Sunday, November 4, 2012

More on the Future, Behind the Bar

Last week, we talked about the future of cocktails, and this week we will continue this topic. For last week's column, I consulted reports by experts in our industry to see what they think is coming down the line. You've been reading Fun Behind Bars, and you're read me say it so much you can probably say it with me: The Bar Follows the Kitchen. You know this means that the trends in food show up in the bar.  It follows that if we study what's next for food, we can predict our own future. So this week I'm reporting on trends for the kitchen, because you know that we'll be seeing them soon.  I'll be borrowing a few predictions, based on an article about the future of food from the 25th anniversary edition on Cooking Light magazine.

 Welcome to the Golden Age of American Food, they say, and the article describes things that are already happening in your mouth, and if they aren't -- they will soon!. Okay, excessively salacious, but they are happening on farms and in retailers... aaaaaand in your mouth. According to their research, popular opinion and science-in-general, the American diet is an abomination of chemicals, pretty produce that lacks nutrition, and high frustose corn syrup.  What's to come, however, is fresher, better-raised and more delicious. What does that mean for the bar? We will choose our ingredients more thoughtfully, and so will our suppliers. Here are some organic spirits to try, plus an organic tonic.. 

One trend we're watching, and supporting, is going lighter.  This means lighter with calories and easier on the alcohol - sometimes this means we drink better, not more. Sometimes this means we drink lighter-proof beverages like Bethenny Frankel's Skinnygirl line of beverage alcohol. Sometimes we keep the APV, but use lower-calorie mixers like zero-calorie water-additive powders like Crystal Light to fake a margarita on the deck while the kids play and the men barbecue.

The author of the Cooking Light piece describes a surreal experience in the grocery, stunned by the variety and the seemingly-incomprehensible claims on the packaging.  Sound familiar?  To paraphrase a famous quotation, if you're not baffled, you're not paying attention.  There are probably even more crazy flavors of vodka in a decent-sized liquor store than there are sugary cereals on Aisle 6.  It's not just wine's terroir anymore - it's the terroir of the hops, yeast and water. It;'s not just filtered, it's filtered through diamonds.  It's important for the marketers to have a message that hasn't been played to death by other companies, so every new product comes with a novel narrative.  One that plays the best, these days, is that everything comes from right where we are.   Cooking Light's food-trend article really focuses on the importance of eating local.  I've talked about this before, in relation to drinking local, and even staged a cocktail contest to highlight the many products Wisconsin's entrepreneurs are making for us, so what we're going to see is really just a continuation of our present trajectory.  Wisconsin is known as a beer-producer, but Great Lakes Distillery changed the game and now leads the way for brands like Rokker, 44th Parallel, Pie Liqueurs and more.  We're even in the wine game, and not just in Door County; Pieper Porch Winery in Mukwonago is producing award-winning wines right in the heart of the state.

What did we learn?  We learned that there really is no shocking trend to brace for; what's next is an expansion of what we're already doing.  Find new ways to use what's local, and as always, enjoy beverage alcohol safely so you can enjoy it for years to come!

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