There’s always something innovative happening in the wide world of libations, with new ingredients, recipes, and techniques springing up across the globe. 

Recent years have been dominated by the inclusion of edible florals like hibiscus, lavender, and orchids that not only infuse liquors but also serve as garnishes. However, the market of late seems to be moving away from the sweet stuff and in the direction of smoky, savory, and spicy profiles. 

What are some trending ingredients that your establishment or canned cocktail operation can add to the menu?


Smoked Cocktails

A smoky whiskey or mezcal is nothing new, but adding actual smoke is a visual feast — and a fun way to add complexity to the flavor profile of certain cocktails. Typically, a smoked cocktail requires the aid of a glass cloche and flammable ingredients like rosemary, sage, or cinnamon sticks. 

Alternately, some mixologists spring for a quality cocktail smoker. This contraption, sometimes referred to as a smoking gun, is outfitted with a small smoker device designed for flavored wood chips. Smoke is then funneled through a tube and into the cloche. 

The result is a uniquely smoky beverage and a truly sensational presentation when the cloche is lifted to reveal the cocktail amid a cloud of scented smoke.


Related: The use of Botanicals in beverages


Savory Flavors

If you’re looking for a modern take on the classic Bloody Mary, try augmenting that stalk of celery with some crispy, candied bacon or a cooked shrimp garnish. Better yet, swap in a smoky bourbon for the vodka to up the flavor ante with sweet, spicy, and smoky notes.

If you want to get really crazy with savory cocktails, one ingredient popping up recently is bone broth. 

A salty, concentrated form of beef or chicken stock, bone broth can be overwhelming if not mixed just right. For that reason, it should only be used with liquors that have a strong floral or herbal flavor to counteract the saltiness, such as gin, amaro, or absinthe. The sourness of lemon or lime and a dose of bitters can also add to a surprising and complex flavor profile.


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Veggies and Spice

A combination of vegetables and spicy flavors has infiltrated the cocktail market of late. In addition to the popular chili-lime flavor of Tajín-rimmed glasses, mixologists are getting bolder with their spice selections as consumer palates demand more exotic flavor experiences.

One great example is the Barbacoa, made with mezcal, a spicy chipotle and vegetable puree, and ginger syrup. This cocktail’s blend of smoky, spicy, and sweet notes is a combo patrons won’t soon forget. You could also experiment by spicing up sweet margaritas with chili peppers or adding Cajun spices to whiskey cocktails, for example.

While vegetable-infused liquors and veggie garnishes are both perfectly acceptable, it’s hard to outdo the Botanist, a tequila cocktail featuring veggies, cilantro, and lime served in a hollowed-out bell pepper. Other savory ingredients like mushrooms and pickled veggies are also finding their way into the modern cocktail market.



Monosodium glutamate (MSG) caused quite a stir a couple of decades ago when it was believed to be linked to certain health conditions, but without conclusive evidence, the FDA maintains that this ingredient is safe for consumption. As a flavor enhancer, MSG is frequently found in fast food, snack foods, and frozen meals.

On its own, MSG has an umami flavor resembling mild saltiness. However, this water-soluble crystalline powder can make just about any cocktail more flavorful. In essence, it amplifies existing flavors, but be careful how much you add — a little goes a long way.

With smoky, spicy, and savory flavors edging out sweet and floral notes, there’s a whole new world of cocktail combinations for mixologists and consumers to explore these days, and you’ll definitely want to get in on the trend.


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