Beverage Trends to Watch in 2020

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Earlier this year I spoke with the Not-a-Foodie Podcast about drink trends. As the autumn sets in I thought it would be fun to start thinking about what the potential 2020 Beverage Trends are likely to be.

Here are three drink trends you can count on to generate excitement well into 2020. While all three might not fit with your bar or restaurant, chances are that utilizing one of these drink trends can help you keep your beverage program fresh and exciting for your guests.

Fermented Seltzers

It doesn’t exactly take an industry insider to see that hard seltzers are becoming increasingly popular. White Claw recently boasted of beating Budweiser in monthly sales. Along with Boston Beer’s Truly, they currently have 90% of the hard seltzer category locked down. Look for some serious (and not-so-serious) players looking to challenge them in a market projected to be worth 2.5 Billion Dollars by 2021.

Craft Brewers are already trying to carve out a niche in the category. Colorado’s Oskar Blues recently started canning their Wild Basin Boozy Sparkling Water line for a national audience. So many brewers are pushing out their own versions of these seltzers that the Great American Beer Festival was forced to address the issue. GABF Organizers banned brewers from pouring the seltzers at the craft beer industry’s largest annual event. Even disgraced bar professional, John Taffer, recently appeared on Fox Business to plug his new line of hard seltzers. Love or hate them, they’re undoubtedly going to be one of the major beverage trends of 2020.

Orange Wines

Though orange wines have been increasing in popularity within the wine world for a while now, non-connoisseurs are beginning to develop a taste for these complex wines, named for their color, not the fruit. Earlier this year, Newsweek ran an article declaring that “Orange wine is the biggest thing in wine these days, replacing rosé in the hearts of hipsters and wine aficionados.” 

Orange wines can be divisive. The New Yorker recently ran a highly-contested piece on orange wines referring to them as an ‘assault on pleasure’ in the headline! Ironically, the controversial article most likely served to introduce even more people to the trend. Much of the criticism reminds me of the push back you heard from old-school brewers when sours and other wild yeasts became popular, i.e. “I’ve literally spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to make sure my beer wasn’t sour.” If that debate is any kind of foreshadowing, orange wines are sure to be an important beverage trend of 2020. 

Most wine-focused establishments are probably already offering at least a few examples of these and other natural wines to their customers. With their increasing popularity, restaurants and bars with minimal wine programs might think about stepping outside of the white-red-rosé paradigm and consider bringing in a bottle of this increasingly popular Central European wine.

Japanese Spirits (Besides Whiskey)

Following on the heels of a whiskey explosion, Japanese spirit producers are hoping western markets will be willing to pay a premium for other high end spirits from the small island country as well. Leading the push are some extraordinary New Gins made with fresh new botanicals never before seen in any commercially available products. Suntory’s Roku Gin features sakura flower, sakura leaf, sencha tea, gyokuro tea, sansho pepper, and yuzu peel in it’s botanical makeup. Roku comes in around $30/750ml, opening it up for potential use in cocktail programs. Other Japanese distillers are also producing high-quality innovative gins though most carry much higher price tags.

Nine Leaves Rum opened Japan’s first distillery devoted to rum production in 2013. Since then they’ve been producing an array of progressive rums with several different styles and barrel-aging variants. Ryoma offers a 7yr rum in a traditional French style from fresh sugarcane juice. Japanese Vodkas, brandies, absinthes, are also looking to take a cut of premium spirits categories as well. Buyers will undoubtedly have a sea of Japanese spirits to choose from, the vast majority of them priced aggressively. Be sure anything your bar invests in compels your clientele or these bottles might just wind up collecting dust on your back bar.