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The Latest Cocktail Trends, According to Top City Bartenders

A behind-the-bar look at what's coming and going.

The bar at Mourad.
The bar at Mourad.
Patricia Chang

It's Eater Cocktail Week, that wonderful time of year in which we look to the past, present, and future of all things cocktails. And while we have a few of our own ideas about what's shaking, who better to ask about coming and going drinking trends than the bar men and women who are slinging the drinks for us? Here are some of 2015's dying and emerging trends, according to some of San Francisco's top bartenders (hint: don't call them mixologists).

Dying trend: The mixologist

Isaac Shumway, beverage director of Alamo Drafthouse San Francisco, Bear vs Bull

"It's about coming back to what a bartender is. The focus on whom I hire now is nothing about how they make cocktails. It's about who is hospitable. The emphasis on mixology had to happen, so that we could get to this place. It was kind of like an education of the public — saying that no, we're not going to make a Cosmo, we're going to go back and try to do something else, something new. Now people like me are putting our heads up. It's about taking care of people, not saying no, and not making people feel stupid."

Dying trend: Barrel-aged cocktails

Anthony Parks, bar manager at Mourad

"I don't feel like barrel-aged cocktails change the outcome of a drink in a dramatic way. Most barrel-aged drinks spend months in a barrel with very little positive results. There are of course a few exceptions."

Dying trend: 10-ingredient cocktails

Claire Sprouse, bartender at ABV and The Hideout at Dalva, partner at Tin Roof Drink Community

"If it's listed as an ingredient, then I want to be able to taste it. Too often, these overly complex drinks just taste like a muddied mess."

Dying trend: Fernet

John Codd, bar director at Gaspar

"What happened to Fernet? It's no longer the industry cheeky [shot]. It used to be Fernet, and now we're doing cheekys of mezcal, and gin is going to be big next."

Dying trend: Housemade ingredients

Matt Grippo, bar manager at Black Bird

"Of course people are still making things in house, but I feel that with a new simplistic approach to cocktails and menus, people are doing less or at least not saying they are making everything on a menu. Maybe we all realized that someone else can probably make it better and they sell it."

Dying trend: Stodgy classic cocktails

Morgan Schick, creative director at Bon Vivants

"I am loving this trend moving away from stodgy, very serious, classic cocktails, which everyone knows how to make and still likes and is still delicious. But you see a lot more people playing with the bad cocktails, like the artisanal Long Island Ice Tea, which is generally part of the trend of making it fun, which I'm very happy about. The resurrection of bad things and making them good is the new trend. It's all the stuff we remember drinking back when we were sneaking into bars."

Dying trend: Speakeasies

Randy Mariani, bar manager at Oro

"I think the speakeasy trend is slowly dying, only to return next decade. It's the natural progression in order for people to become more creative with their ideas and cocktails. People reach into the past to find inspiration. I wouldn't call dying trends a bad thing. It's clearing room for something new and exciting. Eventually that trend will return when someone rediscovers it and develops it into something that fits in with modern style."

Which leads us to...

New trend: Sotol

Brian Martinez, lead bartender at DOSA Valencia

"It's a Mexican spirit, like a tequila. People are finding fun, new spirits on the market like this that weren't available 10 years ago."

New trend: Clear, hand-cut ice

Nick Jones, bartender at PABU

"You see bars and restaurants taking the time to buy ice or use expensive machines to make clear ice. It's not totally a new thing, but it is definitely becoming more of the norm. Clear ice can really add to the aesthetic of a good cocktail and can give the guest that extra ‘wow' factor."

New trend: Vermouths, Amari and Sherries on the rocks

Suzie Robinson, bartender at Novela

"Vermouths, amaros, and sherries have been making huge comebacks as mixers within the last year or two. But I am the kind of person who drinks amaros and these spirits on the rocks. Two years ago, they said no, we can't do it. No one is going to drink it. But now people are into them, and there is a nice selection of aperitifs, too."

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