Cocktail and Spirit Trends to See and Sip in 2018

From Japanese gin to non-alcoholic distillate, our spirits editor predicts that the 2018 drinks scene will be less alcoholic and more international.
Photo by Tom Arena

Though it’s never easy to know what the future will hold, I’m ready to call out some spirit trends that will dominate the year ahead. Here are four items I’m excited to see—and sip—more of in 2018.

We’ll explore the wide world of whiskey. Drams will be more far-flung than ever before, as bottlings from countries including New Zealand (Oamaruvian/Dunedin), India (Paul John) and South Africa (Bain’s) head to U.S. shelves. While resembling classic Scotch whisky, each has nuances that will hold my attention for a while.

Japanese gin is coming. American consumers are already fans of Japanese whiskey; in 2018, keep an eye out for gin from producers like Nikka and Roku. They feature the same silkiness found in Japan’s whiskey bottlings, plus regional botanicals like yuzu and sansho pepper. I can’t wait to mix them into martinis and other cocktails.

Three Trends That Need to Go

Bidding farewell to 2017, let’s say buh-bye to these trends, too.

Cocktails served in enormous copper vessels.

Sure, they’re fun, but they’re also superheavy, especially when filled with ice and liquid. Your nightcap shouldn’t double as a bicep workout.

“The world’s most expensive…” 

From martinis garnished with precious gems to a $5,000 bottle of whiskey, the conspicuous consumption trend has to go.

Activated charcoal in cocktails

The ingredient that turns drinks a dramatic inky-black can be hazardous when consumed with certain medications. Pass.

Plastic straws will fade away. Bars and restaurants are increasingly emphasizing sustainability—dialing down water waste, recycling food scraps into inventive new dishes or syrups, etc. And plastic straws, which contribute to debris floating in our oceans, are particularly in focus. Expect plastic straws to be replaced by compostable paper or reusable metal straws in drinks that come with a straw at all.

Food Trends and Predictions for 2018 Sure to Fuel Appetites and Debates

More low- and no-alcohol cocktails. In addition to drinks made with the swelling ranks of vermouths and aperitivo spirits, watch for products like Seedlip, a non-alcoholic distillate made in the U.K. Though Seedlip debuted in the U.S. in 2017, it’s anticipated to roll out more widely this year, giving bartenders fresh ammo for interesting cocktails that involve little or no alcohol. This could encourage other producers to follow suit with varying non-alcoholic distillates of their own.

Published on January 5, 2018
Topics: Drinks
About the Author
Kara Newman 
Spirits Editor

Kara Newman reviews spirits and writes about spirits and cocktail trends for Wine Enthusiast. She's the author of Shake.Stir.Sip.: 40 Effortless Cocktails Made In Equal Parts (Chronicle Books, 2016) as well as ROAD SODA: Recipes and techniques for making great cocktails, anywhere (Dovetail Press, 2017). Email:

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