Bartenders Predict The Biggest Bar Trends for 2017

From farm-to-shaker cocktails to house-made spirits, these emerging trends may set bars apart.
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Many bar owners are forming relationships with local farmers and suppliers. With the freshest ingredients, their bar could stand out among the rest in 2017. (Photo: Maskim Fesenko/Shutterstock)

Staying on top of trends can help any business owner stay afloat. The bar business is no different — and in fact, finding new ways to thrill customers may be essential.

In 2015, on average, three bars closed every day in the United States, CNN reported. Typical neighborhood bars are failing faster than specialty bars, including those serving premium wines or craft cocktails.

To keep your doors open and keep clients coming through them, embrace the new. Here,
a couple of bartenders share their insights into what just might be the next big things.

Related: 6 Cocktail Trends That Could Spike Your Customers’ Interest

Farm-to-shaker

Chefs have been doing farm-to-table for a long time. Now bartenders are getting in on the act.

Getting to know your purveyors and forming personal relationships with them is good for a lot of reasons: mutual education, purchasing with integrity, making friends. Jessica Lambert, head bartender at Boleo and Vol. 39 in Chicago, said she’s making an effort to build stronger relationships with farmers.

“You know, going to local farmers markets and really talking to the farmers and saying, ‘hey, you know, I really love your beautiful edible flowers, we use those in cocktails.’”

It can be more expensive to purchase from a local farmer than from a large supplier, but many bartenders think it’s often worth it.

jessica-lambert

Despite the higher price, many bartenders believe it is worth it to purchase products from local farmers according to Jessica Lambert, head bartender at Boleo and Vol. 39 in Chicago. (Photo: Jessica Lambert)

Sustainability

Reducing waste, particularly food waste, has been a topic of conversation in the bar and restaurant industry for several years. Transforming potential waste into useful products is one way to make that happen.

“Come the end of the week, if we have any leftover oranges or lemons or limes, grapefruits, we cut them up and we throw them in the dehydrator and then that becomes our garnish for the next week,” said Lambert. She picked the practice up while in Peru, where it’s a more common part of cocktail culture.

Lambert said the White Lyan in London uses no perishables (and no ice, either) in order to reduce waste. Instead of fresh citrus they use citric and malic acid, which impart that same citrus flavor. In addition, it has cut the number of bottles it sends for recycling to a mere 24 a week.

Bottled cocktails

Pre-batched, bottled cocktails are having a bit of a revival. At Planter’s House in St. Louis, owners Ted and Jamie Kilgore bottle several classics. The bottled Manhattans, Negronis, Old Fashioneds and Sazeracs serve a larger group — three to four guests or six to eight.

Personalized guest education

Part of being a bartender or sommelier is educating guests, and in a world of specialty cocktails, craft brews and premium wine, that role only increases in value and importance.

“Lately I have loved having a guest receive their meal and just say ‘make me whatever you think works best.’ Then I pull out a bottle of beautiful wine and pour a taste. Watching the look change from skepticism to absolute delight is elating,” said Evan Milliman, bar manager at Ticonderoga Club in Atlanta.

“My job behind the bar is to produce. And I feel like part of the new production is providing an experience for all of our guests. I’m hoping that the new trend for the years to come is that we can grow our knowledge and be able to give each guest a personalized visit each time they come in. Whether they’re looking for a cocktail, off-the beaten-path wine or even some tasty craft brew, our knowledge and experience will shine through.”

distillery

Join forces with local distilleries to create a signature flavor profile specific to your bar. (Photo: petereleven/Shutterstock)

Collaborations with distillers

Bartenders have been making tinctures, shrubs and infusions behind the bar for ages. Now some are partnering up with distillers to craft spirits with signature flavor profiles. (The distilleries take over to do the actual production and bottling.)

“Whether it’s a collaboration on spirits that they make or they’re getting together and actually creating something new that hasn’t been done before, I think that’s something that is happening and we’re going to see a lot more of that” Lambert said.

Bartenders as architects and interior designers

It seems like common sense that bartenders would know best how to lay out a bar for maximum efficiency, and some are now taking bar design into their own hands.

Richard Woods, head of spirit and cocktail development at Duck & Waffle in London, designed the bar there. Francesco Lafranconi, executive director of mixology and spirits education at Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits, created a bar station with a “race track” design, which he’s patenting.

Community

Tourists come (if you’re lucky) and go, but for many bars, it’s the people in the community who make or break your business. Building relationships with them is key.

That idea’s not brand-new, but bars seem to be taking it to heart again and focusing on community first. As Lambert said, “they’re the ones keeping your lights on in February when it’s 15 below.”

“Yes, we’re making you cocktails and really delicious drinks, but we’re providing you an experience, we’re providing that sense of community which is why you came out in the first place.” -Jessica Lambert

“And if you can build that within your neighborhood, it’s amazing how fast word of mouth travels, that you’ve suddenly become a destination spot because of that feeling you create in the actual community you’re in.”

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