An unquenchable thirst for new brews is forcing the drinks industry into a shake up. Here’s what you need to know.
Blue wine. Fizzy milk. Dog beer (made for, not from). Zero-waste brandy distilled from the dregs of a spittoon. They all sound a little like drinks from a dystopian future, don’t they? But all of these products are already on the market. Whether they’ll still be around in a year’s time is another matter. We have a hunch that the defining drinks of 2020 will, perhaps mercifully, be rather more mundane and definitely more delicious.
So has natural wine bubbled over and has the gin boom gone bust? We toast the spirits, wine and cider that we’re tipping for success in the year ahead and explain why – despite our virtuous turn – beer might be the best post-exercise pick-me-up you didn’t know existed. So what can we get you?
The gin bubble won’t burst – at least not yet. But it will diversify. Expect to see many more producers growing and foraging their own ingredients, resulting in a new breed of gin – akin to Hepple, Arbikie and The Botanist – that can claim to have terroir.
Other distillers will continue to test the definition of gin, often with monstrous results. So brace yourself for the return of the old-fashioned g&t: there’ll be no funny garnishes and no artisan tonic, just Schweppes, a lemon wedge and a classic London Dry gin that’s been around for 150 years, minimum. In other words, g&t will return to being just as it should be.
In 2020 you can also expect to see the resurgence of several other old-school drinks: calvados, perry (not Babycham but proper artisan pear cider by the likes of Oliver’s and Ross on Wye) and cask-strength, vintage sipping rums, such as Foursquare’s Exceptional Cask Selection. There’ll be an effort to try to rebrand rosé as a feel-good drink for the winter and we’ll all rediscover the minimalist pleasures of vodka on the rocks. Current favourite: Kavka from Poland.
Sugar might be public enemy number one but liqueurs are fighting back. Muyu (available in vetiver, jasmine and chinotto flavours) and Fortunella (a small-batch kumquat liqueur) are two newcomers that are well worth seeking out and adding to the drinks trolley.
Flavoursome rye whiskies – for so long in short supply – will also come of age thanks to a swathe of craft distilleries from as far afield as Berlin (Stork Club), Jutland (Stauning) and London (East London Liquor Company).
If you’re hitting a wine bar in 2020, buckle up: wine lists will be heading even further off-road. At Diogenes the Dog in London, vinous adventurers can sip blanc de bois from Texas, fizz from Wales and orange wines from the Czech Republic, with varying results. The increasingly fashionable wine of Portugal and Greece will also give obscure grape varieties a boost; if you can’t pronounce what you’re drinking, you’re probably onto a good thing (as the edict goes). Burgundy will remain king of the hill for those who can afford it. But Bordeaux is out unless it’s a new-wave producer, such as Osamu Uchida, a Japanese microdomaine in the Haut-Médoc that is now doing exquisite cabernet. In that case – no pun intended – it’s very much in. Confusing, we know.
Could 2020 be the year that the wine bottle starts to look passé? It’s doubtful but there’s a movement to make it happen: bag-in-box wine has already had an eco-friendly injection. Wine in a can is on the rise too. And wine on tap is opening up a whole new realm of exciting vino at very reasonable prices. The driver here is Uncharted Wines, an innovative little company that sources small, unique parcels of wine from hip producers such as Swartland’s Duncan Savage and Beaujolais’s Domaine Chapel.
No- and low-alcohol will also continue to be big news, with everyone from drinks giant Diageo to tiny firms such as Square Root (who do some tasty shandies) beavering away on new products. We’ve got high hopes for Seedlip spin-off Aecorn Aperitifs, a trio of bitters to be drunk like Campari or vermouth. Everleaf, a citrusy aperitif made with saffron and Chinese voodoo lily (really), is also very good. And the zero per cent beer of Denmark’s Mikkeller brewery is so virtuous – and delicious – that it doubles as a post-run recovery drink.
Other than that, the only thing we’re hoping for in 2020 is a pocket ice-maker. It seems like a crazy dream, we know. But as we’ve seen time and time again, the truth in the world of drinks is often stranger than fiction.
Tipples to try
01. Gin: The Botanist, Hepple and Arbikie
The high-watermarks of the movement.
02. Rum: Foursquare Exceptional Cask
Exceptional Bajan sipping rums.
03. Perry: Ross on Wye Cider & Perry
The UK firm scrumps rather than scrimps on its pear cider.
04. Liqueur: Muyu and Fortunella
New-wave liqueurs for cocktails.
05. Whiskey: Stork Club, Stauning and ELLC
Old-school rye revived by three dynamic new craft distilleries.
06. Wine: Osamu Uchida
Japanese winemaker in the Haut-Médoc.
07. Wine: Wine On Tap
Of-the-moment makers of wine on draught.
08. Zero ABV: Aecorn and Everleaf
Alcohol-free botanical drinks for grown-ups.
09. Vodka: Kavka
Flavoursome Polish vodka.
10. Beer: Mikkeller
Quirky brews from Copenhagen.