YP Fusion: Cocktail Culture

The terms “cocktail culture” and “young professional” are practically synonymous. It is, after all, over cocktails that some of our biggest business deals are solidified, love connections are made and countless charity dollars are raised at YP-filled events across the country. We toast our successes with coworkers after work and reward ourselves for all that hard work with cocktails with the guys or girls on the weekend. It seems the significance, variety and cost of the cocktail has skyrocketed in recent years. We asked some of the country’s most skilled and seasoned bartenders to shed a little insight into the current trends in all things cocktail. Here is what they had to say… 

“Cocktail culture has exploded in recent years. Like everything else these days, people are interested in interesting things. Everyone has their staple, go-to favourite drink but enjoy experimenting with specialty cocktails while on a date, with clients or catching up with friends. A few cocktails are a good way to ease in to wine or other drink favourites and into dinner.”

Paul Desbaillets, co-owner, Burgundy Lion, Montreal 

“The term ‘mixologist is highly overused. You can’t call anyone who mixes two ingredients together a mixologist. You need to know the different flavours, tastes, and how they will react to one another,” Paul added. “The cocktail art has allowed smaller establishments to put on a more impressive show with an assortment of intricate cocktails. An attention-catching cocktail list can draw in customers. The problem with a cocktail in a high volume place is that it needs to be produced in a rush, yet still requires that attention to detail the customer has come to expect. One drink shouldn’t take five minutes to make – at that point you’ve already missed serving 10 drinks at a typical bar.”

“Whiskey has made a huge comeback with the younger generation,” mentioned Desbaillets.

Rob Dvorchik, a professional bartender from Toronto, told us “cocktail culture has evolved at warp speed in the past few years, and I believe this is attributable to the “professionalization” of bartenders. Once imbibing became a culinary experience with the rise of the mixologist as a central figure in legitimizing an establishment (beginning with haute cuisine rooms in NYC in the 80’s like “Rainbow” and barmen such as Dale DeGroff and Tony Abou Ganim), the bar became an acceptable end goal for young people instead of a way-station to a modelling or acting career.”

Dvorchik added: “This has led the culture to a place of amazing ingenuity in creating new libations as well as the appreciation and resurrection of lost classics. New spirits are being introduced into the market all the time, fuelling new ideas.” 

“The trend is definitely towards a more uniformly excellent cocktail experience wherever you go, as well as a more knowledgeable client base. Negatively, now that we’ve created a class structure, there is an intimidation factor that never existed before when you bellied up to the bar expecting a pint. A drink costs $15 now and takes 10 minutes to make. There is definitely more pretention and it is building rather than dissipating as more people become “with it.” Some of the frivolity and fun of cocktailing has been lost in translation.”  

The Notable.ca team caught up with Franz Swinton of the Canadian Professional Bartenders Association of Calgary, who told us, “Cocktail trends include a lot of large format cocktail servings that are designed to serve more than one person. We are also seeing (though more so in the U.S.) an increasing amount of professionally crafted cocktails on tap, making the lives of bartenders easier and the wait time of customers shorter.” 

“We have also witnessed a return to classics. In Calgary, for example, we have mastered the quality and now must expand from there. We may use over-the-top and obscure ingredients, but we stick to the basics. This is the case in most major cocktail metropolises. Bitters have also made a huge resurgence and people are purchasing different flavours of bitters as well as the classic to use in home-prepared cocktails,” said Swinton.

In Vancouver, we connected with Jay Jones, Executive Bartender & Brand Ambassador, Donnelly Group, who stated, “Small Cocktails are really popular right now; less is more, with stronger drinks in tidy glasses. Another trend is the barbershop cocktails, and sipping while being shorn.” (See our Bourbon & Barbers event coverage).

Gin is (finally) back in. We are over the ‘I only drink vodka’ hurdle and gin is the white spirit of choice among many people.”

“Another trend we are seeing is ‘tipsy travelling’. More and more vacationers are picking destinations focused on cocktail bar sightseeing,” said Jones.

Now that we have you planning your next drink of choice when you hit the city’s après-work scene tonight, don’t forget to experiment when it comes to the cocktail. Venture out of your comfort zone and be a little more adventurous than your typical vodka soda. Couture cocktail culture is here to stay.

*Enjoy your cocktail responsibly. Don’t drink and drive.


Images courtesy of: spiritsto.com, vancouverfoodster.com