American chefs provide insights into restaurant alcohol trends for 2009

Posted by Isobel Drake on 23rd December 2008

Alcohol is an important part of the culinary arts and experience, and new research from America’s National Restaurant Association reveals which alcohol trends will be the hottest on restaurant menus in 2009.

A survey of more than 1,600 professional chefs – American Culinary Federation members – ranked micro-distilled/artisan liquor, culinary cocktails and organic wine in the top 20 culinary trends. Also high on the list of trends for the coming year are food-alcohol pairings, craft beer, specialty beer, organic cocktails, muddled cocktails and wine or beer flights.

“As (consumers) are growing more and more interested in the culinary arts and the ‘foodie’ movement, that interest and sophistication is also extending to alcohol and cocktails,” said Dawn Sweeney, President and CEO of the Association. “According to our chef survey, mixologists will be taking on leading roles in the coming year and, much like chefs in the kitchen, showcase their creativity behind the bar. In addition, chefs will continue to highlight various types of alcohol in their recipes and to complement their culinary creations through pairings and samplers.”

“Culinarians, mixologists and other restaurant and hospitality industry professionals will be able to explore these trends, learn from noted experts and browse hundreds of beverage alcohol brands and labels at the 2009 International Wine, Spirits & Beer Event next spring,” Ms Sweeney added.

“Pairing cocktails and wines is all about complementing your food, and as chefs, we need to know what will work best with the dishes we serve,” commented ACF National President, John Kinsella, CMC, CCE, WGMC, AAC. “In 2009, we are also looking at pairings with specialty beers, organic cocktails and signature drinks. In addition, American diners have become wine smart and are always looking for great, inexpensive wines to complement their dining experience. During this economic downswing, the restaurateur will have to find innovative ways to keep costs in line by purchasing great wines at the right price point.”

In October 2008, the Association surveyed 1,609 American Culinary Federation member chefs, asking them to rate 208 individual food/beverage items, preparation methods and culinary themes as a “hot trend,” “yesterday’s news,” or “perennial favorite” on restaurant menus in 2009.

The culinary cocktail is an emerging concept that will become more visible on restaurant menus in 2009, with professional bartenders approaching drink-making as a chef does a food recipe. These cocktails, which are often signature drinks, are made using a wider variety of ingredients and more precise techniques than simpler concoctions. They often contain savoury ingredients and items previously only used in kitchens, and tailor flavors to complement specific food items or dishes.

The chefs surveyed were also asked what the hottest beverage alcohol trend in restaurants will be in 2009. Thirty-three per cent said mixologists and signature cocktails will be the number-one trend. Twenty-six per cent believe functional cocktails will be the most popular, (e.g., cocktails created with health and nutrition aspects in mind, such as using superfruits, full servings of vegetables, etc.). Another 23 per cent said food-alcohol pairings will rule the alcohol scene next year.

For full results from the “Chef Survey: What’s Hot in 2009,” please visit: