Booze Experts Predict L.A.'s Fall Cocktail Trends — We Love Strong Flavors

Road Soda
Susan Hornik

Food lovers ate to their heart’s content at the Taste food festival over Labor Day weekend, and discerning drinkers were out in force, too. After all, food and drink are meant to be enjoyed together. For your drinking pleasure, we asked mixologists, sommeliers and bar enthusiasts about the cocktail trends Angelenos might expect this fall.

It may not get cold, but we still like our hot drinks.
"Hot drinks are always really fun. Even in Southern California, people really do enjoy them. Also, it’s fun to use butter. Hot buttered rums are really good. Also Alexanders, which use heavy cream and are layered. It’s actually very similar to what the authentic Irish coffee is. Additionally, the heavy nuts and baking spices, people always seem to really want in fall and winter. I am using nut liquors like nocello, and nocino, which is made with green walnuts. Cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg all add a dimension of character that makes a drink really interesting."  —Tricia Carr, Southern Wine & Spirits

Coffee cocktails are on the rise.
"We've seen a lot of development in coffee-based cocktails in the U.S. over the last few months. In Australia, espresso martinis have been a favorite for a long time, mostly due to the availability of good espresso in so many locations, including bars. With the specialty coffee surge across the U.S., the standard and popularity of espresso and coffee cocktails has grown exponentially. Locally, the restaurant/bar EP & LP developed a fantastic espresso-based cocktail called a Tiki-tini. It's a juice-based cocktail featuring Cinque Stella blend espresso. The Sierra Mar restaurant at the Post Ranch Inn has also been using alternative brewing methods, such as a cold-drip tower, to infuse homemade whiskey with herbs, woods and aromatics, and offering tableside mixology demonstrations." —Dave Harper, joint head USA, Vittoria Coffee

Wine cocktails, too, are increasingly popular.
"We are definitely seeing a trend of the European love of the Aperol spritz cocktail using Prosecco and wonderful bubbles. Here we see a little transition with it — we look for aromatic bubbles especially in the fall, since it’s cooling off here and it’s refreshing; parties come inside. There is definitely a trend toward that, at the beginning of meals right now. The spritz in particular has started a very strong movement. The sangrias are still very much there, but it’s the bubbles, that spritz that really has taken hold. You are watching it grow very quickly. In the U.S. there are more wine cocktails than ever before. It’s become a part of our cocktail culture now." —Robert Piotrowski, director of sales, Santa Margarita

Bitter spirits like the old-skool Jägermeister continue to make a comeback.
"At our booth, there were many comments like, 'This doesn't taste like Jäger!' Well, it’s just not the way you used to drink it in college. Cocktail trends for the fall are leaning toward fresh, floral additions to cocktails using lavender, Thai basil and charred rosemary. The idea is to engage the consumers’ eyes, nose and tastebuds all at the same time, with fresh-squeezed juices and herbs. Canned juices and an old lemon wedge just won't cut it anymore." —Tom Pfost, Jägermeister

Tequila and mezcal make killer cocktails.
"Presumably, each bar curates their cocktail list in the hope that it will help them stand out from the crowd, so trends are tricky things to predict. What I’ve seen and anticipate continuing through fall is a renewed appreciation of the versatility of tequila and mezcal. Classic cocktails such as the Last Word and the Manhattan are reinterpreted with mezcal and aged tequilas. The use of the entire arsenal of a fully stocked bar will expand, and bottles of sherry, green and yellow chartreuse, vermouths, aperitifs and amari will witness a mass removal of collective dust. I also believe that there is a burgeoning market for creative libations sans alcohol, beyond a simple virgin mojito. This is a trend I believe will become much more of a staple on respected lists. In addition, bartenders will experiment more and more with the infinite possibilities that the world of bitters presents, for both original cocktails and the O.G.s."  —Kyle Billings, sommelier at Spring

The classics continue to stand the test of time.
"People always appreciate a well-made classic, for example, a margarita with great quality tequila made from 100 percent agave, fresh-squeezed lime and a hint of agave nectar. I am also finding that guests are interested in exotic flavors that take them back to certain holidays or meals; for example, our A Night in Istanbul with tequila, figs, lemon and pomegranate is designed to take the guest to a different place in time. —Ben Scorah, Road Soda

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