Five drinks trends to watch in 2024

From sake to still English wine, we look at the big drinks trends for 2024 across the wine, spirits and no-and-low categories

Words by William Morris

Chapel Down
A vineyard at Chapel Down in Kent, where they produce still Chardonnay

Whether it’s celebrity-backed drinks, like Emma Watson’s gin, food-inspired cocktails, the revival of ‘forgotten’ spirits such as Calvados or the rise of modern rye whisky, each year we witness the arrival of new drinks trends and the wax or wane of existing ones.

At the start of the new year, we spoke to experts to get the lowdown on what they predict will be the big drinks trends in 2024. It will surprise few readers to learn that sales of agave-based spirits show no sign of slowing this year, particularly as more drinkers discover mezcal and other agave-derived alternatives to Tequila, and don’t expect to see clarified cocktails disappearing from drinks menus either. Sustainability as an issue of consumer concern is going nowhere, so there will be an increasing number of wines sold in lighter glass bottles, paper bottles or boxes, amongst a range of other innovations.

Beyond these broader themes, what look set to be the big drinks trends for 2024? We picked out five highlighted by industry experts in the spirits, wine and no-and-low categories.

Five drinks trends in 2024

1. Getting serious about sake

‘The popularity of sake will continue’ says Sam Phillips, commercial manager for spirits at Berry Bros. & Rudd, who noted that the merchant sold more sake en primeur in one week of May 2023 than the whole of the previous year – a testament to the increasing interest in the Japanese rice wine. High-profile figures like Richard Geoffroy, a former chef de cave at Dom Perignon, founding sake brands in Japan has helped to bring international attention to the category but it’s the quality of the wine itself that is the primary driver. Expect to see more sake on wine lists and pairing menus in restaurants in 2024.

2. Whisky goes global

Japan and the US are already major players in the whisky industry and have helped to broaden the category beyond Scotland but Phillips believes there will be an explosion in whiskies from around the rest of the world this year: ‘The exploration into ‘world’ whiskies has already begun among the category’s more curious imbibers, who have been seeking out expressions from England, Wales, Australia, New Zealand and Scandinavia for some time now. Finland and Denmark are making some fabulous liquid at small distilleries like Kyrö and Stauning.’ Staff at The Whisky Exchange are of the same mind, promising to ‘delve into surprising places’ in 2024: ‘French whisky, New Zealand and Nordic whiskies, in particular, are gaining popularity, offering consumers exciting alternatives to expand their whisky horizons.’

3. English wine beyond the bubbles

As Henry Jeffreys wrote for Club Oenologique back in summer last year, the English wine industry is moving beyond fizz to take advantage of favourable climatic conditions, improved winemaking and ideal soils to make still wines, most notably from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. These wines are already being talked about as potential rivals to those of Margaret River and Sonoma in the not-too-distant future. ‘The quality of still wine coming out from more and more [English] producers is really, really interesting,’ said Richard Siddle, editor-in-chief of The Buyer, to David Kermode in an episode of The Drinking Hour podcast on trends for 2024. Their quality aside, he also pointed out the role still wines will play in offering customers less expensive alternatives to the country’s more established sparkling wines. ‘Having more English wine at more palatable and accessible pricing can only be good for England.’ As ever, ultimately it’s how much consumers enjoy the wines that will drive interest this year. ‘It’s incredibly exciting,’ says Siddle. ‘I think if we chat in a year’s time, there will be a lot of great stories in English still wine.’

4. Wine with a story

The way the pandemic has changed our drinking habits and relationships with alcohol has been striking. Combine the desire to consume less alcohol in the form of better quality drinks with inflationary pressures, and you have a slowdown in sales driven by increasingly selective, cautious customers. ‘The result,’ says Corentin Margier, buying and partner director at Fine + Rare, ‘and something we anticipate continuing in 2024, is an increasingly polarised market.’ He expects collectors to continue ‘playing it safe, being super selective with the wines, labels and brands that they trust’ and others to be judicious by insisting on ‘a combination of [competitive] price, critical acclaim, story and personal recommendation’ in order to buy wines. Margier believes the extra time many enthusiasts were afforded during the pandemic to explore the wine world has made them ‘increasingly savvy’. In 2024, people will be ‘looking for authentic products that will tick as many boxes as possible’ for their money. Expect to see producers and retailers place even more emphasis on the provenance, heritage and stories behind their wines in response.

5. A drop of honey

Laura Willoughby, founder of the mindful drinking site, Club Soda, believes 2024 will be ‘a big year’ for low and no wines, which as a category has generally lagged behind the developments made in no and low alternatives to alcoholic beer and spirits. ‘Noughty, Zeno and Moderato have all raised the bar and are seeing more and more restaurant listings.’ Willoughby expects honey wines in particular to become more widely drunk this year. ‘With consumer interest in the environment and in honey as an ingredient, we will also see honey wine brands like Bemuse becoming a versatile fixture on food and cocktail menus.’