At the recent Texas Restaurant Association (TRA) Convention, experts in the bar industry detailed current trends they are observing and how they are expanding to Texas bars. While the craft beer industry has been on the rise for a number of years, artisan whiskeys, absinthes and other long forgotten drinks are making a comeback. These drinks are taking on the distinction of America, being handmade, individually batched, and using locally sourced ingredients from your own backyard. The drinks that stem from these older liquors are taking on the same identity – showing the time, care, and effort of the bartenders making them.

Bartenders are mixing their own simple syrups, using fresh garnishes, and adding flair to drinks once considered mundane. Let us look at the Old Fashioned. A relatively simple drink, containing rye whiskey or bourbon, simple syrup, bitters, water, and garnishes served over ice. What was once a simple drink, the Old Fashioned has taken on subtle nuances allowing for a well-rounded and satisfying drink from start to finish.

The “new” Old Fashioned drinks are given extra care, with local rye whiskey or bourbon, handmade simple syrup, and specialty bitters. The garnishes are cut for show, with the orange peel being squeezed and slightly burned to release the essential oils. Cherries are no longer maraschino, but organic. Even the ice can be handmade in a ball or cube, allowing a slower dilution of your drink.

With people willing to spend more to get more, cocktails are evolving to accommodate individuals willing to spend upwards of $10 to $15 for a drink. Customers get more flavor and fun from their drink, bartenders get more experience, and restaurants benefit all around. With ever evolving trends of cocktails and liquors, bartenders and restaurants will need to keep up in order to stay competitive and continually bring in customers.