As we wrap up another year, it appears 2022 will be remembered for an unpredictable midterm election, Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter, and a crypto crash that made us rethink the value of digital currency. It was also a year we realized all those drinking habits we developed during the pandemic aren’t going away anytime soon. Sip after sip, you can always count on a stiff cocktail or chilled bottle of wine to take the edge off a complicated world. So let’s raise a glass and toast to the most intriguing booze trends of 2022–ones that will shape the way we enjoy and appreciate alcohol in the new year and beyond.
Artificial aging is here…and it’s real
If you want to make a spirit taste great, pour it in a barrel and wait around a while. Typically, it takes years to age and develop the right flavor, but new technology is speeding up the process. Endless West is the company behind Glyph, made from molecules sourced in plants, fruits, and yeast to recreate the same chemical profile of fully aged whiskey within 24 hours. Think of it as reverse engineering.
The company also produces a rice-free “sake” called Kazoku and is getting into the white-label business with spirits produced on demand without eating up valuable storage space. Purists might be more comfortable with the approach taken by Lost Spirits, a distillery in Las Vegas that doubles as a tourist attraction (with a legit bucket-list restaurant). Rum and other spirits are distilled with a specialized aging system using a basket of chopped barrel wood, intense heat, and specialized light. “Instead of taking 20 years, it takes me six days,” says founder Bryan Davis, who funded Lost Spirits by selling the technology to big-name liquor companies.
In 2023: Time isn’t real. Aging is artificial, but it doesn’t have to taste fake.
Juice is becoming a better mixer
Adding juice to your favorite spirit is a trick as old as time—it’s not even a trick, really. But there’s another way to reinvent the wheel. Ma-Ha Virtue sells raspberry, blackberry and sour cherry juices made from fruit grown on an organic farm with no added sugars. “The sweetness and tartness all come from the crop,” says founder Raha Jamalian-Hershey, whose company draws on a whimsical image and Farsi heritage. The juices have the option of being infused with “diamond-grade” saffron (claimed to be the best in the world), organic vanilla, and lime for a combination designed to make life easier for bartenders. One bottle serves about 34 portions. “All of our juices are very high in antioxidants,” adds Jamalian-Hershey. “You can mix it in vodka. I mix it in tequila. My daughter has it in sparkling water.”
In 2023: Expect fancier juices and mixers.
Chocolate made of wine
Your next bite of chocolate may have a splash of wine inside. Vine to Bar is a new company that takes fermented Chardonnay grapes—leftover after being pressed into juice—and mills them into a fine powder that’s blended into dark chocolate. The final product is full of healthy flavonols and prominent fruit notes that temper the bitterness of the cocoa. “The winemaker at heart is a farmer,” says managing director Ed Klein. “Farmers are always looking for ways to be sustainable, have less waste, and use the whole grape.” Vine to Bar chocolate is available in original dark chocolate bars or enhanced with sea salt, almonds, and other fun stuff.
In 2023: We hope you like grapes. And chocolate.
Shots are making a comeback
You may appreciate the sophistication of craft cocktails these days, but the shots that fueled your wild and crazy college days are finding renewed appeal. Give credit to the Shot Caller, a portable shot dispenser that makes it quick and easy to serve the perfect chug-ready amount of alcohol without fuss. Just press the spring-loaded tip against the bottom of a shot glass and you’re good to go. No spills. No mess. The efficient nature of the one-handed device is ideal for parties, poolside gatherings and busy bars.
“It frees up your bartenders to move on to the next customer,” says co-founder Trish Piazza. “If somebody comes up and orders 15 lemondrops, you can now put it into the hands of a waitress.” The Shot Caller follows the Jellinator, a similar device for Jello shots. Piazza launched it in 2012 as a side-hustle with husband Matt and sales were so strong, it replaced both of their full-time jobs within two years. Their biggest market? At-home moms hosting get togethers with friends.
In 2023: Club bangers from the early aughts will make sense again.
