Chameleon cocktails: Bacardi sees cocktails evolve around myriad occasions and locations

By Rachel Arthur

- Last updated on GMT


Related tags Bacardi Cocktails RTD alcohol

Cocktails used to be about a fancy evening drink at a trendy bar. But lockdowns bred a new generation of at-home bartenders; hybrid workers have changed the concept of happy hour; and the convenience of RTDs has opened up a whole new set of potential venues for cocktails. Cocktails, in turn, are transforming to bring that touch of glamour to a wide variety of occasions and locations.

Compiled by the spirits giant and The Future Laboratory, the annual Bacardi Cocktails Trends Report draws on both external research and Bacardi’s consumer surveys and bartender insights. And what emerges is the start of large level shifts in flavors, formats and consumption occasions for cocktails.

The new world of the New Premise

After pandemic restrictions, people are still looking to make up for missed moments, choosing to indulge in high-quality spirits and ingredients. Even more so, they’re celebrating important occasions in places beyond traditional venues – “they now have the opportunity to partake in cocktail experiences even in places like the park, café and pickleball court,”​ notes Bacardi.

In 2023, it expects to see the rise of all-new drinking occasions, with the growing popularity of non-traditional venues – the New Premise – providing more opportunities for people to treat themselves and enjoy cocktail experiences.

“Consumers are already widening the scope for when, where, and why they seek drinking experiences as cocktails find shelf space beyond traditional venues. According to the Bacardi Consumer Survey 2022, one quarter (25%) of U.S. consumers say cafes are their preferred cocktail consumption venue, while in South Africa, nearly half (43%) of consumers say they are less likely to go to nightclubs for cocktails.

“Globally 44% of respondents say relaxing with friends or family is the number one cocktail-drinking occasion - outpacing happy hours, date nights, and parties. As these new moments take shape, drink formats are transforming to cater to the myriad occasions when, and locations where, people are seeking cocktail experiences.

"Increasingly, we’re seeing cocktails pop up in venues like golf clubs, cafes, concerts, and even country clubs, enabled by the emergence and ingenuity of canned and pre-batched cocktail options.”

Meanwhile, more traditional cocktail venues are changing themselves – thus offering an opportunity to develop a distinct identity against this new wide-ranging world of potential cocktail occasions.

“Bars and restaurants continue to emerge as key community hubs, while hotel bars, in particular, are grabbing attention – and spend – by becoming sought-after destinations in their own right, providing a place for locals to find escapism during tumultuous times. The hotel bar has long been ripe for reinvention, with venues now able to benefit from a wider appreciation of beverages in the media.

“Cocktails are no longer just an add-on to the hotel stay or a dining experience. Hoteliers have the opportunity to develop a distinct identity for their drinking establishment by encouraging cocktail exploration and experimentation. Hoteliers could even embrace the shifting categorization of hotel bars as community hubs in 2023, hosting events as ways to open the door to a more diverse and younger legal drinking age clientele.”

RTD innovation

The surge in RTDs helps play into this new picture of drinking occasions: allowing for more ‘flexible, fluid and spontaneous celebrations’, says Bacardi.

Consumer desire for such options shows no sign of abating, with Insight Ace Analytic revealing that the RTD market, currently valued at $36.42bn, is expected to grow 11.2% by 2030. Pre-mixed cocktails and spirit-based seltzers, meanwhile, accounted for $1.6bn in off-premise sales from November 2020-2021, with 55% of US respondents preferring spirit-based beverages to other RTD choices, according to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States.

“Spirit-based canned cocktails have continued to gain popularity as a “no hassle” premium experience at home and in a variety of venues, including music festivals, nightclubs, concert venues, coffee shops, and golf resorts,"​ notes Bacardi. 

“According to our Global Brand Ambassador Survey 2022, 72% of respondents are seeing speed of service as the reason for increased spirit-based RTD activity in bars and restaurants, and 62% see prebatched cocktails as a category that is set to increase in the future.”

Hybrid work changes happy hour habits

With time becoming more unstructured in a world of hybrid work, drink occasions are becoming increasingly varied, says Bacardi.

"Many are enjoying cocktails earlier in the day, and this brings opportunities for creations that align with an individual’s rhythm and match their mood at a specific time as they amend their social routine.”

work cocktail getty freemixer
Hybrid working has taken happy hours into a virtual zone

According to Bacardi’s research, consumers are going out much earlier after work compared to 2020. Nearly 40% of respondents in the US and UK - and more than 50% in South Africa, India, and Mexico - are going out to eat, drink or socialize earlier in the evening.

For respondents in the U.S. and South Africa, those enjoying spirits or liquors between 4 pm and 8 pm (40% and 43%, respectively) closely match those enjoying the more traditional evening slot.

So what does this mean in practice? “This shift is leading to a surge in spicy drinks, with tequila or vodka-based cocktails finding affinity with bolder, unexpected pairings including, jalapeños, and tabasco,”​ says Bacardi.

It points to research from Mintel that reveals that, in the US, 75% of people now enjoy spicy flavors; while in the UK a Sainsbury’s study shows that 36% of people in the UK have introduced chili into their diets in the last two years.

“The focus on these ingredients is leading to interesting takes on classics, such as the spicy margarita which, saw 48% growth in average monthly Google searches across markets between September 2021 and September 2022.

“In India, research from Bacardi reveals that nearly half of consumers (43%) are set to order a bloody mary in the next 12 months, highlighting the emergence of spicier mixes and those which are more suitable in pre-noon or early afternoon contexts.”

espresso martini getty catlane

Bitter flavors continue to remain popular, with more than 30% of bartenders looking to ingredients such as coffee and aromatic bitters, and to ferments including kombucha and kefir, according to the Bacardi Global Brand Ambassador Survey 2022.

This research shows that 40% of bartenders are interested in coffee-flavored drinks and 58% in espresso martinis (This cocktail is the fifth most popular among respondents in the UK, while Yelp reports that mentions of espresso martini were up nearly 300% in the first six months of 2021 vs. the same period three years earlier).


Although the number of alcohol occasions is widening, that doesn’t mean that consumers are drinking more and more alcohol. Rather, the trend is heading in the opposite direction: with moderation now becoming a maturing trend.  

So interchangeability – switching between alcohol and no or low alcohol alternatives – is becoming a key part of these new range of occasions.

“Where spirits brands once considered NoLo consumers a distinct category, they are increasingly overlapping with drinkers as they substitute full-proof spirits with NoLo alternatives in their drinks,”​ says Bacardi.

“This is leading NoLow innovations to call time on overly sweet or tasteless mocktails. Non-alcoholic choices are being creatively crafted with flavor, in the same vein as full-proof spirits.”

Pictures: getty/catlane

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