We predict Atlanta’s top 5 cocktail trends for 2017

Madeira, apple brandy, Champagne slushies and low-ABV cocktails will all be trending in 2017. Photo: Beth McKibben

Madeira, apple brandy, Champagne slushies and low-ABV cocktails will all be trending in 2017. Photo: Beth McKibben

Drinking in 2016 brought us amaro, orange and canned wines and the rise of gin and tiki. So, what does 2017 have in store for adventurous imbibers like us? We did a little research over the holiday break, chatted with a few industry experts and waded through waist-deep lists of predictions to find the five forecasted booze trends we think will make their mark in Atlanta this year.  

1. Low-ABV
We told you last year about the beauty of drinking low-proof aperitif cocktails. But, not all low-ABV cocktails contain bitter amaro and fizzy water and are topped with bubbles. In 2017, look for cocktails whose base spirits include sherry, vermouth, sake, port and chianto. These low-octane drinks are lighter on proof but still big on depth of flavor. Try a sherry cobbler containing the fortified wine, sugar and citrus. For whiskey drinkers, a reverse Manhattan is a great alternative to its boozy big brother with the recipe reverting to the original formula of two parts vermouth to one part rye. 

2. Turmeric and coconut
Drinking may be good for your health in 2017. We’re seeing cold-pressed juices like carrot and beet, edible garnishes and even turmeric making their way into cocktails this year. Turmeric? Yes, the ginger-like spice which gives curry its yellow hue and warm flavor is also known for its anti-inflammatory properties. Bartenders are getting creative with the lovely spice concocting turmeric-infused teas, spirits and syrups for mixing. However, we’re hearing coconut will be the cocktail ingredient of choice and will move beyond umbrella drinks. The natural and refreshing sweetener is packed with nutrients and will be used to infuse booze, create syrups and make into cordials.

3. Back-to-basics
Why can’t a classic cocktail just be a classic cocktail without the spin-doctoring and star-tending? Bartenders have been asking the same question. Beginning in 2016, there was a push toward cocktails and service from a simpler time behind the bar with an emphasis on hospitality. Expect to see more unadulterated classics on menus in 2017. The Mercury, Bread & Butterfly and Leon’s Full Service have already forged Atlanta’s path offering classics like the Aviation, Scofflaw and Amaretto Sour. It’s time to finally say goodbye to ten-ingredient cocktails.

The apple brandy and rye-based Electioneer from Kimball House. Courtesy of Kimball House

The apple brandy and rye-based Electioneer from Kimball House. Courtesy of Kimball House

4. Brandy and Madeira
Make way for the Colonial comeback kids apple and peach brandy and the after-dinner darling, Madeira. Brandy was considered the spirit of choice for cocktails prior to Prohibition but never regained its foothold with drinkers following those dark, dry years…until now. You’ll be seeing more fruited brandies distilled from right here in the good old USofA behind the bar; including an apple brandy from Atlanta’s ASW Distillery. Like fruit brandies, Madeira has also begun its voyage back into the hearts of American drinkers thanks to bars like Ticonderoga Club. The Club’s love for mixing it into cocktails or serving the relatively old wine by the port glass has helped introduce this reverent Colonial spirit to a new generation of sippers.  

5. Martinis and frozen booze
With the renewed interest in craft gins and vermouths, the classic martini has seen an uptick in bar sales. Bartenders are breathing new life into the cocktail using floral-forward or funky vermouths from craft producers like Petal & Thorn, Uncouth and Atsby paired with gins from distillers like St. George, Sipsmith and Atlanta’s Old Fourth Distillery. This isn’t your granddad’s dry martini. For summer, we predict Frosé will continue its dominance along with a few other frozen concoctions like the Frogroni (frozen Negroni,) Cuban-inspired frozen daiquiris and Champagne slushies.

A snifter of 1995 D'Oliveira Madeira paried with fois gras Monte Cristo at Ticonderoga Club. Photo: Beth McKibben

A glass of 1995 D’Oliveira Madeira paired with the foie gras Monte Cristo at Ticonderoga Club. Photo: Beth McKibben

A cocktail expert predicts
We asked former Holeman & Finch bar manager, now account manager for Diageo Reserve Spirits Kaleb Cribb to weigh in on what he predicts will be trending in booze in 2017.

“For years, people have often classified drinks as “girly” or “manly”, but with a much-welcomed emphasis on hospitality, I believe you will see less gender stereotypes attached to cocktails. Cocktails as a culture should be inclusive and inviting, not segmented and with rules.

In other words, drink what you like and let others worry about their cocktail hang-ups.

As for spirits, Cribb wants you to give blended Scotch a chance. He predicts Irish whiskey is due for a comeback. And, Cognac, “…as soon as American whiskey drinkers realize that Cognac isn’t too dissimilar, the boom happens.”

Wine experts weigh in
Two of our favorite sommeliers gave us the 411 on what they expect to be big news on wine lists this year around Atlanta.

Clarke Anderson, sommelier and assistant general manager of no. 246 in Decatur agreed with our prediction on fortified wines, “Wine in cocktails will continue to be a trend. Madeira and sherry make great savory additions to boozy whiskey drinks. I’d like to see more people enjoying vermouth as an aperitif this Summer.”

Anderson expects sparkling petillant naturel (pet-nat) wines along with rosé to be big on Atlanta’s patios beginning this Spring. And, he predicts canned wine and cocktails to be your go-to poolside imbibes.

Eric Crane, sommelier, and director of education for Empire Distributors agreed with Anderson, saying rosé is here to stay having become a year-round staple on wine menus.

As for Madeira, Mr. Crane gave us one more reason for Georgians to drink this fortified wine, “When the Declaration of Independence was signed, it was toasted with Madeira taken to the signing by Button Gwinnett. These wines are fantastic and are a great way to end a meal.”

Crane predicted the future of wine saying, “I think we are due for a “retro movement” in wine. I see more and more people rediscovering Chardonnay and Merlot. I also feel Australian wine will be back in a lot of people’s glasses. The wines being produced there in the $15 to $35 range are some of the best things going right now.”

Read more of our coverage of the Atlanta bar scene

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Drink hot toddies and spiked cocoa at these 8 Atlanta bars

Five hard ciders to try

Why aren’t you drinking aperitif cocktails?

Read The A List: The faces, places, dishes and drinks defining the Atlanta dining scene right now

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