What Will You Be Drinking?

Area beverage-industry experts predict what we’ll be sipping — and what we’ll be skipping — in the year ahead

Throughout the world for centuries, human beings have toiled to find a legitimate and cost-effective means of looking into the future. 

Irish mystics consulted the weather for omens; Chinese monks brushed up on their tasseography by reading tea leaves; Egyptians spoke to their ancestral stone idols — all attempting to find signs of what lie ahead. 

When it came time for us to offer our 2022 cocktail predictions, we simply asked our friends in the industry. Let them take the heat if it doesn’t come true. Seriously, for most of us, it’s difficult to know what an afternoon coffee will bring, let alone what the next 12 months have in store. 

On the other hand, forecasting a coming trend can be an entertaining exercise. Particularly if the subject of scrying is something fun — like alcoholic beverages. 

So, join us as we consult our wise guides (in alphabetical order by last name) and peek into the crystal ball. What will you be drinking in the year ahead? 

Let’s take a taste of the future together…

Kimberly Derbyshire
CEO, Top Shelf Promotions

The sweeter the better! 

Sweet sparkling wines are hot. Flavored whiskeys are hot. Peanut-butter flavored whiskey started this new interest. Whiskey, in general, is still a growing spirits segment. 

Pre-mixed cocktails in cans are convenient and very popular for on-the-go consumers. 

Jason Giuliano
Managing Partner, Universal Beverage Importers 

“I think the biggest trend in the industry will be the return to the bars and restaurants in 2022. Our bars and restaurants are juggling a minimized labor pool, supply-chain complications, and inflation at an all-time high. People’s comfort levels are getting better, and our restaurants have increased their safety measures to make everyone feel comfortable.

What will we drink this year? The industry has identified three key categories. We expect consumers will: (1) indulge in their drinking and want more bold and robust flavors; (2) look for simple ingredients; (3) seek out local and regional influences.

The biggest trends in 2022? Tequila may outsell vodka. 

Whiskey will continue to accelerate and be a leader in the spirits growth. But the biggest growth potential may be with cannabis-and-CBD-infused beverages. 

Hard seltzers are here to stay. And, yes, we absolutely will have more ready-to-drink canned cocktails.”

John Holton
Bartender, Tonic Seafood & Steak 

If we have learned anything from the past two years, is that no one can predict anything, and nothing lasts forever. Cocktail trends are as whimsical as stardust and stardom; today an enamored elixir, tomorrow a forgotten fad. 

Ultimately, bartenders, not mixologists, are the foundation of the craft. For the craft isn’t infusing this or creating that, it is the person that greets you after you’ve had a hard day with a smile, an ear, a joke, a menu, and ultimately — regardless of how terrible their day has been — hospitality. 

Regardless of what is on the drink list, people gravitate to places that offer an atmosphere of familiarity, safety, of comfort and community. As a bartender, this is what we serve. This is what endures. Drink it in. Cheers!

Chris Julian
Bartender, Iron Hill Brewery Riverfront

“2022 will see more small and large companies expanding into the realm of seltzer. Also, expect TV/movie-themed, pre-made cocktails for sale at liquor stores. 

Restaurants will ramp up their own variations of classic cocktails (mules, martinis, old- fashioneds, and margaritas) to compete with aforementioned pre-made cocktails for consumption at home.” 

John Leyh
Craft and Specialty Brand Manager, NKS Distributors

“We’ll see the further blurring of lines between beer and spirit-based products — think seltzers, hard iced teas and canned cocktails

Speaking of canned cocktails, these numbers are huge. Consumers are definitely gravitating towards the convenience aspect of these. Brewers know how to make things and put them into convenient portable packaging.

We’ll see more high-ABV IPA — this is more of a decade-long continuation of a trend.

Unfortunately, supply chain issues in the beverage space are going to continue to be a problem. Packaging (cardboard, bottles and cans) and trucking will be issues.

‘Better for you’ is definitely still a thing. Bud Light Next will launch (80 calories and zero carbs). That 110-calories-and-fewer category is a real sweet spot.”

Victor Mattia
Craft Beer Manager, Breakthru Beverage Group  

“Hard seltzer sales have declined the last half of 2021 and will level off in 2022. They have been on a three-year run of double-and-triple-digit growth. Some of the smaller brands with disappear from the market.

RTD (ready-to-drink) canned cocktails will continue to grow. It’s a relatively small category so there’s a lot of room to grow that segment.  

As far as beer goes, new entries to the non-alcoholic craft market performed well in 2021 and will continue to in 2022.

The ‘better-for-you’ segment in beer and wine will continue to grow. There’s a market for low-carb full-flavor wine and beers.” 

Joe Mujica
General Manager, Kelly’s Logan House

“I think the whole canned-cocktail portfolio is going to continue to grow. They aren’t just for pools and golf courses anymore. The Dewey Crush became really big for us over this past summer.” 

Erin Noonan
Owner, Magnolia Lounge

The #1 trend I am seeing from my clients are coffee cocktails. Espresso martinis are all the rave! 

Another trend I’m seeing is canned cocktails. Some clients aren’t wanting to spend the extra buck on signature cocktails — now you can get margaritas and orange crushes in a can. Easy peasy! 

And the last trend I am seeing is Cannabis cocktails. I have yet to have a request for them, but I’m seeing more restaurants offering them. 

Ted Stewart
Craft Manager, Standard Distributing 

“2021 appeared to be the ‘Year of Seltzer’ and felt like every brewery had their own spin on the category. However, we’ve already seen some breweries shift focus from the seltzer game since the OG seltzers appear to have staying power. 

It looks like more breweries will be focusing their efforts on the non-alcoholic and low-ABV beer offerings as well as more ready-to-drink canned cocktails that we’ll see from both beer and liquor companies.”

Dave Wamsley
Mixologist, Ubon Thai Kitchen & Bar

“The espresso martini is not a new cocktail but recently it has been experiencing a resurgence. The elegance of a martini, the rich coffee flavor, and the high content of alcohol and caffeine, combine to make this cocktail delicious and versatile. 

As an after-dinner treat, or a stiff pick-me-up, the espresso martini was a popular choice in 2021 and it will surely have a strong presence through the New Year as well.”

Victoria Reed
Bartender, Bardea Food & Drink

Gin and tonic, baby!

There are so many styles of gin, and with the botanicals they hold, I think it’s easy to say there’s one for everyone. If you are afraid of gin tasting like a Christmas tree, stay clear of juniper-heavy gin and aim for citrus-and-floral-forward gin such as: Roku (it’s herbal with strong Yuzu notes); or try Aviation (this “American Style” spirit has notes of lavender and sarsaparilla); or try something very fruity like Nolets (with the juniper almost missing, and heavy on peach and even has cantaloupe accents).

Why stop there? There’s an assortment of tonics and garnishes you can experiment with to make your gin and tonic truly dance. My personal favorite is Indian Tonic from q soda, with a grapefruit peel. Instead of a boring old lemon or lime ask your bartender for a cucumber or sprig of rosemary to really enhance your G&T experience.

So, what do you think? Please comment below.