My lead-up to the Christmas period involved a long road trip up the spine of the United Kingdom, a tour of duty to visit relatives from the Cotswoldsto the Cairngorms. Despite knowing the drive well, I still rely heavily on the use of SatNav to alert me to any twists and turns ahead in the road. Yet my rearview mirror is equally important: you need to know where you’ve been, as well as where you are going.
When considering what lies ahead in the world of drink, I find myself applying the same logic. After all, beers, wines and spirits have been around longer than records allow. It is a path well travelled. No matter how well you know this path, there are always surprises in store – but a quick look at what’s been before can do wonders to inform what might be coming up ahead.
For example, this last year has seen a big change in the world of cocktails, with at-home mixology becoming a major focus for many. The pause button has hit hospitality venues across the globe on a number of occasions, yet people are still thirsty for good cocktails and learning to make them at home has given everyone a greater understanding of the complexity behind some of these seemingly simple classics.
Even wine writers and chefs have been jumping on the home cocktail wagon: Jamie Oliver’s latest book ‘Together’ features a whole chapter on cocktails, while grape-based scribe ‘Jolly’ Olly Smith’s new book, ‘Home Cocktail Bible’ showcases 200 concoctions to be made in the comfort of your own kitchen. Smith’s list of essential kit for a home bar does include a corkscrew, but no mention of a measuring jigger – proof that home mixology still has some way to go in terms of the basics. But certainly expect more experimentation with libations when visiting others at home, and a doubling down on the absolute classics in some of the world’s best bars.
My big prediction for 2022 is the sharing of knowledge
When it comes to bottlings, ‘bespoke’ will be the watchword of 2022. The Holyrood distillery in Edinburgh has already started offering the chance to create a whisky from scratch, beginning with the barley and yeast varieties and working your way up to the distillation style and method of cask maturation. If you’re a little impatient and want a whisky with a curated element minus the wait, look no further than boutique blending house Compass Box and its ‘Canvas’ edition. A blended malt that combines whisky from the Tomatin, Glenburgie, Glen Elgin, and the closed Imperial distilleries, the label features a frame that can be filled with a design of your choosing. For the year ahead, expect to see even more bespoke editions across the spirit categories.
Gin has, of course, been on a continiuing ascent for some time – and there is still big love for the spirit from many quarters. One of the pleasures of the gin craze over the last few years has been the possibility to explore different expressions from around the world, discovering the potential for capturing local flavours in a bottle. Travelling around the UK especially, gin has almost become like real ale. When you find yourself in a local pub, you can always try the local gin. And with so many of the cocktails we are learning to make at home being gin-based, I can only see the drink’s reach expanding further still. This year, I anticipate a mixology focus for the spirit, with home cocktail cabinets increasingly featuring gins for different occasions: the Negroni gin; the Martini gin; the G&T gin…
But please, please can we leave behind the juggernaut that is the novelty gin bottle. Light-up gins featuring gold flecks in the liquid have no place in my cupboard. My advice remains to keep it simple, keep it tasty and keep it London Dry.
Finally, my big prediction for 2022 is the sharing of knowledge. Over the past few years we have all learned more about drinks, often drinking less but drinking better. My hope is that as we emerge into a world where we put greater value on shared experiences, the home drinks cabinet will become a fulcrum for communion, a place not to escape to, but a point of inspiration with bottles opened, drinks shared and cocktails raised.
Yes, as we enter 2022, let’s keep an eye in the rearview mirror. But only to remember where we have come from. Where we are going to is far more important and exciting.
What Joel has been drinking…
- It has been a surprisingly mild winter where I live, with temperatures nowhere near the usual freezing. In fact, so mild has it been that I’ve found my Christmas cocktail of choice has been the Gimlet (gin and lime cordial). I’ve pepped up this summer classic with a hint of heat courtesy of a dash of The King’s Ginger liqueur. Try it, even when the temperature drops.
- With temperatures set to plummet in January, however, I’m evoking the spirit of the slopes with one of my favourite new product discoveries of the last year, Stambecco. What is it? Simply, it is a jammy, yet spicy amaro liqueur built around the core flavour of Maraschino cherries. Perfect in a sour or simply sipped over ice, it will put you in the après ski mindset, no matter how flat your January feels.
- Due to the bumper number of Bank Holidays we have seen in the UK in December 2021 (and wait for a load more in 2022, thanks to the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee), I’ve had time to work through a pile of reading, mostly on the subject of booze. I found my companion while perusing various publications was a lovely glass of Frapin XO Chateau de Fontpinot Grande Champagne Cognac which, as an easygoing yet utterly falvoursome pour, paired excellently with a blazing wood burner and a good book.