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2016 Cocktail Trends and Bourbon

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The average bourbon connoisseur may be vaguely aware of the emergence of a number of trends in the world of craft cocktails. While the more sanguine amongst you may raise a weary eyebrow at the use of ‘artisanal’ ingredients, home-ageing, or fancy garnishes and sparklers, and just ask for another large Pappy on the rocks; what if 2016 does offer some trends that you can apply to your bourbon drinking?


Not necessarily a new trend, but one that has been growing in popularity in the last few years. Once upon a time the Negroni or drinks using ‘difficult’ ingredients like Fernet Branca were the preserve of the off-duty barman and no one else, but now they’re cropping up on drinks lists everywhere.

As well as (allegedly) aiding digestion – think the classic digestifs of old – and helping with the absorption of nutrients from the err, bourbon, bitter drinks offer a handy counterpoint to the cloying sweetness of just another slightly sweet cocktail. As a result, they can give your taste buds a break to reset between rounds of Old Fashioneds.

Boulevardier Cocktail

If you’re willing to branch out in this direction, the best induction for the bourbon fan is the Boulevardier – a hybrid of the Negroni and Manhattan cocktails:

  • 1 ½ oz bourbon
  • 1 oz Campari
  • 1 oz sweet vermouth

Add all ingredients to a mixing glass, top with ice and stir for thirty seconds. Strain into a chilled martini glass and garnish with an orange or lemon twist or a cherry.


Root on the Rocks Cocktail

Beyond the Pickleback or Benton’s (bacon) Old Fashioned, a desire to cut back on sweet drinks has also led to an evolving interest in savoury ingredients.

This, aligned with a growing desire to use local ingredients has also seen bartenders ‘foraging’ for goodies in the parks and woodlands near their bars. Now whether you trust a college barman to pick the non-toxic or hallucinogenic form of mushroom for your martini is up to you, but there are plenty of uses for other ingredients from the forest or allotment floor, with pine, larch, beetroot and spinach all cropping up on the menu.

How to combine these with bourbon? We recommend the Root on the Rocks:

  • 1 ½ oz bourbon
  • 1 oz sweet vermouth
  • 1 oz beetroot juice
  • Dash of ginger liqueur

Add all ingredients to a shaker, top with ice and shake hard for twenty seconds. Strain into a chilled rocks glass over ice and garnish with a carrot stick or some cucumber. Ginger and beetroot? It’s practically a medicinal tonic.


Fruit Shrub Cocktail

Not long ago, the only option for those seeking a little kick in their cocktail was a Bloody Mary (or an extra shot of the hard stuff). The last few years however have seen the resurgence of the shrub. No, not the decorative bush in your front garden, but the vinegar-based syrup developed in colonial America to preserve seasonal fruits for consumption throughout the year.

These ‘drinking vinegars’, once mixed with water or soda, are now being used to rebalance cocktail recipes with intriguing results thanks to their unique ability to balance sweet and tart flavours.

If you’re ready to start adding vinegar to your bourbon, you can proceed as follows to make a simple fruit shrub:

Crush three pounds of the fresh fruit of your choice (we like cranberry or apple or both) in 2 cups of sugar. Leave this to sit in the fridge for up to 24 hours until the sugar has dissolved. Strain through a muslin cloth and slowly add one to two cups of white wine vinegar, tasting as you go, to ensure the correct balance. The resulting shrub can be used in the following recipe:

  • 2 oz bourbon
  • ¾ oz shrub
  • Dash of bitters

Add all ingredients to a shaker, top with ice and shake hard for twenty seconds. Strain into a chilled highball glass over ice and top with soda water. Garnish with any leftover fruit.

There you have it, three totally bourbon-appropriate cocktail trends to get into this year. Perfect for when you want to offer a knowledgable en vogue opinion to the mustachio-waxed bartender in your local speakeasy.

About the Author

Alex Juras

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Alex is a native Londoner who spent ten years discovering whisky, craft spirits and cocktails in Edinburgh before returning home in 2013. He has since dedicated himself to dipsological study, particularly cocktail creation, events and bar reviews, through his website at