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Winter is to spring as the economic crisis is to the recovery. And thank goodness spring is finally here.

The grasses and strawberries set out their roots and shoots in search of unconquered ground. Pansies set up shop next to the resident daffodils, who look at those pansies with pity as if to say, "I've seen your kind before and honey, you are here now but I am here for good." Crab grass vies for space – mistakenly thinking it can move in unnoticed – poor, stupid crab grass. The insects soon move in either to set up shop by the baby basil or to eat those who set up shop by the baby basil. And lastly, the strawberries, pansies, and basil leafs wind up in someone's drink during a barbecue to celebrate the arrival of spring.

Now, one might conclude the drink pansies would be humiliated to find themselves perched next to an ice cube or drowned beside a lemon. But I assure you, the other pansies, and anything else consumable in the garden, are mad with jealously that they were not the chosen ones. The garden is a moving breathing organism with each part affecting the others just as trend families do. Once a set of patterns is revealed and understood, the others more quickly reveal themselves. Beverage is among the more complicated landscapes to map out but, like a garden, each category harmonizes with the others.

The settings for beverage also are important as it sets the tone of the experience. Wine bars are not new but have gained in number and appeal. But speak-easies and popups signal risk and adventure even if the risk is just play. Nanobreweries and urban wineries represent coolness, bravery and confidence on the part of the owners. Experiences expected include more focus on beer and mixologists with the idea of rotating or guest bartenders appearing and more pairing dinners.

For the coming year, wines from the EU and South America, with a nod to South Africa, will dominate. But expect to see appearances from the Middle East and Asia as adventure creeps in everywhere. Champagne and dessert wines demonstrate luxury and a bit of indulgence – both traits tied to the economic recovery. On the other hand, this is balanced by the appearance of Pinot Noir and Malbec which are earthier. Overall the rock stars have specific personalities which indicate the year may be very directed in which styles go forward.

Regarding cocktails and beer, fun and indulgence run neck and neck. Sangria, tiki bar drinks, cocktail syrups, saisons, and flavored vodkas say let your hair down, it is time to shed some stress and enjoy good times. The artisan, culinary, regional trends add sophistication to the mix and the pre-prohibition cocktails and bourbon are a throw back to simpler times, nostalgia.

The non-alcohol group however is headed straight for health and includes teas, coconut water, muscle drinks, healthful microbrews, kombucha, and nut milks.

In general, flavors to expect are not specific to beverage style and so could pertain to alcohol or non-alcohol beverages. Flavors this year are almost entirely fruit, flower and vegetable focused. No spices, chocolate, or anything else is being touted.

Regarding health drivers - tea and red wine are the front runners as they are tied to health research whereas smoothies and the like posses greater emotional drivers for health.

Sustainability affects the beverage industry just as it affects the food industry with similar concerns emerging – local, and organic for example. Fair trade however pertains to coffee as well as wine. Concerning economics - value replaces price. This means if consumers value it, they will pay more and justify the higher price.

Watch for these patterns in beverage:

  • Cocktails steal the spotlight from beer and wine
  • Beer goes micro, artisan; wine enters from exotic / new locals to keep up with cocktails
  • Non-alcohol beverages tie strictly to health
  • Settings and experiences exhibit fun, playfulness
  • Styles and varietals show off playfulness, sophistication
  • Flavors center on fruit, vegetables, flowers

But like a successful garden, beware of flavors or items emerging which have no clear tie to what the rest of beverage is doing – it may be the crab grass.

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Latest posts by Suzy Badaracco
Suzy Badaracco
Suzy Badaracco is a toxicologist, chef, and registered dietitian. She holds a Bachelors of Science degree in Criminalistics, an Associates degree in Culinary Arts, and a Masters of Science degree in Human Nutrition.
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