The future of drinks: Check out the hottest trends to tip your cup at bars

Food show bar smoked cocktail
Above: The Woodhaven cocktail by bartender Alysson Mckeever was one of the competitors in the Hip-Sip Battle of the Modern Bartender at The International restaurant and Foodservice Show of New York last week.
Photo ET Rodriguez

Last week, titans of the hospitality industry gathered at the Jacob Javits Convention Center for a three-day expo to share their advice and predictions on how to navigate the food and drink space. Common themes were environmental sustainability, personal health and bright and bold flavors, as well as innovation in the world of bars.

Here are trends to expect according to the 32nd International Restaurant and Foodservice Show of New York, part two: Bars and beverages.

Clementina tequila was at the 32nd annual International Restaurant and Foodservice show of New York showing off its pink variety. It gets its color from being aged in red wine barrels.Photo ET Rodriguez

Trends have ends; some are cyclical

There were panels-a-plenty during the three-day expo at Jacob Javits Convention Center, including bar consulting behemoths. Art Sutley, director of northeast and strategic accounts for the Savage & Cooke distillery; Mia Mastroianni, celebrity mixologist most popularly known for her work on the reality TV series, “Bar Rescue” and Phil Wills co-founder of Spirits in Motion and also known for his work on “Bar Rescue,” were predicting trends and giving advice about bar operations for 2024. 

“We always think it’s going to go away and it just keeps coming back,” said Sutley of the espresso martini. The 1980s cocktail has seen an undulating wave of popularity and now, it’s high tide. To continue that trend, Sutley suggests putting “care into the roasters and the beans,” he said. 

Tried and true flavors are continuing to flourish like strawberry, watermelon and mango, according to Mastroianni. She also predicted a boom in dragonfruit, passionfruit and coconut water. 

The bar professionals told amNY some of their favorite NYC bars. Among them were Sip & Guzzle in the West Village, Kattana Kitten in Greenwich Village and Dante’s on MacDougal Street.  

Kristo Tomingas smiles for the cameras as he won the Hip-Sip Battle of the Modern Bartender on Sunday, March 3. The prize includes a guided tour of the Savage & Cooke distillery in California by Art Sutley himself, with paid airfare and hotel.

And the winner is . . .

The Hip-Sip Battle of the Modern Bartender was a nail-biter on March 3. It was also an indicator of what to expect from cocktails in the future.

Three bartenders mixed it up for a paid trip to the Savage & Cooke distillery in Vallejo, CA and the contestants could not have been more varied.

For her first major competition, 21-year-old Allyson McKeever from New Jersey, harkened images of a campfire with her drink, complete with fire, smoke and a garnish of mini marshmallows. Meanwhile, Kristo Tomingas from Estonia and owner of Butterfly Cocktail Catering was participating in his 500th competition. In a very happy middle was pastry chef Dean Kropp, who wasn’t a bartender at all, but a last-minute fill in for a finalist that couldn’t get the day off work. A common woe of the industry.

Chef Dean scouted the trade show for ingredients. In addition to the mandatory rye provided by the Savage & Cooke distillery, he came up with Red Bull and a sparkling orange drink he “found on the floor,” Chef Dean quipped while preparing his cocktail. His drink was not the winner, but Tomingas’ was.     

“It was a close one,” Art Sutley, a judge in the competition and director of northeast and strategic accounts for the distillery, told amNewYork Metro. “For me, Talisman inched ahead with the elaborate glassware and garnish.”  

Kristo Tomingas winning cocktail featured the mandatory ingredient of rye along with non-alcoholic amaretto, aloe juice, coconut water and a honey/lemon/ginger shrub.Photo ET Rodriguez

Served in a flared pilsner glass and adorned with a makeshift flower fashioned out of orange pith, the cocktail included tableside service. One blue drop and then one white were plopped into the judges’ drinks by Tomingas to replicate the evil eye talisman that wards off evil spirits — the drink’s namesake. From the Vivi Con Fuego at the Honey Well in Harlem to the Royal Blush at Ai Fiori in Midtown, people love a show.  

