take a step back and reassess what our priorities are. Less is more people!” — John Condon, service manager at Left Bank, New York, NY

Cocktails with Too Many Ingredients

“The excess ingredient cocktail. Once you’ve added lime juice to my seven-ingredient cocktail it just became an over thought out Gimlet. Add bitters to my quadruple-base amaro, rye, sherry, aquavit cocktail and it’s a fancy Old Fashioned. This fundamentally slows down service all while confusing the guest. There’s a reason the classics we stand by have around three ingredients.” — Simone Goldberg, head bartender at The Standard, New York, NY

“In 2018, I hope we steer away from overly complicated cocktails. At Brigitte, we highlight the best possible spirits with simple, premium ingredients—simplicity is key! Let the ingredients speak for themselves, no frills and no fuss needed.” — Caio Maggi, mixologist at Brigitte, New York, NY  

“Ten ingredient cocktails that don’t taste like any of their ingredients." — Ryan Lotz, bar manager at Bar Mezzana, Boston, MA

Cocktails with Elitist Ingredients

“The use of exotic or unattainable ingredients as a focal point of a cocktail. Cocktails are meant to be shared and it’s important to me to make memorable drinks that can be replicated. I love scribbling recipes on napkins for guests to try at home, and love even more when they can actually pull it off. It makes the process that much more intimate.” — Colin Silva, head bartender at SĒR Steak + Spirits at Hilton Anatole, Dallas, TX

“Those super expensive cocktails that are like $300 and have super rare vintage spirits in them.  If you have vintage spirits, I think they should be consumed and enjoyed on their own. And why make something so expensive? And who really wants to drink gold leaf. I mean, come on!” — Johnny Livanos

Renaming Classic Cocktails

“Giving your own creative cocktails classic cocktail names. It’s just disrespectful of the classics.” — Juyoung Kang

“One of my biggest pet peeves is cocktail lists that have well-known classic cocktails under a different name or vice versa—where a bar makes big changes to a classic but still calls it by the original name. This just makes it harder for other bartenders when speaking to their guests about drinks, and leads guests to have a skewed idea of what these classic drinks are.” — James Cleland, lead bartender at UNI, Boston, MA

Over-Hyping Drinks

“What tends to be unfortunate is when there is something worth indulging in for an appropriate occasion, pairing, or season and then it gets over-commercialized. Take rosé as an example. The market is saturated with it, and it has lost its value and charm. Almost every vineyard is making and marketing rosé and every bar is trying to incorporate it into a cocktail or an after-dinner drink. It's become akin to pumpkin spice.” — Fahd Alaoui, beverage manager at The Bar at Deer Path Inn, Lake Forest, IL

Quantity of Spirits Over Quality

Bar programs that focus on having more whiskey than their neighbors. … Operators and managers seem less concerned with moving products and making profits than impressing guests with the volume of options. This has created a false demand for small production or non-distiller produced whiskies that often sacrifice maturity, quality and unique flavor profile for a spot in the booming market.” — TJ Cox, operations director/partner at Corto Lima, Lexington, KY

Industry Snobbery

“Not every bar needs cocktail aficionados or twelve different absinthes on the shelf. The notion of a ‘real bar’ or ‘real bartender’ is a fallacy. Having the ability, time or product to make your favorite 10-step cocktail does not establish the qualities of great bar. … You [can have] the best night of your life drinking canned wine or middle shelf tequila.”  Matt King, bartender at ONA, Lexington, KY

Anti-Snob Snobbery

"The ideal of humble conceit, where prospective bar owners tout their plans to be cocktail forward without the snooty-ness. … Cocktail bartending has become much more democratized in public and user-friendly at home. Cocktail books, tools, and seminars are completely normal today. Twenty-somethings and retirees alike are downing Negronis like it's going out of style. We've passed through the point of critical mass already, so why should it matter that we serve up a Daiquiri in a gold-rimmed glass coupe or a Dixie cup? The choice is really up to the establishment's ideals for sure, but to actively attempt to be branded as not-for-snobs seems like vain benevolence to me. … Make good drinks if that is your intention, but don't think that 'dumbing it down' will earn you sainthood." — Michael Phillips, beverage director at Kemuri Tatsu-Ya, Austin, TX

Nothing, Bring on the Trends!

“I honestly cannot think of a bar trend that I wish would go away in 2018. People are always wanting to try new, exciting things and, in the bar industry, it’s important to be ahead or keep up with trends at the very minimum. I think this keeps my career interesting and is definitely one of the reasons I love it so much. Some trends are surely more challenging, like frozen drinks, specialty ice or housemade ingredients, but these are sometimes necessary to keep bar guests coming to your bar for a quality experience.” — Morgan Zuch, corporate beverage director, Datz Restaurant Group, Tampa, FL

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