Despite much merger and acquisition activity lately, the adult (alcoholic) beverage market remains strong. London-based Research and Markets expects the U.S. spirits market to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 3.51 percent from 2016 to 2020. Beer is also enjoying solid sales. Technavio’s (www.technavio.com) research points to beer as the highest selling alcoholic beverage in the U.S., and says craft beer will move forward to dominate the market until 2020.
Reports also show there's strong demand for adult beverages with a bit of bite. Spirits, wines and beers are being redefined and refined in terms of flavor, and many of the new drinks incorporate hot, spicy or savory flavors along with rather unusual ingredients and aromas. Consumers, particularly those daring millennials, want creative, local, unique and specialty options. Thus, retail adult beverage sections are being stocked with innovative and convenient items that can make the most inexperienced home bartender feel like a mixologist.
The internet has opened the door to many cultures and more exotic flavor profiles, thus inspiring spicy, savory and smoky beverage flavors such as Ancho Reyes (anchoreyes.com) chili pepper liqueur. Mortal Kombat X Beer, from Washington's Sound Brewery (www.soundbrewery.com) and Global Beverage Traders is a craft brew named after the popular Warner Brothers computer game. According to the Beer Street Journal, Mortal Kombat X Beer soon will roll out three vibrant beer flavors, one of which is Scorpion Imperial Stout, which blends fiery southwest chilies and Madagascar vanilla bean.
Tart, spicy and savory options are also cropping up in tequila. Jose Cuervo's new Cinge Especial Silver (cuervo.com) is infused with fiery cinnamon, giving the smooth tequila an unexpectedly hot twist. Further evidence of the piquant theme is a cocktail bar in New York's East Village called Mace (the spice, not the spray), which offers countless spice-themed drinks from what looks like a laboratory, with rows of jarred spices.
Cocktails with a kick are described on myriad websites, such as the Cocktail Project (www.thecocktailproject.com), developed by Beam Suntory for cocktail enthusiasts, where viewers can explore libations and learn how to make them. One creation uses DeKuyper Cordials and JDK & Sons' Crave Chocolate Chili Liqueur, which has sweet chocolate and subtle caramel and vanilla notes plus the zip of chili peppers. Another is a Hot Spicy Cider, which combines cinnamon, Pinnacle Atomic Hot Vodka, hot apple cider and whipped cream. Imported by Portfield Importers, Pinnacle Atomic Hot Vodka (www.pinnaclevodka.com), has a sweet/hot cinnamon flavor, balanced with savory cloves.
Of course, Classic Bloody Marys never go out of style, and restaurants and bars across the country enhance traditional Bloody Mary mixes with a cornucopia of garnishes and inclusions, such as beef broth, herbs like rosemary, hot sauce, buffalo wing sauce and cilantro, notes the adult beverage site vinepair.com. A Cocktail Project recipe called the Devil & Miss Mary combines the recently launched Jim Beam Devil's Cut bourbon, tomato juice, four to six dashes of Worcestershire sauce, three to five dashes of Tabasco Hot Sauce, a few shakes of black pepper, basil leaves and a lemon garnish. Beam describes Devil's Cut as having a smoky flavor, with depth and complexity that comes from liquid extracted from inside the barrel wood.
More adventurous options come from the Bloody Mary cart at 1313 Main in Napa, Calif., which contains more than 20 choices for add-ons -- from fried oysters, duck pastrami and fried shrimp cocktail, to sriracha salt, kimchi brussel sprouts and candied jalapenos. "Bloodies continue to evolve from the traditional spicy tomato juice and vodka recipes," notes Cheers Magazine in a list of its "Beverage Trends for Bars and Restaurants in 2016."
Bloody Mary enthusiasts also can try Tabasco brand Bloody Mary Mixes (www.tabasco.com) in Mildly Seasoned or Extra Spicy varieties. The non-alcoholic, tomato juice-based mixes are made with McIlhenny Co.'s famous pepper sauce, the same one used in the original Bloody Mary recipe, created at New York's St. Regis Hotel in the 1930s. The mixes can also be enjoyed straight, as a healthy morning drink or "mocktail."
These spicy adult quenchers are in turn driving innovation in mixers. Jalapeno and Smoke are ready-to-use syrups from London's Funkin (www.funkinusa.com), made from ground jalapenos or smoked oak wood, respectively. "Consumers are experimenting with new and exotic ingredients such as sriracha, sambal and wasabi, while smoked cocktails are more popular alongside whisky and bourbon cocktails," says Andrew King, Funkin's managing director, in a recent Spirits Business article.