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National Restaurant Association - We’ll drink to that: Top 5 alcohol trends for 2018

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We’ll drink to that: Top 5 alcohol trends for 2018

Thirsty to know which alcoholic beverages are going to drive sales at restaurants over the next year? Our new What’s Hot Culinary Forecast looked at the responses of 700 chefs – all members of the American Culinary Federation – for the answers. They said cocktails made with food, local spirits, wine and beer, and onsite barrel-aged drinks are going to be tops in 2018.

Here are the Top 5 alcoholic beverage trends for the next year:

1. Culinary cocktails

If you think cocktails are too strong to pair with dinner, think again. Chefs and bartenders are mixing garden and other food ingredients into beverages. The result: a strengthening of the bond between the bar and the kitchen. These days, everything from sea urchin to heirloom tomatoes to arugula is on the table. Cheers to that!

2. Locally produced spirits, wine and beer

Consumers, particularly millennials, are especially interested in higher premium beverages produced locally. They want to know the story behind how they’re made, where the ingredients come from and how they’re manufactured.

3. Craft/artisan spirits

Millennials, once again, are rapidly changing alcohol beverage trends by exhibiting a preference for craft liquor produced by small, local distilleries. A growing share of these younger drinkers is driving the demand. They say they’re willing to pay a premium for fresh, original brands that have unique identities.

4. Onsite barrel-aged drinks

Barrel-aged cocktails have been popping up at high-end locations for a while, but the trend appears to be growing stronger now. For those who don’t know, these pre-mixed drinks are placed into barrels for a few weeks. That changes the flavor and mellows the mix in the same way wines and distilled spirits are aged. Some popular samples include punches, pre-batched rye Manhattans and even Negronis.

5. Regional signature cocktails

More consumers are interested in discovering the signature cocktails of various regions or states. Whether they're blended and served with tiny umbrellas, muddled with fresh fruit, or made with just a few ingredients, regional signature cocktails are making their mark with guests. Mint julep, anyone?

For complete survey results, additional trends to watch, video and downloadable graphics, visit www.restaurant.org/foodtrends.

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