• Drink Trends to Pour Over This Year

    FROM THE Spring 2017 ISSUE


Never before have we seen so many talented bartenders and mixologists at the helm of our state’s bars and restaurants. It doesn’t matter if you’re a cocktail aficionado or just a social drink – there’s no doubt that you have witnessed emerging trends every time you step out to order a drink. 

As in most industries, it’s important to not only stay ahead of the curve, but to stay relevant and evolve in a fast-paced world. With drinks in particular, innovations emerge almost every day, and bartenders are not just bartenders anymore. They are being tagged as mixologists, baristas, sommeliers and even “chefs.

From pisco cocktails to the whiskey resurgence, the explosion of newly invented cocktails and upgrading of the classics are everywhere. Here’s what will be hitting the bar scene next:

Peruvian Pisco Cocktails

In the spirit of Peru, pisco craft cocktails have caught the eye of bartenders and drinkers alike. Known for their traditions, history and beauty, Peruvians are passionate about pisco (a clear liquid distilled from various styles of grapes—similar to brandy). There are different varietals of grapes used in the production of pisco, such as quebranta, mollar, negro corriente, uvina, italia, moscatel, torontel and albillo. They can only be distilled once in copper pot stills, which means you can’t add any sugar, water or any other additives. This makes pisco truly unique in a world where most liquors have been diluted before consumption.

Originating from Pisco, a small town in Peru, it stands for camaraderie and is meant to be savored with friends. The good news is we can find pisco cocktails right here in New Jersey! Mixologist Rob Floyd, a Moorestown native known as the “Liquid Chef,” is celebrated for his ability to create luxury cocktails that are both accessible and inspiring. Seen in the hit show “Bar Rescue” (season 5), among other high-profile consulting gigs, Floyd knows a thing or two about trending cocktails and pisco in particular. “Pisco is making a comeback because technology has increased culinary awareness across the board,” he says. “People see photos of cocktails they’ve never had, liquors they’ve never tried and they either go out and order it or want to make it at home. That exposure has created something of a cocktail revolution, in my opinion, with drinkers that are not only more educated about the possibilities, but are more willing to try it than ever before.”

He goes on to say, “[Pisco] is definitely on an upward swing, though that isn’t the first time in our domestic drinking culture. Outside of being a Gold Rush favorite, it was pretty popular on the West Coast in the mid-19th century too.”

The most popular pisco cocktail you will find is the Pisco Sour. The basic fundamentals that make up this cocktail include pisco, simple syrup, very tart lime juice, egg white and Angostura bitters. It’s viewed as a South American classic, but will soon be popping up on menus across the state (that’s if you haven’t seen this one listed on menus already).

The most popular pisco cocktail you will find is the Pisco Sour. The basic fundamentals that make up this cocktail include pisco, simple syrup, very tart lime juice, egg white and Angostura bitters. It’s viewed as a South American classic, but will soon be popping up on menus across the state (that’s if you haven’t seen this one listed on menus already).

The basic fundamentals that make up this cocktail include:

Mezcal Takeover

Tequila has always been the go-to when it comes to spirits native to Mexico. More recently, though, tequila has taken a backseat to mezcal—a distilled alcohol also made from agave plants. While all tequilas are mezcals, there are quite a few differences. For one, mezcal can be made with over 30 different varieties of agave, while tequila is only made from Blue Weber agave. 

Mezcal generally has a smokey characteristic to it that will carry on into the final distillate. Mezcal is also primarily known for the agave “worm” that sits at the bottom of the bottle (which is actually insect larvae) and mainly used as a marketing ploy to boost sales. Even so, mezcal has become an essential ingredient when it comes to Mexicanstyle cocktails. 

Barrio Costero (translating to “coastal neighborhood”), a restaurant and bar in Asbury Park on popular Bangs Avenue, creates inspired cuisine and refreshing drinks. Jamie Dodge, director of libations, is at the forefront of mixing up some of the restaurant’s most sought-after cocktails using mezcal. He says, “Mezcal can be the focus of a cocktail, or it can be used in small amounts to create a smoky edge. It is truly a unique spirit—no one is like the other.” 

Still, a majority of patrons are well versed in tequilas but not necessarily mezcals. “Many people that come into Barrio Costero do not know what mezcal is,” Dodge says. “It’s our job to educate them. It’s definitely an up-and-coming spirit in the cocktail world, and you’re starting to see it more often in bars, which I’m definitely excited about. We have over 30 mezcals and 30 tequilas. Guests who know mezcal are always nicely surprised when they see our backbar full of the good stuff.”

The most popular cocktail at Barrio Costero is the “Jalisco is Burning,” which includes both mezcal and tequila. It’s a combination of blanco tequila, mezcal, chipotle and fresh lime, served on the rocks with a chipotle salt rim. “It’s one of two cocktails which will remain a mainstay on our rotating cocktail list,” Dodge says. “People come in craving it—it’s fantastic. It’s great to provide that feeling: spicy, smoky, citrusy goodness.” 

Tequila is taking a backseat to mezcal with lots of creative concoctions. Asbury Park’s Barrio Costero’s “Jalisco is Burning” contains blanco tequila, mezcal, chipotle and fresh lime.

