The world of cocktails has changed. No longer seen purely as pre-dinner options, a cocktail or two is now the drink of choice for many diners throughout their meal. Offered a wine list, they’ll say no because wine is not their thing. It’s all about the drinks list now – and mostly about cocktails.

There are more trends in the cocktail world than you can shake a swizzle stick at and, increasingly, they align with dining. With Australian food so firmly in its coastal period, we’ve seen the rise of gins infused with oyster shells and native daisies, and salty “Mediterranean” tonic waters. The popularity of Japanese izakayas has pushed our understanding of sake, appreciation of whisky, and
love of a yuzu highball.

The proliferation of both grand brasseries and high-end steakhouses means the martini is back but, this time, as a fully designed martini service. It’s glamorous, nostalgic and freezing cold, delivered either by trolley or tray at The Charles and The Sanderson in Sydney, or nestled in an ice-filled crystal bowl at The Everleigh in Melbourne.

One of the biggest disruptors to the drinking sector has been the rise of the mocktail, now often listed as No ‘n’ Low or NoLo to liberate it from being seen as a lesser imitation. Spirit-free spirits from brands such as Lyre’s bring complexity and flavour to zero-proof cocktails. Hence the “NOgroni”, the “NOjito” and the “Smartini”. You get all the fun, the botanicals and the skill and care of a good bartender with none of the alcohol. And without being singled out as not drinking.

Bars have embraced the no-alcohol movement because it reframes their venues as being more welcoming and inclusive. Restaurants love it, too, because it’s another way to be hospitable (and land some bar sales). Even rusted-on wine lovers embrace it. It’s not just the cocktails that need a good shake-up every now and then.



Written by Terry Durack in The Empty Plate: The cocktail trends popular with Australian diners (