(Disclaimer: in the American midwest, you will be unusually cutting-edge if you proceed. These predictions are made for the UK, which you know is a bit ahead of our location, though not necessarily ourselves.)
|the aged picso punch from nightjar|
Which brings us to another hot trend for 2013: Youtube. We are as likely to learn from a bartender in Japan as we are from our next-door neighbor. Whether we are learning the history of the Old-Fashioned, how to make an ice ball or virtually any other cocktail-related knowledge - it's all there. If it isn't, make you own instructional video and join the revolution. One world of caution, however - some sources are better than others, so use your judgment before employing the tactics you learn online.
There are two trends that apply specifically to the people behind the drinks, and each of them is a welcome change. In recent years, bartenders have become more serious. It is unavoidable that we should have gone through this phase, as we have all learned so much, so fast. Educating our guests in an endeavor we find so fascinating has been irresistible. However, in 2013, we're bringing the fun back. We are still cocktail professionals, and usually the most knowledgeable people in the bar, when it comes to our craft, but there is a time and place for education, and not every guest is a student. So bring back your knowledge of sports, current events, jokes and whatever else entertains your guests because fun is back in season!
The second trend for bar staff is the rise of the female bartender. We are not new to the game - one of the oldest literary works known to humankind (Gilgamesh) features the Hero getting advice from one of us. For some inexplicable reason, however, for far too long the men have gotten the ink and the limelight, similar to the way the great chefs were expected to be male for decades. The times, they are a-changin', and women are taking our spots, front and center. If you don't know who Julie Reiner and Audrey Saunders are, you're on notice: your education is incomplete.
Lost in Catering provides the most comprehensive list of trends I think we'll see in Wisconsin, especially as Summer 2013 approaches. Hallelujah for the skinny cocktail, and I don't mean vodka and Diet Coke. I mean interesting cocktails with less sugar but all the flavor. At some point we choose between liquor and dessert, and by the time we get to that crossroads, we've had plenty of dessert. An easy way to "skinny" a cocktail and improve its flavor all at once is to use fresh-pressed fruit instead of premade mixes. I'm not a fan of artificial sweeteners, preferring to use agave and honey syrups to sweeten drinks when necessary. Also, I'm personally trending away from sweetness, and more likely to enjoy a tart or bitter profile.
Another of their trends is the use of tea in cocktails, as well as the texture of fizziness. Here's a recipe that combines these elements, and can be served year-round as it does not rely on fresh mint:
1 oz. Maker's Mark bourbon
1 oz strong Mint Tea syrup
To make mint tea syrup, steep 3 teabags in 10 oz. hot water
until strong. Sweeten with 4 tbls honey.
Combine bourbon and syrup and shake gently, pour over fresh ice in a tub glass and top with Ginger Beer.
Wisconsin is not known for being cutting-edge, but our reputation as a leader in cocktail culture is well-earned and growing. The last trend I'll mention today is artisan spirit. Made by aficionados, not multinational corporations, these relatively small-batch offerings provide an interesting alternative for cocktails and help support the local economy. In Wisconsin, we are lucky to have companies to Great Lakes Distillery, Travis Hasse's Pie Liqueurs, Death's Door Spirits and a host of others giving us options, and putting us at the forefront of a trend worth following.