Whiskey Resurgence

Whiskey (or whisky, the spelling mainly used by the Scots), is today’s comeback kid. Some say this is due in part to the vodka industry casually fading, but it is also attributed to the fact that bartenders and consumers have an absolute fascination with whiskey right now. Beau Keegan, bar manager and wine director at Trama’s Trattoria in Long Branch, recently traveled to restaurants and bars in the country as well as attended a Bourbon Camp in Kentucky to test out and see what has been happening behind the bars and at the distilleries. He came back from his trip truly inspired and with even more appreciation for whiskey. “The resurgence of whiskey in America is fantastic,” he says. “On my fall menu, I have my own variations of three classic whiskey drinks.” One of those drinks is a play on a Manhattan called Maple & Oak. He explains it as “forgoing sweet vermouth and uses ruby port and nontraditionally has the edge of bourbon barrel-aged maple syrup, spiced chocolate bitters and preserved lemon to give it a full mouth feel and a level of umami that isn’t typically represented in a straightforward Manhattan.”

Consumers’ heightened interest in new whiskey styles, special releases and experimentation have made their mark and will continue its innovation. Keegan says, “I encourage bartenders and consumers to visit various bars. Trust the bartender’s skills; it’s like a culinary experience—everyone mixes a drink differently.” And the same goes for whiskey—you can have it neat, straight up or as a cocktail, like the Manhattan, and be given a different experience every time.”

Try a variation on a classic cocktail, such as Beau Keegan’s play on a Manhattan, Maple & Oak. He uses ruby port instead of sweet vermouth.  

Classic Cocktails Upgraded 

Circling back to the classic cocktails like the Old Fashioned, it has its name for a reason. It’s old, dating back to the 1800s. To dig deeper, a classic Old Fashioned is made by muddling sugar with bitters and whiskey (the most common alcohol choice) and a twist of citrus rind and sometimes a cherry for garnish. With the popularity of the “Mad Men” TV series a few years back, the Old Fashioned, Manhattans, martinis, gimlets and sidecars all gained a newfound love. Now that the series is over, are classic cocktails here to stay? Yes, but not without an upgrade. 

Take the Cosmopolitan, for instance. It’s a classic most people know. Bobby Jacques, bartender at Bar Americana in Cranford, touts the Cosmo as one of Bar Americana’s most popular drinks. “You can’t go wrong with the original, however, with all the new types of liquors and cordials out there, you can definitely put your own twist on it, like our Passionfruit Cosmo,” he says. “When kids grow up hearing their parents ordering them, it’s only natural for them to want to try them out when they are of age.”

To some bartenders, the shift or upgrade is due to technique and not so much the ingredients themselves. Jeremy Fischer, bartender at The Frog and The Peach in New Brunswick, says, “I think that modernization occurs through technique rather than ingredients. For instance, shrubs (a basic fruit and vinegar mixture that dates back to the 16th century) have become popular in drinks again. So, working with the kitchen, we made cranberry shrub in the sous-vide style (cooking the cranberries with vinegar, sugar and herbs in a water bath in a vacuum-sealed bag). It created a more intense and flavorful shrub, as the vacuum sealing and gentler cooking made something that cooking on the stove couldn’t really replicate.”

Minor ingredient substitutions or additions will definitely make a difference, but if you want to get a little more daring, order the Gin for Gloria at Trama’s Trattoria. A riff on a traditional gin and tonic and named after bar manager and wine director Keegan’s grandmother, this gin drink uses Tanqueray No. 10 (Gloria’s favorite) gin and two products from influential industry giants, Tomr’s Tonic and Regan’s Orange Bitters No. 6, with the addition of Keegan’s tangerine, sage and white balsamic shrub. Keegan adds, “The best variants on classics are the ones that mean something to you. Always play, explore and never be afraid to fail. My grandma instilled that in me and I bring that mantra into everything I do.”

This must mean the old adage is true, “What’s old is new again.” Take it from Floyd, who says, “Classic cocktails are always in style for the same reason that you never get tired of listening to Louis Armstrong. When done right, art transcends time, period. And the classic cocktails are classic for a reason: They are art in a glass. They’re also very accessible, they’re easy to make and there’s something really beautiful about that simplicity.” 

October is the month of fall color viewing, pumpkin picking, and pizza. Yes, October is National Pizza Month, and if you’re looking to commemorate the occasion, head to New Jersey.

Others may disagree—let’s make that, others will certainly disagree—but last year Food & Wine Magazine named New Jersey the best pizza state in America, followed by Connecticut and New York in the No. 2 and No. 3 spots, respectively. Pennsylvania landed in seventh place and Massachusetts nabbed 10th place. 


Because many of our colleagues are caffeinated enough during these stressful months, why not gift them a gentler, kinder holiday beverage? Tea Forté, a company based in Maynard, MA, offers handcrafted tea blends that are served at some of the finest hotels across the U.S. and Canada. Their Warming Joy 2021 holiday collection features a combination of black, green and herbal teas, including seasonal favorites like raspberry ganache, sweet orange spice, cherry marzipan, harvest apple spice and winter chai.


Chances are, you won’t know you’re living through history until it’s too late. It’s already happening. A chain reaction has been set in motion and the ground has begun to slide beneath your feet.

This past year has been a whirlwind to say the least. As a global pandemic sent the world reeling, planners were left grasping for footholds as the event industry was brought to a standstill, and many of the most fundamental elements of live meetings and events were cast in a new light.