1) Back to basics

Say goodbye to sugary, complicated cocktails that require a shopping trolley full of ingredients to prepare; the classics are making a comeback in 2019 – but with a bit of a twist. Moving away from sugar-based drinks (and also in line with a more healthy way of living) we can look forward to infusions, fermentation, bitter and savoury flavours. With less focus on umbrellas and fruit decorations, it’s more about the flavours within the glass than the flowers on top of the glass.

The classic gin and tonic

Current gin cocktail trends remain largely focused around the classic gin and tonic. Helped along by a steady influx of tonic water brands, the combinations are endless. At Harmony Distillery our preferred option is Fitch & Leedes Indian Tonic. The delicate combination of bitter and sweet, derived from the essence of the ‘Cinchona’ tree complements the complex floral nose and honeybush notes in our Honeybush Gin beautifully.

2. Unexpected pairings

Last year saw a surge in vegetable cocktails with ingredients like corn, beans and beets but according to bartenders, more obscure vegetables like tomatillo, chayote, fiddleheads, jicama and sunchoke are being used to create more surprising and elevated flavour combinations.

3. Gin for the win

Recent years have seen a boom in South Africa’s craft gin industry and in 2019 there will be a continuation of this trend as far as popularity is concerned.

Gin used to be seen as the go-to drink for old English ladies but today it’s enjoyed by all generations. With the younger age groups come a different and alternative mindset which young gin drinkers are incorporating in how they drink their cocktails. Look forward to more G&T menus as well as gin-inspired cocktails in the future.

4. Sustainability

With a new wave of health-conscious, environmentally aware consumers comes the demand for conscious cocktails. Most South African bars and restaurants are reducing/cutting out the use of single-use plastics (think plastic straws). Bars are also coming up with ways to reduce general and food waste: recycling, using sustainable and locally produced ingredients and even re-using ingredients. An example of this is drying unused fruit to use as edible garnishes in drinks.

5. Flavours

According to those in the know, the top flavours for 2019 will be rose and turmeric. A common flavour in Middle Eastern and Northern African cuisines, rose also reflects the growing influence of these two cultures in cocktails. Turmeric has been used in lattes and smoothies for a while now and bartenders love to borrow healthy things and get creative with it for a cocktail interpretation. Also look out for tarragon and celery root on cocktail menus.

6. Healthy living

There’s already been a rise in bartenders using vegetables, kombuchas (a drink made from fermented tea), and cold-pressed juices to give cocktails a healthy upgrade. We can expect to see more of that in 2019. “Consumers are becoming increasingly better educated and health conscious, so they are buying less of the high-sugar, low-nutritional non-fresh packaged juices and opting for more fresh products,” says Tobin Ellis (founder of Bar Magic Las Vegas). Bottom line, we live in a health-conscious age and we’ll continue to see that reflected at the bar.

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