At Big, we like cocktails. And we love our local bartenders.
Lucky us, our office is right next to one of the best cocktail bars in the South, The Collins. We love being in the mix of our city’s emerging cocktail community and trying out recipes that date back long before a certain Mr. Draper.
So we asked William Batson, president of the Birmingham Chapter of the US Bartenders’ Guild, to give us the rundown on trends he saw at Tales of The Cocktail.
Not familiar with TOTC, or “Tales” as it’s referred to? Held each summer in New Orleans (the birthplace of the Sazarac, America’s first cocktail), it’s five days of seminars, tastings, and well, lots of drinks shared by industry insiders, bartenders, and cocktail aficionados.
Will, who started bartending in Birmingham a decade ago, now owns his own company called The Barhops, a beverage catering consulting company. “I used to get asked ‘what’s your real job,’ or ‘what do you want to do later?’ I’ve always loved this industry. This is my later.” He shared five trends coming to a bar near you:
1. A is for Amaro. “The most notable change I’ve seen in the past few years is a renewed interest in amaros,” Will says. Look for fernets, sharply bitter amaros, to experience a huge comeback in the coming year.
2. Bitter is not a bad word. “People are becoming more health conscious, moving away from those 10 oz. cosmos and looking for something with more natural flavors that they can sip.” Bitters are a huge part of the movement, Will says, and you’ll only see more bartenders making their own, and companies getting in on the action. Among ones to watch: Bittermans, Bittercubes, and Fee Brothers.
3. Small batch spirits companies are on the rise. In this category, look for barrel-aged spirits, including rum, whiskey, and agave. “The strides that Mexico is making with tequila production and rum distilleries is notable,” Will says. “The majority of these small brands make their products in traditional clay ovens. It’s a lot of hard work and labor of love.” Mezcals will also become more popular; El Silencio Mezcal is at the top of Will’s list for newcomers to the spirit.
4. Better bottled cocktails are coming to a bar (and retailer) near you. Though fresh-made cocktails are, well, fresher, look for a rise in bottled cocktails. Purists may thumb their noses at them, but there’s a trend afoot to develop higher-quality pre-made products than previously available. We’ll also see more cocktails from kegs.
5. Continued education among bar professionals and consumers. “Bartenders continue to raise the level of knowledge and professionalism of our industry,” Will says. “Locally, we’re getting in more esoteric spirits and have a strong community of bar professionals who are doing inventive things.” Another great trend? “For a while the cocktail culture was so serious, and it started to lose some of the fun. Now people like Steva Casey (of Saturn) and Feizal Valli (of The Collins) are bringing back the fun while bringing classical training and a real knowledge of history.”