Beverage expert talks national trends

Head out to a bar and what you saw only a year ago might be drastically different, and something that was popular five to 10 years ago might not even be on the menu (appletinis). On the flip side, you’re probably seeing something completely new (avocado gimlets). The bar and beverage landscape is constantly changing, and it can get confusing, especially because if you do your research, you’re likely to find that most publications carry their own list of non-specific “new drink trends.”

So, to allay confusion on a few trends we found interesting, and to learn more about them, City Pulse reached out to a bonafide expert: Dr. Carl P. Borchgrevink. He is a certified chef, restaurant manager, beverage class instructor and the interim director of MSU’s School of Hospitality Business.

Many fitness magazines like Shape are talking about the rise of “mocktails” or alcohol-free drinks. Have you seen a rise in that?

Yes. I’ve seen a rise in that, and also a general interest in mocktails. In fact, the younger generation actually drinks less than my generation did, and they’re more into health and wanting fruity and interesting drinks, but they’re not always looking for alcohol to the same extent.

They don’t necessarily see the need for alcohol when they congregate; they may congregate and see a nice, interesting drink nonetheless. And, the restaurants are responding. It’s not just a Shirley temple anymore; it’s not just coke with grenadine; it’s something that looks very interesting and appealing and it works in the same way. It may actually get you ready for the meal that follows.

The Tales of the Cocktail festival found that locally sourced products are winning out. Why is that?

People want to know even where their spirits are coming from. They’re going to have a local spirit; they would rather have that than one made by a larger company, but they vary. There’s over 220 breweries in Michigan, so if people are looking for a local brew, and they want a local brew because it’s flavorful and fresh and they’re supporting local, that’s there for them. Everybody is reaching in that direction. For wines also to some extent, depending on what style you’re looking for in wine. For instance, Michigan wines, given their location, are food-friendly wines, but they’re not maybe as fruit-forward as the wines coming out of California.

USA Today reported on the increased use of sherry. Does that hold water?

Actually, when I teach my beverage class, I have sherry as part of it, and mostly, I find that our students don’t care for it. I always find it interesting. They like ports better, but marketing-wise, both sherry and port are seeing a resurgence. It’s an after-dinner drink with a nice, sweet finishing drink.

Sherries and ports can also be dry, but what that’s coming from is that people are looking for a good-quality beverage to end their meal and evening. Evening madeiras and other fortified wines are seeing an increase as well. Nationwide, the most popular fortified wine is still port.

Overwhelmingly, the consumer seems more educated about the drinks they buy. What is impacting that?

I think social media is playing an important role, and people are exploring and seeing and understanding what’s out there. And then, when they see an interesting drink, they’ll go and ask for it at their local establishment. People are definitely sharing a lot of styles and drink knowledge, absolutely. People are more comfortable. There’s a trend where it’s becoming quite acceptable to drink rosé, and we used to wrinkle our noses so to speak. But it’s really doing well, and people should be comfortable to drink whatever they like. If you like a rosé, sweet or dry, don’t let someone tell you that you shouldn’t be drinking that.

People now are exploring through social media so they have access. They can look up a wine in Croatia if they want, try to find that wine and find it here in the U.S. So, you have an interest in the world of beverages like never before. Thirty years ago, you’d probably have to pick up a wine magazine and hope that they were talking about something of interest. Now, you can find what you’re interested in by using a search engine. They know what is, they’ve tried it, and people are excited about the opportunities.