Bartenders are reclaiming their independence and creativity by rejecting consumer whims and crazes and serving what they think is best.

That is one of the key arguments from Diageo’s World Class Future of Cocktails report, which finds cocktail culture is booming and expected to find 400 million new drinkers by 2020.

The report positions cocktail making at the forefront of a global wave of experimentation with new ingredients and technologies, satisfying consumer demands for new and premium tastes.

The industry is growing on a global scale into emerging economies, with spirits consumption rising by 26% in Africa and the Middle East, 15% across Asia and 22% in China in the past five years.

The report also finds bartenders taking a stand against blandness – at the risk alienating some consumers – to become noticed in a cluttered commercial landscape.

Benjaḿin Padrón Novo, owner of Mexico’s Licoreria Limantour explains: “I always get customers asking me to sweeten the drinks we serve, even though by doing so it’ll dilute the taste of the spirit or the fruit. So, now, we just say no – and explain our reason to the guest. It’s all part of the education process.”

Bars are also concocting controversy and provoking reactions from fickle patrons, such as Operation Dagger in Singapore, set in a deliberately grungy space with fake CCTV in the toilets.

Bars are also playing on people’s emotions to find a deeper more meaningful connection with customers, such as Seymour’s Parlour in London, which uses scent to create nostalgic memories. Kat Rudberg, of Crafted Taste, has even suggested using smells to provoke negative emotions.

Bartenders are recapturing their traditional role as a confidant and mico-friend to drinkers, which they recognise creates a more positive impression of their establishment.

Spirits are shaking off their gendered associations, with gin and rose no longer seen as feminine, and bourbon no longer masculine.

Tastes are evolving, with a shift in preference from sweet to bitter, the Negroni and dry martini both in the world top five cocktails.

The globally connected world and flow of people across boundaries has pushed forward cocktails innovation, with so-called ‘expatpreneurs’ of the bar world following in the footsteps of their chef contemporaries and travelling the world to hone their skills.

World Class, a global bartender competition by spirits company Diageo, worked with consultancy The Future Laboratory on the report.

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