9 Industry Leaders Reflect on 2016 and Predict What's Next

For better or worse, 2016 was a year we won’t quickly forget. In the cocktail realm, bartenders continued to push boundaries and redefine the standard cocktail canon. Low ABV drinks and bitter flavors gained traction, and the bartender’s focus shifted to emphasize hospitality and good service over pretension and exclusivity. As masterful mixology became standard across the globe, the cocktail community has widened progressive conversations to address tough subjects like equality, inclusion, sustainability and substance abuse in the industry. We talked to nine leading industry minds about 2016 in retrospect and what’s to come in 2017.

Peter Vestinos, bartender and consultant, The Sparrow Chicago and The BarMedic, Chicago

How would you sum up 2016 (specific to the bartending/spirits world) in one sentence?

Bar programs came into their own, meaning people developed more programs that were appropriate for their environment, neighborhood and clientele.

What trend(s) or movement(s) defined the bartending/spirits world in 2016?

We speak a lot about terroir, which can rightfully be argued in spirit production, but I think what came into light this year was a sense of place in spirit products in terms of where and how things are produced and the people and environments which are affected, both positively and negatively. I think we'll continue to see more of an awareness for spirit production in this regard.

What trend do you hope goes away in 2017?

The layback.

What should we, as an industry, work to change or improve in 2017?

Labor laws and health care/benefits.

What trends do you predict will be growing in 2017?

The year of the grape. Cocktail bartenders have had a growing interest in wine, consumers are heading back to wine, and some bar managers are recognizing this and providing better wine pours in a cocktail bar environment. American brandies are starting their long-deserved uptick, so keep an eye on that category. Consumers are also finally drinking more pisco, so we have to realize that although we have been pushing for it for years, it is just taking hold with a lot of our customers. And, of course, rum in a non-tiki application will continue to grow in terms of bars dedicated to it, space on a back bar, and consumer interest.

Any other hopes or dreams for the bar world in 2017 that you'd like to share with us?

I hope a lot bartenders and spirit professionals can achieve the long deserved work/life balance we have all been struggling for as we work to grow this industry.

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