Three cocktail trends we’ll start seeing more of in 2018 according to James Irvine

James Irvine won’t need an introduce to those deep in Sydney’s cocktail scene, but for the uninitiated: he’s the beverage director for the Swillhouse Group, which own and operate some of the city’s most well known restaurants and bars including Hubert and The Baxter Inn. Who better to ask about the ever-changing world of cocktails?

We caught up with Irvine recently for a brief chat about the drink trends we will undoubtedly be seeing more of as they continue to evolve and lift Australia’s world-class cocktail scene. The following are three noticeable changes in the way bartenders across not only Sydney but the entire country are coming up with new and exciting concoctions for their patrons.

1. Low/No ABV

“Bartenders and consumers alike are looking for balance in flavour, aroma and presentation the same way that they would for food consumption”, says Irvine about the increasing visibility of cocktails with either lower alcoholic content or non at all. No longer will we have to settle for boring mocktails.

2. Spritz

“The spritz category is flying its flag high, which caters to an aperitivo hour market, pairing drinks with food and most importantly not becoming overly intoxicated”, explains Irvine when speaking on the skyrocketing popularity of spritz in just about every bar, festival and major event across the country. When more knowledge about food and cocktail pairing spread, it’s likely we’ll see spritz take front and centre on more menus across restaurants and bars.

3. Local/Native Australian Produce

“Whether it be an array of citrus, nuts and even indigenous ingredients, the appreciation and use of these iconic Australian components is inspiring bartenders around the country”. James seems to be right on the money here, with more and more drinks lists highlighting the diversity and unique profiles that native Australian ingredients can add to cocktails. The move towards native ingredients has already been embedded in major dining scenes across the country, so this one’s pretty much a given.

Sydneysiders have a huge indigenous produce showcase coming up at the next Carriageworks’ Night Market. More information on that can be found HERE.

Irvine will compete alongside Brisbane’s Zach Underwood-Mynott and Adelaide’s Vini Wang on February 12th for the chance to represent Australia at the fifth chapter of the BACARDÍ Legacy Global Cocktail Competition in Mexico City later this year. These three bartenders were chosen from hundreds of entries from around Australia, and each will have to present a drink to a panel of expert judges at the Eternity Playhouse in Darlinghurst, Sydney. The winner will be announced via Facebook live on the night, so for those who are interested make sure you’re following

James’ special cocktail, the Bocado, has been built with the following ingredients (with supplied descriptions).

BACARDÍ Gran Reserva Ocho Años rum acts as the backbone for this legacy. The family reserved rum for 130 years, brings a flavour profile of cooked Caribbean fruit, spice and a slight vegetal, savoury note.

Plantain, the starchy member of the banana family, synonymous to Cuban and Caribbean cooking is replicated through the use of De Kuyper Crème de Bananes. Providing a baked tropical fruit flavour and aroma.

Noilly Prat Original Dry is a combination of aged dry white wines, exclusively from the Marsellan area. The wines are blended with botanicals including Roman chamomile, French gentian, Tunisian orange and Indonesian nutmeg.

Palo Corato is known as the ‘Rebel Wine’ of the sherry world. All wines destined to become a fino or manzanilla are markes with a 'palo', represented with a slash. Over time the wine will break through it’s natural protective yeast barrier known as a ‘flor’, becoming more fuller (more gordo) at this point the wine has chosen it’s own path.

As the only homemade ingredient in the recipe, Rosemary oil as a garnish, provides and extra layer of texture, body and mouthfeel, all with a hint of savouryness synonymous to Cuba (and the world).


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Chris Singh

Chris Singh is an Editor-At-Large at the AU review, loves writing about travel and hospitality, and is partial to a perfectly textured octopus. You can reach him on Instagram: @chrisdsingh.