Spiked whip cream
Whipped cream is pretty awesome all by itself, but arguably even better when it’s 40% alcohol. Lick the Whip makes a booze-infused version of the treat in vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, and salted caramel. It’s lactose-free and nearly dairy-free with no added sugars. “It takes the bite away from a shot too,” says company rep Freddie Hardy. “It’s like a built-in chaser.” Lick the Whip is already being marketed to day clubs and hotels in Las Vegas. In case you’re wondering, the alcohol is from orange wine.
Whipshots, on the other hand, infuses whipped cream with vodka and has the celebrity backing of Cardi B to promote flavors like mocha, vanilla, caramel, and, for the holidays, peppermint. Pick one to top off your coffee this winter season. Both products are shelf-stable and don’t need to be refrigerated.
In 2023: Having lactose intolerance is over.
Spirits made from sweet potatoes
You’ve probably heard of potato vodka, but what about sweet potato vodka? A Canadian farm was growing so many sweet potatoes, it decided to turn some of them into booze. That’s the story behind Beattie Distillers, who first launched with regular potato vodka and then decided to add sweet potatoes to the mash. It adds up to a lighter bodied spirit with a subtle sweet aroma. “It’s smooth. It’s flavorful,” says Steph Chantler of Beattie Distillers. “It’s great on its own, but also great in a cocktail.”
Corbin Cash takes things further in California’s up-and-coming Merced area, distilling sweet potatoes for not only vodka and gin, but also a neutral sweet potato spirit that’s combined with rye for a blended whiskey. The taste is “bourbon-esque” after being aged in charred white oak barrels for five years.
In 2023: Drink your sweet potatoes.
Crystal-clear ice for the at-home bartender
A craft cocktail (or even a glass of water) always looks better with crystal-clear ice. Now, Ghost Ice may be the best thing since sliced garnish to come around for the at-home bartender. The convenient device takes advantage of a simple concept: that ice freezes at the top first, while air and impurities are pushed toward the bottom. Special trays preserve the clear ice on top. Just toss out the yucky stuff on the bottom. You can even use tap water while effectively distilling it. “Ghost Ice exists because I wanted it for me, even if no one else ever bought it,” says inventor and professional bartender Tony Gonzalez. “As it turns out, a lot of people wanted it to exist.” The product is available in commercial and at-home versions.
In 2023: Your opaque ice isn’t ghostly enough. Needs to be haunted.
Ready-to-drink cocktails are getting better
The hard seltzer boom continued into 2022, and the cocktail market is stepping up its game in response. Bulleit introduced a line of ready-made craft cocktails early this year, showing that an Old Fashioned or Manhattan can be premade for the masses with a big-name bourbon you know and love. Spirited Hive is a line of canned cocktails that uses real honey instead of sugar or corn syrup. The honey works especially well in bourbon-rosemary and tequila-ginger-lime recipes. Ciroc is trying to corner the luxury market (or maybe the party market) with its first line of canned cocktails in 2022, introducing four takes on a spritz that mix natural flavors with vodka distilled from French grapes. Oregon’s Ninkasi Brewing Company enlisted acclaimed mixologist Jeffrey Morgenthaler to mastermind a lineup of six canned cocktails, including two malt-based options, with the craft connoisseur in mind.
“The malt-based cocktails are made just like our spirit-based cocktails, but instead of distilled spirits, they’re made from a high-gravity malt base,” says Morgenthaler. “In Oregon, since we’re a control state, we can’t sell spirits at grocery stores; so these are available in more outlets across the state.”
In 2023: Canned cocktails aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.
Do-it-yourself smoked cocktails
It’s hard to resist a smoked Manhattan or Old Fashioned. They seem to be everywhere these days, but it’s getting easier to play at-home bartender and add a touch of smoke to any cocktail yourself.
Foghat is one of the best devices for this, using its own line of culinary smoking fuels made from woods, herbs, spices, and teas. The key is smoking the drink, not the glass. Add a pinch of your favorite blend to the device, ignite with a handheld torch, and cover with a white oak top as smoke fills the glass.
