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By Jessica Bowne | December 16, 2016 | Food & Drink
From Fort Point to Downtown Crossing and over the river to Cambridge, there is no denying that Boston’s cocktail scene only continues to get better. We spoke with some of Boston’s best bartenders on what cocktails trends they are most looking forward to in 2017...and what they hope goes away.
“In 2017, I think there will continue to be a exodus of very talented chefs and restaurateurs from the city to the suburbs due to the rising costs of the rents in the Boston area, and the ever expanding radius of the burbs due to high rents. The positive part of that will be the resulting cocktail revolution in the suburbs. I think we will see more interesting spirits and cocktail lists in bars that are farther and farther out from Boston proper. One trend that I’d like to see end is the tendency to call every neighborhood bar a “dive bar.” If you ask me, a true dive bar is a very rare thing. And once a lot of people discover it and drink there, out of what they think is irony, it's dead and no longer a dive bar.”
"The cocktail trend I would like to see in 2017 is conversation. I started my career as a bartender years before all of my guests had cell phones. I was a storyteller and a confidant to many regulars. So much of that is lacking these days with everyone on their phones. I hope conversation makes its way back to the bar. Everyone should give it a try. Just put your phone away and strike up a conversation with your bartender. I promise you will be entertained. The cocktail trend I would like to see gone in 2017 is blue cheese stuffed olives. Don't get me wrong, I like blue cheese and I like olives, but I just don't get the combination in a martini. Also, to be honest, nothing makes me more cranky than filling dozens of olives with that funky cheese."
“Superfoods will continue to be introduced in cocktails. We've seen superfoods starting to get introduced into cocktails in the forms of green, leafy vegetables but I don't see it stopping there - Activated charcoal, algae and chia seeds will work their way into cocktails as bartenders learn the health benefits. We've only seen the tip of the iceberg (pun intended) when it comes to ice in cocktail bars. Ice will get its proper due in all on premise establishments and you'll start to see more ice focused small businesses start to form across the US market. Lastly, there is more appreciation for lesser known red wine varietals. 10 years ago you'd be hard pressed to find anyone who knew Malbec outside of those who were astute in Bordeaux styles. Nowadays there is a Malbec on almost every by the glass list out there.”
“I think people are scaling back a bit on how many infusions, tinctures, and house-made ingredients they are doing onsite. Instead, I expect local bartenders to make more of an effort to pay homage to the spirits themselves by tweaking classics slightly so that they are still totally recognizable but very fun. As far as trends that I hope will end in 2017, I think that ultimately people end up drinking what they love. As bartenders, it is our job to make drinks that make people happy.”
“There are three trends happening in 2017. I really like that a lot of bars are leaning toward 'farm-to-glass' ingredients. I think rum is going to continue to trend up. There will also be more of a focus on the hospitality and service end of the drink with bartenders being more involved in the delivery and presentation of the drink itself.”
“One of the trends I'm starting to see emerge and am looking forward to is the increase in popularity of baijiu. This Chinese spirit is not very well suited for the American palate, but some brands are starting to gain traction in the market and the spirit itself is different from anything else out there, which makes it fun to use. It's not super approachable at first, but when mixed properly, it makes for a great base spirit in a cocktail. For a good bottle of baijiu to play around with, check out HKB (Hong Kong Baijiu).”
“Trends for 2017 will include more local produce and mixers for cocktails. Massachusetts farmers are growing great items for cocktails, preparing for spring and summer cocktails with produce such as African Blue Basil, cucamelons, pineapple sage, orange, and banana mint will be fun! Fruitations mixers are among the best and handcrafted locally in New England. It’s going to be a fun 2017."
“There are so many things that bartenders are already doing that no one saw coming. I see bartending and mixology like I see technology and science – there’s always room for growth and innovation. That being said, I can tell you what I will be focusing on in 2017 and that’s really crafting drinks and taking time to make sure things are just right. I’m playing around with fun garnishes because let’s face it, people eat and drink with their eyes before their mouths. I plan to elevate my garnishes and continue to make drinks that are simply sexy (sexy doesn’t always mean complicated!) I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel, but I’m also not trying to be predictable. I’m truly looking forward to 2017 to see what the year has to bring for the world of cocktails.”
“The trends that I think will be gaining momentum in 2017 include guests getting more interested in small batched craft beers and classic cocktails (refined pre-prohibition beverages), because people love history!! Also doing bone marrow luges--who doesn't love a shot poured down delicious bone marrow!? I also feel like Tiki drinks/ nights will hit an all time high in 2017, fun glass wear, crushed ice and deliciousness. I’d like to see Fernet being the only amaro go away. Don't get me wrong I do enjoy my Fernet branca but there are so many different and delicious amari out there! Braulio is one of my favorites; it's super smooth with a little bit of sweetness. It's a well-balanced digestif and isn't as overpowering as fernet and is also a great addition to cocktails.”
“For 2017, I am looking forward to an increase in quality, cocktail-focused bars that put hospitality first, and cutting edge beverage service to match. I am also excited for Boston and Cambridge to continue to grow and put themselves on the national and even global food and beverage map. I hope to see more cocktail programs that push the envelope in terms of what's in the glass, without any sort of pretension or stale atmosphere. In terms of trends going away, I hope that bartenders stop representing big brands that they may or may not even stand behind just to get publicity. I hope more bartenders and business owners focus on strengthening their bar scenes by challenging each other to be better, and to train the newer generation of bartenders to focus on hospitality and honing in their craft.”
“In the same way that session beers have replaced high gravity IPAs, I am seeing more people gravitate toward low-proof cocktails. Gone are the days of the high proof arms race (that bang-for-your-buck mentality that lead to Long Island Iced Teas and Bone Dry Vodka Martinis) as diners and bar-goers are looking for flavorful, light cocktails that won't put them on the floor. While we all love a delicious Manhattan or Sazerac it doesn't lend itself to longevity; we can drink sherry or Aperol Spritzes all day long. Low-proof doesn't mean watered down, in fact, many of these drinks rely heavily on fortified wines and intensely flavored liqueurs with offer so much more intensity of flavor than many distilled spirits. I, for one, am excited that my dreams of drinking like an old Italian man aren't garnering as many sidelong looks as they once did.”
Photography by Galdones Photography (Seth Freidus); Wayne Chinnock (Todd Maul); Ruth Zelaya (Andrea Pentabona)