Flavor experts, mixologists and chefs at syrup producer Monin spend anywhere from 18-24 months working on a new syrup in the US, constantly tracking global trends. Darren Loscalzo, VP of innovation at Monin, cites his team’s dedication and on-the-ground work as reasons for their success in developing trendy flavors.
They spend their time researching what’s popular with consumers online and also hit the streets for ‘innovation trips.’ Through meetings with bartenders and mixologists and exploring the food and beverage scenes of different US cities, they are able to what might be the next big trend in flavors.
According to Loscalzo, using beer as an ingredient has gained popularity in cocktails and other recipes. The traditional beer concoctions like micheladas (a Mexican drink similar to a Bloody Mary) and beermosas (a mimosa made with beer instead of champagne) are more about mixing beer into an existing drink rather than utilizing it as an independent ingredient.
Mixologists are beginning to use micheladas and beermosas as a jumping off point for more in-depth beer cocktails. Beer adds “an additional flavor profile to a standard cocktail, [like] adding a sour beer or a wheat beer to give it a little bit of acid or take away some of the sweetness,” Loscalzo told BeverageDaily.
These elevated cocktails haven’t hit the mainstream yet, with more the more basic micheladas and beermosas dominating menus. But they are being explored at more high-end, niche establishments that may specialize in craft concoctions.
“I think if you look at mainstream America and standard restaurants, they probably have a category that has a beer cocktail. But it’s a very basic beer cocktail, beer and mixer. They’re not exploring it or using it as an ingredient,” Loscalzo said.
Monin also reports a more sour lineup of drinks may be on the horizon. Vinegar, sour beers and citrus flavors are all dominating development requests that the company receives.
Despite its sugar-based portfolio of syrups and purees, Monin is seeing an increasing number of customers keen to enhance the sourness or the bitterness of cocktails by adding more citrus to balance out the sweet and the sour.
Bright colors and low ABVs
A quick look at Instagram reveals that brightly-colored food and drinks are immensely popular on the platform, and Monin has taken notice. Vegetable purees are having a moment, marrying their aesthetically-pleasing hues with the health-conscious millennial trend.
Monin is developing carrot, beetroot and rhubarb purees for launch in the next few months, playing into the culinary-in-beverage sector.
“It gives amazing color that you don’t see in a lot of other fruits. If you look at red beet, it is a bright, vibrant color of red and the drink stands out. So we’re starting to see colors coming back, and those standout, lavish garnishes are still around,” Loscalzo said.
Keeping with the health-conscious movement, more young consumers are cutting back on alcohol and switching to drinks with a lower ABV or none at all. Monin is seeing an increase in interest in these ‘mocktails’ for those who want something more than a soft drink but less than a cocktail.
Loscalzo says the term is flexible, and can include drinks that use a lower-proof liquor with a smaller pour. Instead of focusing on the alcohol, the beverage highlights the botanical flavors within the cocktail.
Non-alcoholic spirits are also gaining momentum, like a ‘gin’ expanding from the UK to the US that “gives you all the botanicals and flavors of gin with no alcohol.” Loscalzo expects the mocktail trend to stick around for a while and continue growing.
“I think people are looking for a way to indulge and enjoy and not have the alcohol and the hangover. It allows them to still enjoy the night and their time,” he said.