As for the ingredients, the rye-based cocktail included aloe juice, coconut water, a honey/lemon/ginger shrub and non-alcoholic amaretto. Tomingas put an emphasis on hydration while building his drink on the stage of the Culinary Innovation Theater.

People are drinking with health in mind.

Studies and trends show that people, especially Gen Z-ers are making conscious decisions to drink less alcohol.Photo Getty Images

To drink or not to drink? That is the question.

There has been a noticeable uptick in the consumption of non-alcoholic beers and alcohol-free spirits as Gen Z-ers experiment with being “sober curious” – making a conscious decision to opt for a non-alcoholic beverage in a traditionally alcoholic environment or situation, like a bar or a wedding.

“You should absolutely have something that shows non-alcoholic,” said Mastroianni, “It’s a global point of interest in beverage.”

In 2023, Americans spent $3.9 billion for at-home consumption of non-alcoholic beer, up from $2.3 billion in 2018 with a steady increase year over year. Adversely, consumption at bars and restaurants raked in $2.5 billion dollars this year. And while alcohol-free spirits do not make up a significant part of the market, they have steadily increased in revenue over the years and show no signs of stopping. 

“I haven’t had a drink in over 38 years,” said Betsy Craig at her talk, Hit Trends for 2024 Vegan Allergens and Beyond. “If I go to your restaurant and you’re going to sell me a mocktail, I’m probably going to buy it.” 

According to a survey, 41% of Americans are trying to drink less alcohol in 2024. Up from 34% last year. With providing mocktails and an array of fresh juices and/or curated teas and coffees, bars and restaurants not only give the people get what they want, but have added a new flow of revenue to their establishments. 


Two years ago, individuals took to a reddit page to express their discontent with the the lack of tangible menus in establishments. Two years later, people feel the same. Photo courtesy Reddit site screenshot.

Menu, please!

Many local bars don’t have a menu. They have their regulars who know what they want and don’t make a fuss. But the panel of bar consultants emphasized that everyone should have one. 

According to Sutley, 80% of customers will at least look at the menu, 33% of cocktails sales come from the menu and drink sales will increase by 20% if you add something trendy, like a fire element.

Here are some tips to get you started if you’re thinking of building a menu for your business:

  1. Keep it concise and not too wordy. People don’t want to read a novel.
  2. A good cocktail menu should aim for eight cocktails. No more than 12, no less than five.
  3. People want paper. Have a physical menu in addition to a QR code.
  4. “Homemade” and “Fresh squeezed” are buzz words that influence consumer buying.
  5. Graphics. People are responding to small pictures and visual representations.
Left: Art Sutley, director of northeast and strategic accounts for the Savage & Cooke distillery; Mia Mastroianni, celebrity mixologist most popularly known for her work on the reality TV series, “Bar Rescue” and Phil Wills co-founder of Spirits in Motion and also known for his work on “Bar Rescue.” Photo ET Rodriguez

Last call

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, bars have decreased their hours of operation for lack of business. What used to be a 3:30 a.m. last call is now midnight at some bars which seems perfectly normal for Burlington, Vermont, but not for the city that never sleeps.

The famous tapas restaurant Toro, which once stood on 15th Street along the Westside Highway, was bustling with celebrity chefs who poured wine into each other’s mouths and laughed as it dribbled down their chins. Business was booming, surely they would survive, but they were one of the first to shutter their doors in 2020. Today, establishments continue to seek the help of their customers for survival, especially those in their local network. 

“During the pandemic — there was no tourists,” said Jake Dell, panel speaker at, “The Future of Mom-and-Pop Restaurants and Bars in a Modern World” and owner of the famous Katz Delicatessen on Houston Street. “It was all New Yorkers and that’s what kept us afloat. We’re New Yorkers.”

Go out now, get dinner with friends, toast a new promotion or just simply celebrate life — your favorite bars and restaurants depend on it.