Victoria Chow On The Drink Trends That Will Define 2019

By Melissa Twigg

Tequila cocktails, gin tasting holidays and even a hit of CBD oil—we find out which alcohol trends will be dominating the year

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The further you wander from Lan Kwai Fong, the more sophisticated Hong Kong's drinking dens become—and The Woods has got to be the classiest of them all. Owned by mixologist and Gen.T honouree Victoria Chow, this sleek underground bar serves cleverly made cocktails that riff on the old classics—think a dirty dill martini, a beetroot negroni or a four-pepper margarita. 

Her innovative cocktail and food pairings have become so successful, other bars around the city have been hiring their own mixologists in order to compete, while leading fashion retailers have long tapped into her unique take on food presentation for their events. And that's not all, the twentysomething entrepreneur has also launched nautical-inspired oyster bar The Walrus, which is one part New York, one part Paris and one part classic Hong Kong drinking den. Here the doyenne of drinks talks to us about what trends are dying (bye-bye wild nights out) and what will take their place (hello CBD cocktails).

1. Drink green

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Above  Beetroot negroni at The Woods

Sustainability has changed the way we consume—or at least we hope it has. From the clothes we wear to the food we eat, provenance, food miles and green manufacturing have become all important. And drinks are no different—we want to ensure all our cocktail ingredients align with our ethical and political views. "As consumers start to demand to know more about the stories and provenance of our food, we will begin to do the same for our drinks," says Chow. "The stories, origin, and ingredients of spirits will play bigger role in our consumption habits and choices. There will be a rise in terroir-driven spirits and more focus on localisation and regional specialties." A spin-off of this will be the rise of organic, natural, biodynamic and vegan wines. 

2. Red-carpet tequila

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Celebrity-based tequila is set to become all the rage. Much like its owner, Justin Timberlake’s Sauza 901 is famously smooth. Hence why it is one of very few tequila brands designed to be drunk without a chaser—don’t miss the online video of JT apologising to limes everywhere for making them redundant. A lifelong tequila fan, Timberlake was inspired to do some distilling of his own after a trip to Mexico with his father. The result was a collaboration with the renowned Casa Sauza and this triple-distilled tequila made from 100% weber blue agave. Then there is George Clooney. Let’s be honest, we would probably buy anything he put his name to, Lake Como houses and jaunty linen suits included. Not that Casamigos is in any need of our help. The tequila brand, which Clooney founded in 2013 with Cindy Crawford’s husband Rande Gerber, was bought by Diageo last year for US$1 billion. Yes, you read that right, a billion. Both brands—and tequila in general, are set to exponentially grow this year. 

3. We're all going on a distillery holiday

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Above  Four pepper margarita at The Woods

Distillers of all sizes have started creating tasting rooms selling samples, bottles and even cocktails made with their spirits—and people are now basing entire holidays around bourbon, gin and whiskey tastings. "I predict that distillery tourism will continue to grow, spearheaded by the big brands but with craft brands following suit," says Chow. "We are demanding more immersive and experiential visits to better understand what we consume." From gin tours in the UK, France, the US and even South Africa, and bourbon trips across the southern states of America, people are picking their alcohol first and their destination second.

4. There's money in moderation

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Above  The Woods' tasting menu

Does a non-alcoholic, sugar-free Margarita sound like your idea of a good time? Given that 30 percent of under-30s are teetotal, the answer may well be yes. Our drinking habits are changing for many reasons: greater ethnic and religious diversity, more health-conscious lifestyles, the rise of the free-from movement (which also encompasses veganism, non-dairy and gluten-free) and changes in the way people socialise. Social media may have a role to play too: a growing number of young adults are now anxious about letting their hair down in case they wind up getting Instagrammed when not camera-ready. "Low ABV cocktails and spirits, as disgruntled as I am to admit this, will likely continue their rise in popularity as consumers become more health-conscious," says Chow. This will manifest in products such as flavoured mixers, non-alcoholic 'gins', natural ferments such as kombucha, and use of fortified wines such as vermouth."  

5. Keen for a cannabis cocktail?

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Yes, you read that right. These days, barely a day goes by without another big business jumping on the cannabis bandwagon. Now it's the drink business. With a growing number of cannabis-based drinks in development, we’ll soon start to see CBD and THC-laced libations popping up on cocktail menus at some of the globe's more forward thinking venues. The non-psychoactive part of the cannabis plant, CBD it is thought to be an anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant and antidepressant, and can be used to improve mood, memory, motor control, sleep and energy levels. “If you put CBD in the drinks, instead of it taking four or five whiskeys to get drunk, with just one or two drinks infused with CBD you get a much more relaxed state of mind, and your stress levels go down," says Zsolt Csonka, a New York mixologist, specialising in low alcohol-content drinks with a few drops of CBD. And best of all, rumour has it that there's no real hangover.

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