What (and How) We’ll Be Drinking in 2021, According to Bacardi’s Cocktail Trends Report

We're embracing at-home imbibing with tequila, spice and no-ABV tipples. And hard slushies.

Gin, bitter, spicy, tequila, at-home, no-ABV: Some drinking trends for 2021
Viktor Fj / EyeEm / Getty

Get ready to embrace heat, gin and low/no-ABV cocktails. From the comfort of your home.

Those are some findings from the Bacardi 2021 Cocktail Trends Report, which “looks ahead at the key trends impacting cocktail consumption and the spirits business.” The report utilizes consumer and brand ambassador surveys, interviews with bar and restaurant trades, Nielsen data and independent research from The Future Laboratory, a forecasting consultancy.

Citing the European Journal of Social Psychology and presented in the Bacardi report, it’s noted that people take between 18 and 254 days to form a new habit and 66 days for new behavior to become automatic. Given where we are in COVID times, that means a lot of these new habits may be here to stay.

Bacardi Cocktail Trends

The report suggests five “macro trends” for the upcoming year, as showcased below.

Home Premise: We’ll continue to move the drinking/bar experience to our homes as the pandemic continues, with ready-to-drink cocktails leading the way. Last year there was a whopping 131% rise in rise in the U.S. off trade sector, with vodka soda (and flavors) leading the way, although margaritas showed the largest gain.

And we’re doing this primarily online. Drizly experienced 350% growth in one year, and e-commerce alcohol is expected to grow to a $45.5 billion business in the top 10 markets by 2024. Virtual cocktail classes and cocktail kits/gift packs are also expected to rise in popularity.

Pleasure Revolution: “A desire for extremes” will dictate consumer drinking behavior in 2021, with drinks that burn, cool, tingle and comfort in high demand. And watch for bitter, as amaro continues its rise as a cocktail ingredient. One interesting take: Twists on classic cocktails are becoming more in demand (particularly the margarita), as are “escapist” drinks. So watch out for a resurgence of tiki, sparkling drinks, hard slushies and caffeine-laden tipples.

The top spirits of interest globally were gin, mezcal and tequila, with the latter growing particularly strong in North America.

Bacardi Cocktail Trends
An excerpted graph from the 2021 Bacardi Cocktail Trends Report

Bar Reinvention: Delivery and cocktail-to-go are here to stay, with gin-based drinks seeing the most traction among customers. This year, expect those at-home cocktails to get more complex and interesting. Meanwhile, when we do venture back to our favorite watering holes, we’ll be more likely to use apps for ordering and payment.

Meanwhile, in a welcome trend, “masculine and feminine stereotypes will be removed in favor of genderless designs” in bottles and drink choice — some credit here goes to the popularity of hard seltzers with men (as well as interesting stats like whiskey consumption increasing for women by 15% in the U.K. but actually declining for men).

Post-Purpose Brands: Sustainability is in. 70% of consumers in the U.S. and Canada agree that it’s important for a brand to be sustainable or eco-friendly, while 58% of the brand ambassadors at Bacardi in North America noticed an increase in bartender interest in zero-waste ingredients. Expect biodegradable bottles, brandies “rescued” from smoke-tainted grapes at vineyards in high wildfire areas and bars switching to hyperlocal brands and ingredients.

Mindful Consumption: Dry January may go to 12 months. 63% of U.S. consumers plan to drink or offer more no- and low-alcohol options. And those 0% ABV spirits have now received more interest than any other spirits category globally for two years in a row. Bars and restaurants will start adopting “hybrid menus” that feature drinks in both alcoholic and non-alcoholic versions. As well, expect superfood and immune-boosting ingredients such as echinacea and elderberry to thrive, along with ginger (which saw a rise of 94% in sales year-to-year).


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