What will be the big drinks trend of 2020? Answers to this question often focus on flavour. But I want to talk about texture. Because bubbles are having a moment in drinks of all kinds.
Sparkling wine just gets more and more interesting. At the Champagne & Sparkling Wine World Championships in November, gongs went to producers in Bulgaria, Canada and India. Italy’s Ferrari Trentodoc was named Sparkling Wine Producer of the Year 2019. Many are predicting that cava will also have a renaissance this year.
Up till now, booming sales of adult sparkling mixers such as Fever Tree have largely been down to the G&T, but in 2020 we’ll see a lot more companies focus on dark spirit and mixer drinks. The Long Tail range, designed for rum and whisky highballs, is flavoured with ingredients including chinotto, blood orange and herbaceous gentian (£4.75 for four, from 31dover.com). Coca-Cola has also teamed up with top bartenders to create four mixers for dark spirits: Smoky, Woody, Herbal and Spicy (£1.50 each, from harveynichols.com).
The tongue-tickling spritz is set to have another strong year thanks to continued growth in demand for lower abv drinks that are crisp and refreshing. Expect to see more bars offering creative alternatives to the Aperol Spritz. Fare in Farringdon, for instance, uses homemade sodas to create drinks such as the Green Apple Spritz, a blend of the golden wine-based aperitif Lillet, clarified apple and bubbles.
Whisky & soda is also set to make a comeback, with an Asian twist. At Sibin, the whisky bar at the new Great Scotland Yard Hotel, whisky highballs include a sparkling blend of Swedish single malt and Japanese buckwheat tea. At the artsy Untitled in Dalston, they do a whisky highball with Japanese whisky, soda and a tangy dash of honey vinegar. Meanwhile, Indian restaurants Brigadiers and Trishna have teamed up with Johnnie Walker to create three bespoke whisky highballs that come with vintage-style labels straight out of 1970s Mumbai.
In the US, hard seltzers – alcopops made from neutral alcohol, soda water and fruit flavourings – have been proving phenomenally popular among sugar-shy millennials. Anthony von Mandl, the founder of the “spiked seltzer” brand White Claw, is now worth an estimated $3.4bn thanks to the craze, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Like it or not, we’ll be seeing more of these.
Some more unusual innovations in the non-alc department include Sparkling Black, a fizzy cold brew from the artisan Union coffee company (£20, from unionroasted.com), and Lagunitas Hoppy Refresher, an IPA-inspired zero-alcohol, zero-carb, zero-calorie sparkling water for the US that’s flavoured with three kinds of hops.
And it’s only a matter of time before we start obsessing over the type of fizzy bubble we’re drinking too. Are the bubbles big and busy, or fine and silky? Is it a drink with explosive bite, or a lower-pressure caress? At home I have a SodaStream that offers three different levels of carbonation – a source of joy for adults and children alike (£99, from sodastream.co.uk).
Alice Lascelles is Fortnum & Mason Drinks Writer of the Year 2019. @alicelascelles.