Cocktail fans turn to hot toddies, tipplers sip warm brown whiskies and wine drinkers often put away the rosé in favor of something deep and red to keep the winter chill at bay. It may be meyer lemon season and time for light aperitifs on the west coast, but in colder climates cocktail fans seek out beverages to warm them up inside and out.

“They’re going for a lot of the same things that they’ve been going for for a while, a lot of bourbon and whiskey, but they’re getting a lot more creative this winter,” said Adrian Watson, owner of mobile bartending service VIP Mixologists.

Aged rums are growing in popularity as people get more adventurous, he said, and hot eggnogs, ciders and exotic liqueurs in flavors like pomegranate are pleasing more palates. One new specialty for VIP, which serves cocktails made with fresh, organic ingredients, is a hot cider made with fresh apples, cinnamon and aged rum, and another is a chai tea spiked with bourbon and cinnamon. (read more…)

Consumers may mark the passing of 2014 with a midnight glass of bubbly, but odds are they’ll begin and end the evening with cocktails boasting a burst of cinnamon, a dash of ginger or a hint of mint. Flavored spirits grew more popular this year, and the trend is set to continue growing in 2015 with the rise of more artisan and small-batch products.

Cinnamon has been a particularly popular flavor for whiskey and other spirits this year, but ginger has been on the rise and next year is likely to bring even more ginger-flavored spirits and ready-to-drink cocktails.

“It fits in well with that savory-sweet spice trend, so if you’re going to mix it in anything else, it will provide those notes to the finished product,” said Kirsten Wemer, lab manager at Flavorman in Louisville, Ky. Her company works with clients to create new beverage recipes. “Ginger is the next cinnamon.”

Flavored spirits have been around since the 1980s and preferences are cyclical, but often when perennial favorites come back around they come with new twists, Wemer said. (read more…)

As more consumers seek out craft beverages and premium drinks, many restaurants and retailers are taking their own beverage programs to the next level in order to set themselves apart. Now you’ll find artisan juice flights, tableside cocktail service, even coffee shops roasting beans to individual customer specifications. And while these unique beverage options certainly earn press and attention, they also speak to overall industry trends like customization and the integration of technology with the dining experience.

Many restaurateurs, for instance, are looking to the premium experience associated with wine — dedicated wine menus, sommeliers, tasting portions, etc. — and translating that experience to beer, craft sodas, etc. At Chicago’s Coppervine, every dish is menued with beer and cocktail pairing suggestions in addition to the wine suggestion, and servers are trained to note how each beverage complements the dish in different ways. Other gastropubs, brewpubs, and high-end restaurants have a certified cicerone (pronounced “sis-uh-rohn”), or beer sommelier, on hand in order to explain flavor notes and help customers choose the right beer pairing. (read more…)

Wine has traditionally been a pleasure to be shared, from bottles sipped over an intimate dinner to tastings and clubs that bring out the crowd. Now, with the rise of digital technology and social media, the crowd isn’t limited to just consuming, or even a specific region, and wineries are starting to use crowdsourced investments, opinions and winemaking to build brand awareness and get consumers involved.

Two big players reinventing the wheel through crowdsourcing wine efforts include Naked Wines and Tesco.

Naked Wines, an online wine retailer that debuted in 2008, has been making headlines with steadily increasing profits, reporting record sales of nearly $8.6 million each month as of this summer. The company crowdsources members who invest approximately $30 per month in a wine producer and are then able to purchase the wines at wholesale prices. Growing to approximately 220,000 members from the U.K., Australia and the U.S., Naked Wines was shipping more than 25,000 bottles of wine to its members every day, reported a story published by The Telegraph this summer. Naked Wines has said it expects continued sales growth in 2014. (read more…)

Changing state laws around the country have fueled a rise in craft distilleries in the past decade or so, and their artisan experiments are fueling the latest whiskey trends. The number of craft distilleries in the state of New York alone has grown to 50 since the state began cutting licensing fees in 2002, and there are 12 in the borough of Brooklyn alone, said Colin Spoelman, co-founder and master distiller at King’s County Distillery.

Spoelman grew up in Kentucky, the state that produces 95% of the world’s bourbon supply. He learned early on to make moonshine, which is basically bourbon before it’s aged, he said. When he moved north to Brooklyn, Spoelman set up a still in his apartment and started making the kind of moonshine whiskey he grew up with.

“Then I started getting very popular,” he said with a laugh. “So I looked into getting a license. (read more…)