Speakeasies Are So Last Year—These are the 5 Bar Trends You Need to Know Now

Updated 10/08/19

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If you’ve been to the “coolest bar” in your area recently, chances are it was a speakeasy or at least had a speakeasy vibe—bars with little signage that lead to dark rooms with subtle lighting. The cocktails? They probably tended toward what’s called “Prohibition Cocktails,” or those first true signs of mixology and spirits, like the sidecar, white lady, or the last word.

It’s been a trend that’s swept the nation and kept steadily popular over the past few years. But what’s the next in the landscape of drinks and bars? If these bartenders and drink pros are to be believed, it’s a focus on fun, lighter spirits, and the art of the drink (no gimmicks or intense ingredient lists here).

1. Advanced Culinary Techniques

“In my 20 or so years of bartending, I have seen a few trends come and go in the bar world—from the Long Island Ice Tea and shooter craze of the ‘90s, to the popular martini bars in the early ‘00s and then sliding into the ever popular speakeasy trend of the past decade. Now, it seems advanced culinary techniques have infiltrated the bar world. Words like spherification, centrifuge, and sous vide are being thrown around. Who knows, maybe someday soon there will be celebrity bartenders with their own shows on the Imbibe Network or Bartending Channel.” —Aubrey Slater: Bartender at Honeybee’s, NYC

2. Light and Bright

“I think in general, cocktail bars are moving away from small, dark rooms and moving out into the open, into larger, brighter, and often more casual and fun spaces. The same seems to be true for spirits and cocktails. Whereas 10 years ago everyone was all about whiskey, today, both consumers and bartenders seem to be gravitating towards lighter spirits like gin or anything agave.” — Zachary Pease: Owner of My Friend Duke, NYC

3. Upscale Dives

“I think the return of simple pleasures and venues that can deliver on great hospitality will be the next trend. Let’s call them ‘upscale dive bars.’ Places where you can either get a "shit tinny" (that’s Aussie slang for a simple and cheap can of beer) and a shot, or a beautifully crafted cocktail in a relaxed atmosphere. I also think that the focus on sustainability needs to continue to grow, such as the wider use of creatively incorporating discarded waste products that will bring us closer to closed loop cocktails. Whether it's an oleo saccharum from spent citrus husks in a signature highball, or an infusion of pineapple skins in a fino sherry.” — Ryan Gavin: Bar Manager of Gran Tivoli and Peppi’s Cellar, NYC

4. Keep it Simple

“Gone are the days of ingredient lists as long as your arm; instead, drink specifications are shorter and simpler, and presentation is taking a similar route. I believe in offering simpler cocktails with understated garnishes, a trend that follows an increase in the popularity of classic cocktails such as the Sazerac and the Negroni, all of which are served up with subtle appearances. No umbrellas, flowers, fruit or celery sticks the size of a ruler. The liquid, the ice, and the vessel are left to do the talking. As cocktail presentation becomes simpler, this becomes a driving force that encourages bartenders to innovate further and experiment with ways of making creations stand out through the power of flavor alone.” — Joe Palminteri: Food and Beverage Director of Society, a speakeasy cocktail bar at the Hamilton Hotel, DC

5. No Gimmicks Needed

“I think there is a time and place to have a drink in just about any setting. Sometimes a dark, sign-less bar fits your mood, but I’m seeing great fun and innovative drinks come out of more unconventional settings. Many great bars are using new smart and complex techniques, but they’re not using these techniques to shape their concept. For example, we are a diner that uses a centrifuge for the purpose of creating a perfectly carbonated drink, not to wow the guest with our toys. That way, I think the taste will come to the forefront as opposed to the gimmick of how the bartender got it there.” — Adam Miller: Creator of the Cocktail Program at Silver Lining Diner, Southampton  

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