Parmesan martinis to tomato twists: 2023 is the year of the savoury cocktail

Our tastes are changing. Bar orders that were once filled with sweet and fruity tipples are slowly being swapped out for their savoury counterparts.

It’s out with the sugar, and in the with umami.

Savoury cocktails are soaring in popularity this year – with the likes of parmesan, mushroom and tomato all working their way onto drinks menus and into our beloved cocktails.

And bartender, beverage consultant and author of The Tipsy Traveler, Tyler Zielinkski, thinks it’s high-time we give them a chance.

‘Usually when it comes to cocktails, you get sweet, sour, bitter or spicy, but with savoury (umami) it’s a flavour you don’t see as often – and it can be perceived as off-putting or disgusting. But when it’s executed in a clever way, it can be delicious,’ Tyler tells Metro.

‘I think right now savoury cocktails – or culinary drink cocktails in general – are popular because bartenders are becoming increasingly more culinary-savvy and looking for the next thing.’

But before you grimace or raise your eyebrows, Tyler reminds us that we are already familiar with savoury foods in cocktails – just look at the humble Bloody Mary.

He continues: ‘Everyone has been familiar with a Bloody Mary or a Red Snapper, which have the spicy tomato ingredient and they’ve been popular for a long time, but I think these savoury cocktails are going – generally speaking – from bigger and muckier to a bit more elegant, minimalist and refined.

‘So now, for example, we are seeing tomato or cheese that’s been infused or redistilled into a spirit.’

Tyler says savoury beverages also add an approachable element to the cocktail scene – by including ingredients people are familiar with.

He adds: ‘When you have savoury cocktails that are so food-driven, many will read them as ingredients that they know – instead of an obscure liqueur or spirit. Now, diners are reading mushroom, cheese or tomato on a drinks menu – ingredients they’ve had in other dishes that are manipulated into liquid form – and I think that is enough to pique peoples’ interest.’

The parmesan espresso martini is the perfect example of a savoury cocktail that tantilised tastebuds earlier this year. But Tyler says the trend is more than just shaving parmesan on top of a popular tipple.

He adds: ‘The more cutting-edge bars are manipulating these food ingredients into ways that are approachable for the consumer. They’re not just blending some mushrooms with sugar and water and creating a mushroom syrup, they might be creating a “mushroom garum” which is this complex fermented competent, so it adds a little intrigue.

‘It’s not so basic – it’s a little more refined. I think that’s the way cocktail culture is going.’

And you’ll already find these drinks on menus.

Tyler says he’s enjoyed drinks at Little Mercies in Crouch End, where the team play with mushroom garum, as well as an olive oil and tomato cocktail at Equal Parts in Hackney and beetroot martinis in Oslo.

Likewise, London hotel Park Chinois has mushroom cocktails currently on the menu, like its porcini old fashioned.

Makis Kazakis, the bar manager at the venue, says: ‘It’s an ingredient that hasn’t been explored in all its glory and we’re very excited to build a cocktail menu around this tasty ingredient, in search of the umami flavour, to supersede our truffle cocktail.

‘We have had some guests surprised at the use of porcini, however they’ve been quick to praise, which has been lovely to see.’

And further afield, the World’s 50 Best Bars list is more evidence of the trend. The top spot, Barcelona’s Paradiso, offers fermentation-focussed drinks like On Fire: a smoky bourbon cocktail with tahini, sweet potato and smoked milk – as well as Cronos, inspired by tequila, mushrooms, and spicy corn.

But is it just a fad? Not according to Tyler.

He thinks the savoury cocktail is a trend that’s here to stay.

Tyler adds: ‘I think the way in which they are delivered and executed may evolve over time – but a lot of these ingredients will be in the cocktail canon for the foreseeable future.’

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