In the nearly two decades that I have been working behind the stick and in the industry, I have seen many trends pop up, and disappear into the darkness. As beverage professionals we need to stay abreast of the upcoming trends so that we may better serve our clients and keep our offerings on the cutting edge of beverage innovation.

As we all know, gin and tonic has by far been the biggest trend up to now and continues to do relatively well despite the predictions that customers would grow tired of the trend. However, I have seen a decline in the clients requesting gin and tonics. The more that something grows in popularity, the more it becomes commercial and saturated and slowly loses the appeal that it burst onto the scene with. We have over 200 distilleries now in SA that are producing gin and the market is officially saturated. There is just not enough space behind the bar or on the local bottle store shelf to stock the full offering of gin locally and from abroad.

So, as with all other trends, gin is starting to dip and my prediction is that it will continue to drop throughout the year and will make room for the upcoming trends that I will introduce below. Having said this, as much as I believe that gin will decline in popularity, it has grown a strong fan base and will continue to show good sales despite the decline in popularity so don’t go and get rid of your gin offerings just yet. Let’s take a look at what’s on the cards for 2020:


I have seen a massive spike in interest in the cocktails that were popular in the 90s and early 2000s – the tall colourful, rum-laden tipples that we used to enjoy at places like News Café, Cantaloupe Alley and Rhapsody’s. Drinks like the Pangalactic Gargle Blaster, Strawberry Daiquiri, Pina Colada and Call me a Cab are delicious, quick to make and represent a powerful fashion statement when seen gracing your table! People are tired of taking drinks too seriously and want to start having fun with their drinks again. Sharing cocktails are also making a comeback so watch out for the Fish Bowl to start making an appearance on cocktail menus. Lastly, rum-based TIKI drinks are also making headway in this hot summer heat!

Tonic transformed

A new way to enjoy tonic this summer is making its rounds in Europe and American cocktail bars – tonic and espresso mixed with a neutral spirit such as vodka. The best way to enjoy this is with a regular tonic, single serving of vodka and layering a double pulled espresso on top, served in a tall glass with cubed ice and layered for extra effect. Try your hand at mixology by pairing herbs along with this mixture but beware of basil!

No more Smeagol effect

Social responsibility is on the rise with people increasingly against drinking and driving, as well as excessive drinking. As a result, mocktails and low-alcohol cocktails are gaining ground at the local watering holes. Single servings instead of doubles and using wines, champagnes and beers instead of spirits are some of the ways bartenders are innovating. The key is to create a cocktail that can be sipped and ordered again without causing a legless situation when standing! Mocktails are competing strongly against cocktails because the teetotallers still want to join the fun and enjoy “Out There” drinks without the narcotic effect! Non-alcoholic off-the-shelf drinks are also gaining in popularity. These include Castle Free and Heineken 0.00 in the beer segment, Savannah Lemon in the cider segment and JC Le Roux with their non-alcoholic sparkling wine.

Sugar is the devil

In case you’ve been sleeping for the last couple of years, sugar has seen huge pressure from the health department and related communities for the negative effects that it has on the human body. So much so that tax penalties have been added to try curb the consumption of sugar in SA. Apart from obesity, sugar is said to have links to diseases such as cancer, dementia and Alzheimer’s, to name a few. However, despite the need for sugar-free drinks, sugar is still a staple necessity in a well-balanced cocktail, so the key here is to use it for the purpose of balancing a drink only. Take your favourite classic recipes and tinker with them using less sugar until you achieve the magic level with minimal sugar, maximum flavour and perfect balance!

I hope that this helps you all prepare for the epic year ahead. Keep an eye on our facebook page for an epic cocktail “How To” video every week and start exploring and experimenting!

  • Keegan Smith
    Keegan Smith

    Keegan Smith from Barsmith Cocktail Co specialises in flair bartending, bottled cocktails and mobile bar services. He has almost 20 years’ experience in bartending, is a multiple SA flair bartending champion and founder of Flair for Life foundation. Get in touch with him for bespoke, on-site bartender training in bartending ethics, mixology and practical working flair. Email Keegan on or phone 076 674 6357.

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