Predicting some tastes of summer

BBFB Scottish trade ambassador Mike McGinty shares his thoughts on the big cocktail trends he expects to see in the coming weeks


Q: What do you think the big trends in Scottish cocktail bars will be this summer?

A: I think we will continue to see the rise of ‘simplexity’ this summer, with bartenders focusing on creating serves that appear minimalistic but pack a punch with big flavours that are exciting but not overwhelming. These serves seem simple at first glance but a deeper look will reveal complex, even scientific, techniques and meticulously thought-out flavour combinations that result in fantastic-tasting cocktails. Unnecessary theatrics and wild and wasteful garnishes are also on the decline, with increased awareness amongst bartenders and consumers of wastage and more sustainable methods of practice.

Q: Which spirits do you expect to be the most popular bases in cocktails this summer?

A: As we’ve seen in recent years the firm favourite for consumers has been gin and flavoured gins, and I fully expect a continuation of this trend. The knock-on effect of the gin renaissance has seen increased exploration of other spirits amongst consumers, which has paved the way for flavoured vodka to make its mark. Low-ABV serves will also very much be front and centre of cocktail menus this summer; consumers want to enjoy their drinks without feeling as though they’re drinking in excess, so light and floral serves will continue to have their day in the sun. I personally enjoy a low-ABV serve using St Germain – perfect for a chilled aperitif.

Q: Can you give a couple of examples of exciting new cocktail serves you have seen in Scotland recently?

A: Earlier this year The Dam in Glasgow created a menu of Irn-Bru-based cocktails in honour of Scottish singer Tom Walker and his well-known love of the iconic ginger drink. One of the serves called the ‘Just You and I(rn-Bru) – the OG Ginger Spritz’ really caught my attention – a combination of gin, sparkling Sauvignon and Irn-Bru. I thought this was an original – and very Scottish – twist on an Italian classic!

Q: The popularity of certain classic cocktails is said to be cyclical. Which classics do you expect to be most popular this summer?

A: I’ve got my eye on the Gimlet this summer; a simple refreshing serve made with just two ingredients: gin and lime cordial. Not only is this cocktail easy to make, it also has so much scope for creativity. The Gimlet features heavily across the UK’s top on-trade accounts in many different forms, with 12% of bars polled including the serve in their top ten cocktails, so it’s clear there is a growing interest in the serve from the on-trade. Oxley Gin recently launched its first cocktail competition challenging the on-trade in Edinburgh and across the UK to create their own unique twist on the Gimlet, resulting in some incredibly adventurous results.

Q: What steps can operators and bartenders take to improve sustainability in their cocktails?

A: Sustainability is far beyond a trend these days and is now an ingrained and vital part of everyday life for bars and restaurants. Bartenders should challenge themselves to make sure they have a sustainable approach to cocktail creation, using ingredients to their full potential and not wasting any element. Instead every part should be applied to as many serves as possible. This approach will go hand in hand with creativity, for example where you may only need the juice of a lemon for a serve, you could save and pickle the skins, or use them to make syrup. Sourcing local ingredients is a great way of minimising your environmental impact and also creates great relationships with local communities and suppliers. So get out there and explore what’s around you.

Q: With consumers becoming more knowledgeable about cocktails, and the number of premix products increasing, do you think there is more pressure now for cocktails in the on-trade to be complex and unusual?

A: Bars often serve a range of simple and complex cocktails and going back to simplexity, there are some really inspiring techniques that bartenders are using that would be difficult for cocktail amateurs to pull off. But I think what’s more important in continuing to attract consumers is the environment in which cocktails are served. Working in the service industry it’s our duty to provide an atmosphere where our guests feel relaxed, inspired and want to come back for more – so I don’t see any additional pressure being put on by the fact that customers are more knowledgeable about cocktails. If anything it is a positive sign!

Q: What is BBFB doing to engage with Scottish bartenders this summer?

A: Scotland has a huge wealth of talent in the bar industry and we’re constantly thinking of new ways to connect with them. Recently our Jigger Beaker Glass 2.0 tour visited Edinburgh at The Voodoo Rooms, where the Bacardi Brown-Forman Brands team alongside our colleagues and esteemed bartenders Greg Almeida and Chris Moore shared their thoughts on the ‘science of flavour’. With a packed room, the team shared insights around the sensation of flavour, to help bartenders understand how it can be manipulated to create unforgettable experiences for their guests. Competitions, such as the Oxley Gimlet competition mentioned above are also a great way of engaging with the on-trade in Scotland, challenging bartenders to get creative and blow us away with their serves while providing a platform for them to connect with other people in the industry and raise their profile even further.