Cocktail Trends - Less Is More
The art of the cocktail is altogether a precise science and matter of taste - ranging from the indulgently complex to satisfyingly simple. At its most basic, a cocktail is no more than three ingredients. Some would argue it’s two, but don’t listen to those heretics. Leave them to their spirit and mixers and explore the world that waits with ingredient number three.
Many classic cocktails do indeed only have three ingredients. Typically this includes a base spirit, an aperitif or citrus to modify, and a flavouring - which usually takes the form of a liqueur. Classic cocktails have become classics because each ingredient is allowed to “sing” and the flavors interact with each other famously. As such, it’s not surprising that with every additional ingredient you add - the more risk you run of the drink becoming confusing to the palate. With upwards of six ingredients you will find it near impossible to distinguish individual flavours - often forcing them to compete with one another in an unfavourable fashion. In many cases, the cocktail risks losing balance.
Thankfully for all of us with taste buds, the age of fluorescent 80’s cocktails is long behind us as we enter the second decade of the cocktail revival. Simple drinks are king once again, being favored by consumers and bartenders alike. On the whole, consumers are after more sophisticated drinks, leaving the candy sweet cordials behind in favour of more balanced - or even bitter - cocktails. Thanks to this increased knowledge and appreciation for what goes into mixed drinks, bartenders have a lot more room for play behind the bar - no longer having to shy away from spirit forward creations or beloved classics such as the Martini or Negroni. Because of this shift in taste we’ve also witnessed the resurgence of Prohibition era speakeasy style bars in a big way. (Pro tip: The more secretive and badly lit, the better. I also suspect the more injuries.)
In the past few years, the winning drinks from cocktail competitions have tended to be those that are simpler to make. Judges are often looking for drinks that are easy to replicate and some competitions like the Bols Around the World competition even state this in the guidelines.
Before I get carried away with the fashion of drinking - it’s important we realize the second largest reason why bartenders are happy to see simple cocktails becoming so popular once again. It’s the speed and consistency. Speaking from experience I have lost blood, sweat, and tears when the bar is
five deep on a Friday night and someone orders a Rum Runner — the guilt from being unable to give top customer service is inevitable. Less is more here in a big way and it shows when you have time to interact with your guests. In fact someone once made a great point that the people we serve are exactly that: guests, and should be treated as such.
Here are three cocktail recipes to get you started on your minimalist cocktail journey.
Extremely dry and ever a classic. Caters to those who prefer bitter drinks.
- 75mls (2.5 oz) Bulleit Rye
- 30mls (1 oz) Noilly Prat Dry Vermouth
- 3 Dashes Angostura Bitters
Stir ingredients well with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a cocktail cherry.
An easy twist on the classic Negroni, with Aperol instead of Campari, is lower in ABV and brings softer notes to the palate.*
- 30ml (1 oz) Tanqueray Gin
- 30ml (1 oz) Aperol
- 30ml (1 oz) Dolin Rouge Vermouth
Stir with ice and garnish with an Orange peel.
A smooth, chocolatey Rum sipper.
- 45ml (1.5 oz) Bacardi Oakheart Rum
- 15ml (.5 oz) Crème de Cacao Brown
- 2 dashes Scrappy's Chocolate Bitters
Stir well with plenty of ice before straining into a chilled cocktail glass.
With bartenders and industry moguls alike already touting 2014 as the “year of the simple cocktail” with next level iterations of pre-batched cocktails already in play, I’d argue its staying power is even stronger than that. With their ease, glamour, and sophistication, I can see simple cocktails returning to the norm of this industry for a long time ahead.