7 Major Spirits & Cocktail Trends For 2024

Image Credit: Gracias a Dios Mezcal

Almost as soon as the old year passes it seems that thoughts naturally switch to what will happen in the next one. 2022 saw the world revert to some sort of normality following two years of the Covid pandemic. The drinks industry bounced back well, but which trends will rear their heads during 2023? What will be in your glass this year?

Here we gaze into our crystal ball to offer a few predictions.

The Continued Evolution of the Negroni

Last year saw the re-birth of the Negroni thanks to a recipe for Negroni Sbagliato going viral on YouTube and TikTok. Not that this classic whisky cocktail had ever really gone away. However, the exposure brought the drink to a new and wider audience and has spawned some creative interpretations since.

Most are based around the idea of the Sbagliato, which uses prosecco rather than gin. The bitter aperitif and sweet red vermouth remain each time, but the third ingredient is changed. Already we have witnessed versions made with cider or perry on TV, so expect more quirky expressions of the Negroni and other TikTok-tails to appear.

Sustainability to Influence Whisky Flavour

The whisky industry, and particularly the new wave of craft and artisan producers, are beginning to distil spirits in a more eco-friendly and sustainable way, with many of the world’s spirits competitions rewarding such initiatives and ways of working. But it’s also beginning to manifest itself in new products that are hitting the shelves.

This is particularly true for smoky whisky. Peat is traditionally used but this takes thousands of years to regenerate itself naturally. Now, innovative distillers are burning alternative materials to create smoky flavours and more will undoubtedly follow.

For example, over in Scandinavia wood is being used by Kyrö, juniper twigs by Mackmyra and local heather by Stauning. Last year, Glenmorangie also released A Tale of the Forest – a whisky smoked with a mix of peat and woodland botanicals including birch, pine and rowan berries.

Agave Spirits To Be ‘Next Big Thing’

Everyone always seems to be speculating as to what the next spirits category to explode will be. First it was whisky, then gin was ‘the new whisky’, then rum was ‘the new gin’ and so on. However, the latest category to get hot is tequila and mezcal from Mexico.

Tequila has seen a recent huge surge of celebrity endorsed or owned brands appear on the market, and that’s always a key indicator. Mezcal has steadily been gaining popularity too, particularly with bartenders who are always on the lookout for new and interesting flavours.

Even the little-known Mexican spirit of sotol is beginning to gain traction in the market following the launch of a brand by rocker Lenny Kravitz.

Rum In, Gin Out

It seems that the gin bubble has been bursting for a while now. Numerous craft distilleries that appeared during the boom times of the last five years have distilled their last spirit, while others have significantly downsized or consolidated. That is not to say gin is dead. The category remains strong, especially for the big brands, but just with less players.

One category to capitalise on gin’s demise is rum. The spirit hit the £1 billion sales mark in the UK last year and overtook whisky as the biggest selling dark spirit for the first time ever. Big boys and artisan producers alike are set to cash in on the surge, meaning consumers now have more choice than ever before.

So, whether it is dark rum you like or something lighter for a cocktail, the future of rum is very strong.

Flavoured Vodka to Grow

Vodka remains as the world’s favourite and bestselling white spirit, but it has had to hold off recent challenges from both gin and tequila. It has achieved this over the last three years with the steady introduction of flavoured vodka. This struck a chord with consumers, especially during the Covid lockdowns when people were making more cocktails at home.

The result was that home cocktail consumption in the UK tripled during the pandemic. Flavoured vodkas aided this, making it easier for people to be creative and needing less ingredients. And with half of the world’s top 10 most popular cocktails being vodka based, this will only increase.

Expect more brands to release an ever-increasing range of flavours this year.

Quality Vs. Quantity

As the credit crunch bites an interesting set of trends are set to clash. On the one hand consumers are returning to popular brands more often – think Famous Grouse whisky, Gordon’s gin, Smirnoff vodka etc. – as they offer value for money and are regularly on offer at supermarkets. You get bang for your buck.

But counting the pennies also manifests itself in a different way – people will buy higher quality products such as a bottle of premium Scotch single malt, an aged rum or XO Cognac, but less often. They are essentially treating themselves and will then sip and savour these over a longer period. This will become more polarised over the next 12 months.

Retro Cocktails to Make a Comeback

The recent growth in sales of rum and tequila has gone somewhat hand-in-hand with a revival of retro cocktails. Sales of drinks such as the Mai Tai, Piña Colada and Tequila Sunrise have risen dramatically over the last year, despite each being more associated with the 1970s and 1980s.

This nostalgic return mirrors other areas of life. Think of fashion, music and design – everything becomes trendy again at some point, right? Expect these retro cocktails, or contemporary interpretations of them, to take bars by storm in 2023. It is time for these long-forgotten classics to shine once more. Screwdriver anyone?

Matt Chambers

Mr. Matt Chambers has been writing about whisky since 2008, becoming a brand consultant, educator, judge for IWSC and the Spirits Masters awards. His interests lie with the heritage behind the brands and distilleries. He also enjoys the obscure facts, figures and stories that bring the world of whisky to life. In short, what Matt doesn’t know about whisky isn’t worth knowing. You can find his blog named Whisky For Everyone here.