Toasting Cocktail Trends for 2015

Duck & Waffle’s cocktails, including the Roast Cosmo, are among the creative new sips to sample and emulate.
Duck & Waffle’s cocktails, including the Roast Cosmo, are among the creative new sips to sample and emulate. Duck & Waffle

After-dinner drinks, Japanese whisky, New York City’s first cider bar—so much to talk about.

Last fall I was in Portugal, waiting for friends at a fashionable restaurant overlooking the Douro River when a waiter handed me a drink. “A White Port and Tonic,” he said with a smile. And so I sipped. Made with the lighter cousin of the country’s acclaimed red dessert wine, it was a crisp, delicious prelude to the evening’s forthcoming seafood feast; by the time my windswept pals arrived from their boat ride, I had drained my glass. Luckily, I won’t have to always high-tail it to Europe the next time I desire one of these goes-right-down concoctions, because bartenders around the country are embracing the White Port & Tonic as an alternative to the classic gin rendition, even gussying it up with the likes of ginger and vermouth. Relegated to the after-dinner slot, Port’s sweetness has long been savored beside salty slabs of Stilton. To see this more obscure—and less complex—white grape version get the spotlight in aperitif form is a welcome, quenching surprise.

Delightful drink developments such as this one are among the snapshots I plan to share with you as the new spirits editor of FSR. By perching on barstools around the country—and given my insatiable wanderlust, across the globe—poring over thoughtful menus and chatting with passionate drink-slingers at neighborhood watering holes, fancy restaurants, and craft cocktail lairs alike, I will uncover new trends and share insights from both the nation’s top, and rising, barkeeps. I’ve been writing about—and geeking out over—spirits and cocktails for years now, and it is my privilege to share my industry discoveries, whether a resourceful bar technique or an intriguing bottle, with you along the way. To celebrate this new gig, unfolding in a new year, I thought it fitting to highlight a few observations, like the burgeoning appreciation for White Port, that I am all the more glad for and expect to see take center stage in 2015.

The rise of once deemed stodgy Port (and to a smaller degree, Madeira) in cocktails owes much of its fanfare to last year’s ascent—or as some eye-rolling folks in the biz are quick to point out, oversaturation—of that other fortified wine darling, sherry. Bartenders latched onto sherry’s versatility, weaving it into Spanish-inspired cocktails, and now customers hooked on old favorites like the Adonis are discovering the joy of Port’s presence to boot.

While I am excited about the newfound aperitif possibilities that a growing interest in fortified wine cocktails signals, I’m especially hopeful about its mirror image, the oft-neglected after-dinner drink category. I love ending my night with a Grasshopper, albeit, a properly made one, but these drinks so often get a bad rep because of the one-time prevalence of cloying liqueurs, they are shunned. When made correctly, now happening in spades, they are desirable. Bartenders like Naren Young, at New York’s Bacchanal, for example, are making balanced interpretations with quality ingredients—his liquid Tiramisu is exquisite—that could stand in for dessert. An affinity for low-proof cocktails led to lively, civilized aperitif hours becoming common pre-dinner rituals. Now, I would relish seeing meals morph into similarly classy postprandial affairs. With one well-made Stinger at a time, it’s possible.


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