Old-Fashioned Über Alles

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Cocktail trend reporting often focuses on the most cutting edge aspects, even while the workhorses of adult beverage consumption still do most of the work. But those mainstays are changing, according to a recent report from The IWSR about on-premise cocktail trends.

Focusing on craft cocktail bars in major cities, the report found that the Old Fashioned, either bourbon- or rye-based, and vodka-based Moscow Mules account for a combined 30% of cocktail menu mentions. The Old Fashioned leads as the most mentioned cocktail heading into 2017. By category, whiskey cocktails were found to be most prevalent across craft bar menus with a 23% share, followed by rum (16%) and gin (15%).

The cities with the most Old Fashioned menu mentions are Los Angeles, Baltimore, and Portland, Oregon. Trending variations of the cocktail include barrel-aged, sherried, and those including vinegar, as well as flavor profiles that include walnut, chocolate, fig, ginger, cherry, and more. Data shows that consumer search interest in the Old Fashioned spikes around the holidays as well, and that increases in consumer interest correlate with the growth of on-premise US whiskey consumption.

The IWSR's report includes an analysis of more than 6,000 brands listed on craft bar menus and ranks the most mentioned brands by category. Buffalo Trace was the number one bourbon brand on tracked craft bar menus, followed by Bulleit, Four Roses, and Maker's Mark. In the rum category, Plantation 3 Stars and Gosling's ranked highest. Nearly three-quarters of on-premise operators surveyed believe that brand name is an important factor when selling cocktails.

The research firm surveyed on-premise operators from various types of establishments to see what drives drink trends and how important certain elements are when it comes to crafting a winning cocktail. Of the establishments surveyed, 80% use a cocktail menu, with more than 60% updating their cocktail menu seasonally. These on-premise operators report that whiskey (bourbon excluded) holds the leading category mention title, followed closely by vodka.

The establishments surveyed think that classic cocktails, low-ABV cocktails, housemade, and retro drinks will be hot moving forward, while flavor and ingredient mentions on menus are important, as are specific category mentions.

The report looked at on-premise consumption including a historical analysis of the top 20 most searched cocktails online. Starting there, The IWSR looked at 20 key cocktails that have collectively ranked the highest. Whiskey-, gin- and rum-based cocktails like the Sazerac, Manhattan, Daiquiri, Dark 'n Stormy and Negroni are all trending up.

Finally, the report points out that distilled spirits are the only segment of the beverage alcohol industry projected to increase their on-premise share levels over the next 5 years. Irish whiskey has gained the most share of on-premise consumption since 2008, with Canadian whisky increasing slightly.

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