Onsite barrel-aged drinks, locally produced spirits, regional signature cocktails among US restaurant drink menu trends expected in 2013, NRA says

WASHINGTON , December 5, 2012 (press release) – The National Restaurant Association’s (NRA) inaugural “What’s Hot in 2013 - Alcohol” survey of nearly 200 professional bartenders – members of the United States Bartenders’ Guild (USBG) – shows that onsite barrel-aged drinks, food-liquor pairings, and culinary cocktails will be the hottest trends on restaurant drink menus. Already a strong trend on restaurant menus, local sourcing will also play a big role in mixology next year. The bartenders also said that dining at the bar is becoming more popular, and that social media will play a big role in attracting bar patrons in 2013.

The top 10 drink menu trends for 2013 will be:
1. Onsite barrel-aged drinks
2. Food-liquor/cocktail pairings
3. Culinary cocktails (e.g. savory, fresh ingredients)
4. Micro-distilled/artisan liquor
5. Locally produced spirits
6. Locally sourced fruit/berries/produce
7. Beer sommeliers/Cicerones
8. Regional signature cocktails
9. Beer-based cocktails
10. Locally produced beer

“Artisan products, local sourcing and culinary creativity are trendy on restaurant menus and our new research shows that to also be true behind the bar,” said Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of research and knowledge for the National Restaurant Association. “Increasing recognition of mixology has elevated restaurant drink menus to a new level that allows bartenders to showcase their skills in blending textures and flavors similarly to how chefs approach food in the kitchen. This is good news for today’s increasingly sophisticated and adventurous consumers, who have a wider variety of alcoholic beverages from which to choose when dining out.”

“It was great to work with the National Restaurant Association on this project,” said David Nepove, USBG national president. “How wonderful that a survey about cocktails was the result of key bartenders from across the country, as they are the individuals who are setting many of these trends and see them in action every day. The top trends have not only proven popular with guests, but also allow bartenders to use their creative and professional talents in flavor-making, giving full justice to the craft of mixology.”

Rounding out the top 20 hot drink menu trends for 2013 are:
11. Food beer/pairings/beer dinners
12. Salt (e.g. flavored, smoked, regional)
13. House-made lemonade/soft drinks/tonics
14. Cask beer/ale
15. Wine on tap/draft wine
16. Organic cocktails
17. Cocktails on tap
18. Craft beer
19. Signature cocktails
20. Shrubs

Items that received the highest scores as waning trends (i.e. yesterday’s news) are: hard lemonade, non-alcoholic wine, “skinny” cocktails, dessert-flavored cocktails, white sangria, frozen cocktails, light beer, kosher wine, and boxed wine.

Items that received the highest scores as perennial favorites are: red wine, white wine, French wine, citrus fruit and olives as garnish, stouts, Scotch whisky, porters, and food-wine pairings.

Also included in the survey were questions about technology trends, attitudes toward culinary cocktails, and dining at the bar. Sixty-seven percent of the bartenders said that adding culinary cocktails to drink menus is a good way to build business, and 26 percent said culinary cocktails are fun to make because they let the bartender’s creativity shine.

Two out of five (40 percent) of the bartenders ranked social media marketing and loyalty programs as the hottest technology trend in 2013, followed by tablet computers, such as iPads (29 percent). Fourteen percent said smartphone apps will be the hottest tech trend.

In addition, more than half (51 percent) said they are seeing more guests dining at the bar rather than being seated at a table compared to two years ago; 36 percent said they have seen no change in the number of guests dining at the bar, and only 4 percent said that dining at the bar is less popular.

The Association surveyed 195 members of the United States Bartenders’ Guild in October 2012. The bartenders were given a list of 123 items and were asked to rate each item as a “hot trend,” “yesterday’s news” or “perennial favorite” on drink menus in 2013.

These and many other restaurant trends will be showcased at the 2013 International Wine, Spirits & Beer Event, to be held May 19-22, at Chicago’s McCormick Place.

For complete What’s Hot in 2013 survey results, video and downloadable images, visit Restaurant.org/FoodTrends.

The USBG is a group of Bartenders and Beverage Specialists that enjoy networking and learning more about the industry. We currently have 34 Chapters throughout the US and are growing rapidly. Our initiative is to help our members advance in the profession by offering spirit educational series, updates on new spirit launches, bartending techniques seminars, networking lunches and cocktail parties. Many of these events give you the opportunity to meet and interact with top industry professionals. We also conduct many exclusive Cocktail Competitions where competitors are judged on both taste and technique. To learn more or become a member go to www.usbg.org and click Join the USBG!


Founded in 1919, the National Restaurant Association is the leading business association for the restaurant industry, which comprises 970,000 restaurant and foodservice outlets and a workforce of nearly 13 million employees. We represent the industry in Washington, D.C., and advocate on its behalf. We operate the industry's largest trade show (NRA Show May 18-21, 2013, in Chicago); leading food safety training and certification program (ServSafe); unique career-building high school program (the NRAEF's ProStart, including the National ProStart Invitational April 19-21, 2013, in Baltimore, Md.); as well as the Kids LiveWell program promoting healthful kids' menu options. For more information, visit www.restaurant.org and find us on Twitter @WeRRestaurants, Facebook and YouTube.

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