For the past two years, innovation had been paramount for mixologists and alcohol brands. Cocktail kits brought the bar home, bottled mixers were launched and home-grown spirit brands introduced new gins, rums and whiskies. As a new year dawns—with Dry January to start it off—conscious consumption has set the tone. Environmental concerns, attention to health and better choices may define how you enjoy your drinks in 2022.

THE YEAR OF COCKTAILS: Yangdup Lama, co-founder of the award-winning Delhi bars Sidecar and Cocktails & Dreams, believes it’s going to be the year of cocktail bars and technique-forward drinks. “There are clarified cocktails and methods, such as roto vap, used to extract flavours, similar to the sous vide process for food,” he explains. 

THE SUSTAINABILITY TREND WILL PICK UP: “More and more bartenders will experiment with sustainable concepts to minimise waste,” says Lama. It will translate into cocktails with fewer ingredients, repurposing fruit and vegetable discards, replacing perishables such as fresh lime, mint and rosemary with cordials and syrups, and rethinking the use of ice.

Mumbai-based wine educator, consultant and master of wine Sonal Holland predicts organic wines too will gain popularity in 2022. Their availability currently is limited; she sees this changing as consumers seek them out specifically. “Luxury has been redefined. If wine has to appeal to a younger millennial and be relevant, it will have to also prove its sustainability credential,” she notes.

RISE OF SOBER DRINKS: In India, the past three years have seen an uptick in zero-proof or low-alcohol drinks that contain no or little alcohol but mimic the taste of cocktails, wine or a spirit. While Seedlip, a distilled non-alcoholic spirit from Britain modelled on gin and used to make cocktails, has been around for several years, Indian brands have been introducing no-alcohol drinks too. In October, a home-grown no-alcohol distilled spirit, Sober Gin, was launched. In 2020, Svami introduced packaged bottles of zero-proof gin and tonic, pink gin and tonic, and rum and cola.

“These are easy-to-grab products which don’t need an additional spirit (like a Seedlip),” explains Jatin Waingankar, brand ambassador, Svami Drinks. He predicts that more zero-alcohol products—which can be had on their own and used as mixers—will be launched in India in 2022 by Indian and global brands.

Holland is even expecting no- and low-alcohol wines from international players to enter the market—these can be game-changers if they are marketed properly. She believes these will make a splash at family events like weddings or Diwali, particularly among those who don’t drink but don’t wish to miss out on the social element of drinking together.

THE BOOM IN HOME CONSUMPTION: When bars and restaurants closed during the pandemic, cocktail-mixing moved to homes as people started experimenting with premium spirits, purchased barware and learnt skills to up their game. New home-grown brands like Bartisan, Otane and Bab Louie & Co. introduced mixers, dehydrated garnishes and bitters. Retailers rose to the occasion and opened experiential spaces; online sales of alcohol picked up. In Delhi, a luxury concept liquor store, Delhi Liquor Co., offers a bespoke alcohol shopping experience. In Mumbai, the e-commerce store Wine Park unveiled a wine experience space modelled like a cellar. Another Mumbai-based alcohol retailer, Living Liquidz, inaugurated a bar and restaurant alongside a luxury store to attract more customers.

Driven by growing home consumption, the on-ground retail space will continue to innovate in 2022, says Holland. “People have become sensitised to price points and will not pay for unreasonably priced drinks or wine in restaurants and bars. I feel restaurants will take note of this and will start to charge fair rates.”

Overall, the key takeaway trend for the year, as Holland says, may be to drink less but drink better.