A National Restaurant Association survey of more than 1,800 professional chefs—members of the American Culinary Federation—reveals that alcohol has gained a firm foothold among top restaurant menu trends. According to the survey, locally produced wine and beer is the fifth hottest trend on restaurant menus in 2010, and culinary cocktails and artisan liquor both rank in the top 20. Additional alcohol trends to be seen in restaurants in 2010 include organic beer/wine/spirits, food-beer pairings, craft beer, bar chefs/mixologists, gluten-free beer, specialty beer, and organic cocktails.
“Alcohol can be an important part of the restaurant experience, and the ‘What’s Hot in 2010’ survey clearly shows that wine, beer, and spirits are essential menu items,” says Dawn Sweeney, president and CEO of the NRA. “In addition to the local sourcing trend that is also big in food items, we are seeing a fresh approach to integrating beer into meals, with chefs and ‘beer sommeliers’ working closely to select complementary solid and liquid flavors. The culinary cocktail is another concept emerging as a top trend, taking guests beyond the traditional drink into more complex and adventurous culinary landscapes, often with savory ingredients such as bacon, hot peppers, and fresh herbs.”
“The culture of food preparation has changed dramatically,” says ACF national president Michael Ty. “Consumers are more affluent, and they are bold and more demanding when it comes to their dining expectations. They want chefs to tempt their palates by pairing food and drink to ensure a superb dining experience.”