“All that flavor from your wood is now a gas. When the ice cools it down, the flavor molecules actually go into the cocktail,” explains Bryan Weisberg, CEO of the Thousand Oaks Barrel Company, who produces Foghat.
Middleton Mixology manufactures a similar device, SmokeTop, made from American cherry wood (which is also the signature smoking flavor). “There are very few woods you can smoke without adding toxicity,” says owner and inventor James Middleton “That’s why I chose American Cherry. It’s the best flavor profile and it’s nontoxic.”
In 2023: Smoking is cool.
New avenues for celebrities and agave spirits
Everyone is hopping aboard the agave spirits train, hoping to be the new Casamigos, but not everyone can be George Clooney. You gotta give credit to Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, whose Teremana continued to gobble up market share in 2022 while proving to be a solid house tequila for at-home bartenders. It might have something to do with the agave, brick-roasted for three days to bring out subtle citrus notes. Eva Longoria’s Casa del Sol, goes in another direction, opting to age tequila in Cognac barrels of French Limousin Oak, resulting in a sweet vanilla scent that doesn’t overwhelm the actual taste.
“These unique barrels are widely regarded as the most desirable in the world because of their loose grain,” says Alejandra Pelayo, head of Casa del Sol’s Mexico operations. “This open grain imparts certain characteristics of the oak that soften and enhance the spirit.”
In a similar approach, George Strait’s Código 1530 is aged in French white oak red wine barrels, including a limited-edition Rosa Reposado that’s finished in Spanish sherry barrels for a naturally pink hue. Nick Jonas, a diabetic, has been touting the low-carb profile of tequila and his Villa One brand with John Varvatos, which uses two types of sustainability sourced Blue Weber agave. Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul and Bryan Cranston bypassed tequila in favor of mezcal, breaking into the fast-growing market with Dos Hombres, which keeps the smokiness relatively subtle; a possible strategy to draw in newbies. However, seasoned connoisseurs can shell out a few extra bucks for a special-edition Tobala Mezcal, distilled with prized Tobala agave plants which take longer (an average of 17 years) to mature.
In 2023: Celebrities will continue to use name recognition to sell their own line of booze, to varying degrees of success.
Sotol: agave’s spiritual cousin
We’ve been waiting for sotol to catch on for a while now, and it may be finally happening. The spirit is distilled from a Northern Mexican plant that’s in the same family as asparagus. Despite being “new” to American drinkers more familiar with the agave flavors of tequila and mezcal, sotol has actually been around in some form for centuries. It was a favorite of Indigneous tribes and later sold as moonshine that crossed borders during Prohibition, causing the Mexican government to crack down on production.
The spirit is now making a slow comeback and companies like Cultured Spirits are expanding its presence in the United States with the Guerra Seca brand, which rests in clay-lined pots for two weeks. “It’s the only sotol in the U.S. that uses clay in the production process,” says vice president Matt Adkins, noting an earthy flavor that lends well to sipping neat. The mineral-rich distillation runoff is then used to help fertilize a new crop of the plant in a full-circle example of sustainability.
In 2023: Expand your agave-adjacent horizons if you haven’t already.
Environmentally-friendly straws that don’t suck
We can all agree plastic straws are bad for the environment and paper straws, well, they tend to get soggy and fall apart easily. So what’s left? WinCup is producing Phade, the world’s first straw made of PHA, a biodegradable material sourced from canola oil. “It has the feel and texture of a plastic straw, but without the guilt,” says president and CEO Michael Winters. “The reason it’s so incredibly unique is how quickly this material will degrade in almost any environment.” Winters says a traditional plastic straw lasts around 200 years. A Phade straw will decompose in less than 60 days if it ends up in the ocean. The product was launched in 2020 and is being marketed to everyone from restaurants and bars to hotels and cruise ships. And yes, it’s safe to use in hot liquids too. Think of it as one small step we can take to make the planet a little better in 2023.
In 2023: Still sad about climate change. But the straws are getting better.