If you want to know what cocktails people are ordering in bars and restaurants, you don’t need to look any further than an episode of Mad Men. Classic cocktails are mixing things up on the drink menu this year. According to new research from Mintel Menu Insights, cocktails that are described as “classic” on menus have increased by a whopping 76 percent since 2009. The popular retro drink, the manhattan, has seen a 35 percent increase on menus since 2009, while the gimlet is up 63 percent, Sazerac is up 57 percent and the sidecar has jumped 50 percent.
“Bartenders and cocktail geeks are taking a very academic approach to mixing drinks, and many are learning the history and the evolution of iconic cocktails,” says Kathy Hayden, senior foodservice analyst at Mintel. “This approach combines with better ingredients, some nostalgia for a time when people had time to enjoy cocktails and cocktail parties and widespread interest in "cocktail culture" to boost interest in the classics.”
Among survey respondents who have ordered a drink at bars/nightclubs, 54 percent ordered a beer in the last three months, making it the most widely accepted alcoholic beverage. However, cocktails also have a high incidence of use, with 44 percent of people saying they’ve ordered one in the same time frame. A new cocktail claim making its debut on menus is “skinny.” In 2009, there were zero reports of the skinny claim and in Q2 2012 Mintel Menu Insights tracked 110 items boasting this descriptor.
“The sweet flavor profile of cocktails like margaritas and lemon drops makes it a selection primarily driven by women,” adds Hayden. “Additionally, women, who are more likely to be calorie conscious, are feeling they have more options for alcoholic beverages with the emergence of skinny cocktails and light mixers.”
In the height of the sweltering summer, some seasonal, fruity favorites have fared well, while others are falling from favor. Mojitos have shown a 32 percent increase since 2009, and this new classic is already showing up in different flavor options beyond the normal lime and mint. Mai Tais and margaritas are also on the rise with 18 percent and 24 percent more menu items, respectively. On the other hand, old tropical favorites like the pina colada and daiquiri are showing a 28 percent and 19 percent decrease, respectively.