Bartenders predict the top spirits trends for 2022

Faced with lockdowns and stay-at-home orders, people across the world have spent the past two years experimenting with cocktail creations and learning more about the spirits they enjoy. As a result, spirits trends see discerning attitudes emerging among new alcohol connoisseurs, who are seeking out high-quality drink experiences – driving another wave of premiumisation across spirit categories.

That’s the verdict of the Bacardi Cocktail Trends Report 2022, made in collaboration with The Future Laboratory, which draws on insights from Bacardi-led consumer and brand ambassador surveys, interviews with the bar and restaurant trade, Nielsen
CGA data, and The Future Laboratory’s independent research.

It unveils the undercurrents transforming everything from drinks desired, flavour expectations, and imbibing occasions through to ethical action and ways of creating cocktails.

“People are going into 2022 with a sense of mindfulness around making each moment more meaningful,” said Jacob Briars, Global Advocacy Director at Bacardi.

“Spirits and cocktails have always served to elevate these moments and are now serving to make every celebration even more special.”

According to the Bacardi Global Brand Ambassador Survey 2021, 50% of bartenders globally report that their customers are drinking more premium drinks. This represents an evolution in bar-goers’ behaviour since the start of the pandemic.

Cocktail-based celebratory culture is also being carried forward into Christmas. More than one in four (27%) say
that Christmas cocktails are the new tradition they’ll be embracing in 2021, with 29% planning to spend the
holidays with friends and family they couldn’t see in 2022, according to the Bacardi Holiday Survey 2021.

Tequila is the top trending spirit for 62% of bartenders around the world, rising to 76% in the US – up 16% from last year –
and tequila-based cocktails ranking fourth out of 30 in terms of global popularity.

The tequila category has seen exponential growth due to surging consumer interest in the spirit, and this trend will continue through 2022 and beyond according to Bacardi.

Tequila and agave-based spirits appeal to a diverse consumer set. In the US, there’s been a shift in the perception of tequila from a party spirit to a sophisticated sipping serve, which now sits alongside single malts. It is also a base spirit for some of the most popular cocktails, such as the margarita, the old fashioned, the negroni, and the paloma.

The shift toward home-premise is leading to a rise in demand for both premium tequila and mezcal. This is also
impacting the bar experience, as people return to bars with a more appreciative and adventurous approach to their cocktail orders.

“This is a really exciting time to be in the tequila business as it’s currently the second fastest growing category in value around the world,” said Kathy Parker, CMO of PATRÓN Tequila.

“At PATRÓN, we’ve been paving the way for the 100% Weber Blue Agave category, and this vision has both led to the popularity of how tequila is being enjoyed in cocktails worldwide today, and driven our own story of success; enabling us to lead market share for tequila in the US and the super-premium tequila category worldwide.”

As interest in tequila and agave-based spirits booms, small-batch mezcal is also being thrust into the mainstream and rebranded for a new global audience. Mezcal is often referred to as tequila’s smoky cousin, and its popularity is starting to soar, with its appeal lying in the fact that that it remains a small, developing niche sector. In fact, it’s the second top trending spirit among bartenders, according to the Bacardi Global Brand Ambassador Survey 2021, sitting closely behind its agave-based neighbor, tequila.

In addition, drinkers revealed the spirits they expect to imbibe over the next 12 months as part of a Bacardi consumer survey. Vodka took the first spot, with 47.66%, followed by gin (35.24%) and Tequila (31.97%). Brandy came in fourth (31.89%), and whisk(e)y came fifth (31.61%).

Here are the macro-trends defining how, what, where, and why consumers are sipping spirits in 2022:

Luxury libations

Discerning attitudes are emerging among new alcohol connoisseurs, who are seeking out high-quality drink experiences – driving another wave of premiumisation across spirit categories, including in the canned format of premium prepared cocktails. With 50% of bartenders globally reporting that their customers are drinking more premium drinks, this represents an evolution in bar-goers’ behaviour since the start of the pandemic.

Bartenders and consumers alike are exhibiting excitement for tequila, bourbon, and cognac, where category premiumization, exclusivity, and the hand-crafted nature of the spirit are driving intrigue and desire. Demand for tequila is driven by the shift in how it’s perceived – from a party spirit to sophisticated sipping serve, and the mixability of the spirit that has made it a base for popular cocktails, such as the margarita, old fashioned, negroni, and paloma.

Digital drinking 

Cocktail enthusiasts continue to harness technology to master domestic mixology from the comfort of their homes while having spirits delivered directly to their doors. Much of the current growth in e-commerce is being driven by the US, with more than 65% of consumers in the country using an online service to purchase alcohol.

Seeking sustainability

The coming year will see consumers demand innovative, ethical, long-term solutions that deliver real social change. With the growing importance of enterprises that empower communities and fuel localism, hyper-local delivery will go mainstream as consumers seek to balance their desire for convenience with a quest for sustainable solutions.

Sustainability remains a primary concern of consumers across the globe. But while recyclability and zero-waste cocktails formed the thrust of sustainable action this year, 2022 will see more initiatives shaped by a focus on how spirits are made, with a vast majority of people now willing to pay more for ethically sourced regenerative refreshments.

Consumption reconsidered 

People are exploring new flexible approaches to sobriety while favouring unique cocktails and spirits when they decide to drink. There’s a rise in sober-curious consumers, happy to switch between sober nights and drinking occasions, with 58% globally drinking more non-alcoholic and low-ABV cocktails (NoLo) than a year ago.

A conscious attitude is influencing a shift toward natural selections in 2022 with one-third of people in the US and half in the UK seeing natural ingredients as a factor in their cocktail choices, a trend that’s beginning to sway the way consumers imbibe in emerging markets.

Transformative times

Across the globe, a wealth of pent-up demand for social interactions will drive people to seek out cocktail experiences that deliver transformation, celebrate the power of social connection, embrace new experiences, and strive for learning and personal growth. As these consumers return to bars, they’re expecting to be wowed by cocktail experience as many go into 2022 with a sense of mindfulness around making each moment more meaningful.

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