By Suzy Badaracco, Foodable Industry Expert
The beverage category is one of the lead areas right now for experimentation. Culinary cocktails are in the spotlight. Spirits and other beverages are also showing up as seasonings in desserts, mains, and side dishes. Everyone wants an invitation to the party and just like guests at a party- they group into cliques as they mingle with familiar party goers.
Culinary into Beverage
The first clique we meet includes the herbs, seasonings, and florals. They add the mystery and elegance to the party. Ginger is one of the guests and is showing up in ginger beer found in the Moscow Mule but also in craft ginger ale and ginger syrups. Salt is here as well showing up on salted rims, as smoked salt, and even as salted drinking caramel. And even smoke itself is a guest. Infused ice, another guest, is also sporting a jacket of smoke. Ice has also been seen fraternizing with herbs, spices, florals, fruits, and vegetables as their chauffeur. Herbs socializing with the group include lemon grass, lime leaf, basil, rosemary, thyme, sage, and mint which are conversing with lemonades, iced teas, and cocktails. The florals easily mingle with guests and can be seen as lavender infusions and bitters, chamomile flowers and tea infusions, rose petal garnishes, chive and rosemary blossoms, marigolds, and nasturtiums. They cross mingle as orange blossom syrups, in hibiscus mimosas, butterfly flower infused vodka, and floral craft sodas.
Preservatives and sweeteners are here at the party too. The same DIY preserving and fermenting trend from the kitchen has moved into the bar. Preserves wear many outfits including drinking vinegars and shrubs. DIY shrubs can be made with fruit, raw vinegar, and flavorings such as; ginger, fresh mint, basil, savory herbs, or hot chilies. Think of them also as house made pickles for Martini’s and Bloody Marys. Jams and marmalades appear in craft bars as finishing ingredients. Sweeteners round out the group including honey, maple syrup, palm sugar, molasses, and spiced syrups such as habanero syrup.
Fruits are always the toast of the party as they have been cavorting with beverage the longest. Apples are among the current darlings and show up as apple brandy, hard cider, baked apple bitters, and dried apple garnishes. Grilled fruits including pineapple, mango, and peaches are riding the coat tails of the open-flame cooking trend. Exotics and citrus including blood orange, calamansi, finger limes, zebra lemons, and coconut come arm in arm with the tiki trend. And fruit infusions are at the head of the party’s conga line with rhubarb infused vermouth, mango vodka, apricot liqueur, watermelon mimosas, lime infused beers, and housemade sodas incorporating berry and mango.
Vegetables are coming in as a dance partner to fruits but also mix well with the herbs and seasoning clique. Cucumber is now mainstream in beverage but is followed closely behind by celery, dandelion, avocado, and kale. Arugula is said to be the new basil for craft cocktails, along with beets, snap peas, and carrot showing up as in a beet and celery Micheladas, smoothies, carrot top syrup, and Bloody Marys with homemade pickles, according to Kathy Casey and Philip Raimondo. And 100% natural vegetable tinctures paired with basil, sage and ginger are no strangers to the party.
Proteins and Grains
Proteins and grains arrive to the party as snacking garnishes such as candied or smoked bacon, octopus, and even venison infused ice. They also express themselves as full meal garnishes including a mozzarella pizza, grilled cheese sandwich, beef brisket slice or as a whole smoked fish. Grains are flirtier and less intimidating than the protein posse. Pretzel and cookie inclusions can easily commune with both the cocktail or dessert drink crowd, while chia and oats congregate with breakfast beverages and smoothies. And don’t forget the delicious party girl - horchata, the creamy rice based drink from Mexico.
Beverage into Cuisine
A two-way street has developed between beverage and cuisine and beverages cross into the kitchen. First up at the party are florals and fruit juice which both play well with food. Florals come dressed as rosewater from the Middle East and as cocktail and drink syrups to be used in cooking. Fruits also showcase well in marinades as wet rubs for proteins and vegetables and in the syrups, such as orange blossom syrup served over cheesecake.
Tea and coffee have traditionally been used as beverages but are now showing up to the party as seasonings instead. From Hawaii comes tea smoked meats and coffee has crossed into desserts as in coffee encrusted chocolates. Wine and beer have now infiltrated cuisine as marinades, beer-infused soups and stews and the dessert category as syrups, sauces or a direct ingredient such as in milkshakes, ginger beer floats, and dry floats which showcase dark beers, ciders.
Spirits also have a long history in the cuisine segment. Think of alcoholic beverages as just another ingredient, each having its own assets and flavors. Whiskey infused desserts, spirit infused soups and stews or a flambé are just a few of the ways they can be used on the menu. Chefs are finding creative ways to incorporate spirits into everything from cakes and cookies to ice cream and popsicles. Banana bread pudding with whiskey sauce, bourbon-infused frozen custard, or try filling a warm donut with chocolate Baileys. Spirits as marinades work easily with the open-flame cooking trend and mix and mingle effortlessly with proteins, fruits, and vegetable whether grilling or in a simple braise as the cold weather approaches.
So join the party - we never run short on food or drink and our guests are fun, flirty, and always mix right in.