Brian Van Flandern also shares his tips on how to create your own custom cocktails for the holidays.
In 2017, we drank rosé and rum and cocktails inspired by Star Wars. What will we be drinking in 2018? Brian Van Flandern—a mixologist who has created cocktails for Thomas Keller and Geoffrey Zakarian, and recently partnered with Moet & Chandon to create a series of cocktails to celebrate the new film The Greatest Showman—talked with Food & Wine about what he expects will be five of the most popular cocktail trends of 2018, plus reveals some tips for creating the perfect cocktail for your holiday party.
Van Flandern says that cocktail bars may soon be featuring “spirits that are specific to a single country.” You should expect to see “Cognac, Calvados and Champagne from France or … mezcal and tequila from Mexico,” for instance, on more cocktail menus in 2018.
Lower alcohol cocktails
Wine and Champagne-based cocktails that are easier to pair with meals will gain popularity next year. Van Flandern praised Champagne cocktails especially as “ideally suited to foods and are a great way to start a meal.”
Although, as Van Flandern points out, whiskey will always be popular in cocktails, he’s seeing more “artisanal grains like sorghum, oats, millet and even quinoa” pop up in this beloved brown liquor.
This relatively new type of aged tequila is clear, not brown. Van Flandern says it’s becoming popular with bartenders and mixologists who “want the flavor of an aged tequila but don’t want the brown spirit to influence the final color of a great cocktail.”
Small batch gins
Van Flandern says this variety of gin is “exploding worldwide.” Why? “Gin is easy to produce and there is an infinite number of botanical combinations,” Van Flandern explains. Gin is becoming so popular that there’s actually a juniper shortage happening in the U.K. at the moment. Not to worry—gin isn’t going extinct anytime soon. Van Flandern says the shortage should “self-correct” as soon as "growers are incentivized to plant more [juniper].”
Plus, a few tips for the holidays:
If you’re hoping to create your own original cocktails this holiday season, Van Flandern recommends trying out a Champagne cocktail.
“[Champagne has] such a celebratory spirit for the holidays, plus if some of your guests aren’t in love with the recipe that you’ve selected, they can always drink straight Champagne,” he explains.
He recommends serving that type of cocktail in a “white wine glass or Champagne coup rather than the common Champagne flute. A white wine glass has a larger bowl, which enables the Champagne to open up in the glass. This intensifies aromatics and enhances the complexity inherent in champagne over other sparkling wines.”
For any type of cocktail you’re serving, Van Flandern says you should serve it with large ice cubes, which “have a slower rate of dilution,” meaning your guests’ drinks won’t become as watered down as they sip.
“Always strain your cocktails over fresh ice and never use the ice that you shook with,” Van Flandern cautions. “If you are using ingredients with bubbles, make sure to tumble roll [the cocktail shaker] and then strain over fresh ice. Never shake bubbles as they will expand and leak down the sides of the shaker.”