15 Cocktail Trends To Consider For 2020

With close on two hundred years of experience producing aromatic bitters, The House of Angostura has been at the forefront of the cocktail industry since the creation of the very first long drink. Over the years, the brand itself has become a household name as a supporter of industry talent around the globe and the producer of an Amaro aperitif and some of the best rums in the world. As a mainstream brand in the industry, Angostura has its finger on the pulse… so, let’s talk trends for the coming year.

The top five trends recognised for 2019 were: simplification and experimentation, gin, rum, low- to no- ABV (alcohol by volume) drinks and the start of a ‘green’ movement.

As we know, global trends take time to mature. Owen O’Reilly, owner of SIP Exclusive and the Diageo World Class SA Bartender of the Year 2019 says “trends that started at the end of 2018 will really only become ‘a thing’ in 2020”. 

cocktail trends 15 Cocktail Trends To Consider For 2020

So, in addition to those 2019 trends still making their mark, we’ve had a couple of SA’s top barmen provide insights into these growing trends and a few more only in infancy:

  • Overly complicated, sugar-forward cocktails have lost momentum and the classics are back
  • Once thought to be a phase, it seems the gin craze is here to stay as long as there is demand
  • Bitter and umami flavours are becoming more popular
  • Herbals and Amaro’s are being used more – aperitifs are set to make a comeback
  • Rum and tequila are at the forefront of popular spirits as craft producers try to break into the market
  • Largely spearheaded by the health-conscious younger generation and the need for responsible drinking, the world has seen a steep increase in demand for decent low-ABV and alcohol-free serves. Available today, you will find alcohol-free everything from beer to dark spirits as consumers drink for flavour and the social aspect rather than the effect
  • In addition, as consumers become more aware of what they put in their bodies there is a much greater need for higher quality and premium products
  • Recent years have shown an increasing trend of playing with homemade ingredients, infusions and fermentations such as kombucha and tepache
  • Cannabidiol (CBD) and hemp-infused products are on the rise, even for the cocktail industry
  • There is a lot of experimentation with carbonated flavours as bars and bartenders make their own creations. O’Reilly gives us an example, “I made a smoked soda for the opening round of World Class this year”
  • Bartenders are collaborating with Chefs and making use of applicable kitchen techniques that are more sustainable 
  • Supporting sustainable practices in general continues. Many SA bars have started reducing their amount of waste, recycling, banning the use of single-use plastic like straws, using less ice, using local and seasonable ingredients, reusing ingredients where possible and making garnishes from dehydrated fruit that has gone unused
  • Women in the industry are trending and will continue to do so in the coming years. George Hunter, Owner of Copper Monkey and Angostura Global Cocktail Challenge 2018 SA National winner says, “The ladies in our industry are a focal point and rightfully so. There shouldn’t be inequality in our workplace. Hospitality is about welcoming people and giving them a great experience – it shouldn’t matter if the service is by a male or female”
  • Augmented reality cocktail menus are being brought to life as venues get creative to ensure they stand out from the crowd
  • Locality is becoming a unique selling point. Julian Short, co-owner of Sin + Tax (recently debuted on the extended list of the 2019 World’s 50 Best Bars at number 88), says “The mixology trend has taken the world by storm and as more and more bartenders from all around the world come to terms with their own worth and relevancy, they are beginning to understand that what makes them exceptional is where they come from and what distinctive ingredients they have at their disposal. This applies perfectly to South Africa. We are in such a uniquely diverse part of the world that we are actually spoilt for choice. I cannot wait to see how we as a continent further embrace our local ingredients, heritage, and special drinks culture into modern cocktail culture”

At the recent Angostura Global Cocktail Challenge 2020 SA National competition, Head Judge and Diageo World Class Bartender of the Year SA 2018, Travis Kuhn gave some advice to the competitions ten finalists, “The level of mixology is really good in South Africa, but I think we’re still looking at things in a very two-dimensional way. We need to look at ingredients and how we can reconstruct them in different ways to achieve different flavours and balance. In SA we have rooibos, fynbos, citrus – these are flavours we should be combining and exploring to three-dimensionalise our creations!”