Hong Kong's Beverage Leaders on the Top Drinks Trends for 2023
by: The Beat Asia
December 14, 2022
Another year, another series of ups and downs, innovations and pushbacks, new changes and anticipated returns. As 2022 is coming to a close, The Beat Asia has invited 10 of Hong Kong's industry leaders in the field of beverages to share their thoughts on what's to come in 2023, and to share what they are setting their sights on to achieve.
Jonathan Der and Flora Ma, Co-founders of ONLY Beverages
COVID was, actually, a catalyst for continuation of the trend of “better for you” alcohol beverages, including ready-to-drink products. There’s countless stories of people who began working out at home during the pandemic, and it became widely accepted that being healthy resulted in a decreased chance of getting COVID or severe complications from it. Furthermore, the younger generations are generally more health-conscious than prior generations, and as they grow up, it’s only natural they will choose more health-conscious products. All of this will result in consumers gravitating towards drinks with a lower alcohol percentage, and lower amount of sugar and calories.
There’s no question that the hard and spirit-based seltzer market has exploded worldwide recently, but the space has been dominated, for one, by mass produced products from the big players (i.e., White Claw), and “craft” products from smaller producers. In both instances, the alcohol base is usually a sugar or malt-based brew (like beer), as opposed to a premium distilled spirit, as the former is generally cheaper. We aren’t aware of many products targeting the premium, yet accessible, segment of the market in Asia, which is what we at ONLY have strived to address with our premium spirit-based alcohol, beautiful packaging, and high-quality flavours. We have no doubt others will follow suit in 2023.
James Barker, Founder of Kuppa Kombucha
Good value is always in fashion, and affordability will be an important aspect of F&B trends to consider in the year ahead. With the cost of raw ingredients in Hong Kong having increased by up to 30% since 2020, those able to maintain competitive pricing will be best positioned to service the needs of businesses and consumers alike.
The pandemic encouraged people to focus more on health and wellness. In an effort to embrace functional wellness, diners are likely to increasingly seek out innovative restaurants and brands which offer healthier, great-tasting dishes. Expect to see a rise in demand for products which prioritise function over form such as: immunity-boosting ingredients, organic sugar alternatives, live probiotics, to name a few.
Intrepid imbibers are on the lookout for new flavour experiences, but don’t want to be overwhelmed. The trend of “approachable adventure” calls on chefs and bartenders to service this demand by combining distinctive elements with more traditional flavours; creating novel culinary combinations that are unique yet have an aspect of familiarity.
Sam Jeveons, Co-founder of Nusa Caña Rum
The future of beverage is bright for HK, once tourism and the economy return. My broad sweeping take on the 12 months ahead for Hong Kong and Asia’s beverage scene [predicts that] 2023 will see the rise of rum and tequilas competing to take the consumer crown from Gin.
A continuation of theme bars — specialty spirit bars [focusing on] Aperitivo, Tequila, Rum, Mezcal, as well as activity bars that are seeing huge expansion across [the] UK — will influence Asian trends and consumer behaviour in the next 12 months. Spend per head may remain lower than pre pandemic levels at first, but the ‘want’ to upgrade spirits quality and beverage experiences will grow as people pay more attention to how they spend their money [on beverages]. Lower quantity, higher quality. Paired down simplicity in drinks presentations will come to the fore, with Hong Kong and Asia continuing to lead the way in [innovating] bar-made ingredients.
Restaurant bars pairing specialty dishes and cocktails will continue to dominate the HK scene. Sustainability will continue to grow into the conscience of the consumer and play an important role for all aspects of beverage and hospitality, from supply chain to drinks delivery.
Travel will once again open Hong Kongers to new F&B trends that will slowly be integrated into new venue openings and drinks concepts in Hong Kong by the end of 2023 into 2024. Asia and Hong Kong will continue to dominate in award winning concepts and venues, growing our reputation further as a world class F&B destination whose own trends are copied by others across the global scene.
Manuel Arce, Spirits Director at Nimbility Asia
Hong Kong has evolved since Covid started, many venues open and many closed as well, drinkers are getting back to bars, but it is not as it used to be. Now consumers are more price sensitive, looking for better value and for those hidden treasures. At Nimbility we have seen a growing demand for Latin-American spirits, first was mezcal, and with COA taking the trophy of the #1 Asia Best Bar few years in a row, it created traction [amongst] trade and consumers. Other categories have been impacted [as well] by this search [for] new drinks, one of them that has become this new “it” beverage is pisco, not only in Hong Kong, but across Asia pacific. Also, rum is having a revival, driven specially by modern brands with a more urban appeal rather than the old pirate-ish looking ones.
Canned cocktails and wines are starting to show traction among consumers, with a wide offer from local producers and imported well-known brands. Whisky is a hot category everywhere in Asia, in Hong Kong [it] is the king, and now there is new appetite for premium American Whiskey with more complex flavour profiles and innovation. In terms of ageing, rye whiskey is becoming the new hidden treasure for the whiskey connoisseurs and new drinkers as well. And last but not least, a classic cocktail that is getting back to the top drinks is the Bloody Mary, with a solid offer of premium spirits, and a new wave of premium tomato mixers coming to town, the classic cocktail is paving its way back to brunches, lounges and top bars across town. In general, there is a positive energy, but there is still time needed to see how the industry will get back to its pre covid times when Hong Kong is fully open, and tourists are back.
Simon Disler, Founder of Drinks 99
Consumers have been demanding more transparency and better ethics from drinks brands in 2022, they’ve been responding, and this trend is only going to grow in 2023. This means more brands going for B-Corp status (which certifies them as a business for good). More wineries turning to natural wine making and regenerative farming methods. And a continuation of the overhaul of drinks packaging.
From making sure that labels, caps and corks are plastic free to reducing the weight of bottles, or finding alternative methods to ship product, such as the ingenius (and necessary) eco-spirits. If people keep using the way they spend to show brands that they want more sustainable products, then this complete rethink of how drinks can be produced whilst doing less (or no) harm to the environment will be big this year.
Morgan Rousseau, Commercial Leader Specialty Brand Asia at Pernod Ricard Asia
This coming 2023, the Asian bar scene is set to come back stronger than ever. Hong Kong’s alienation from the world during the pandemic allowed bartenders to go back to basics and work with what the city had to offer. Now that restrictions are being lifted, the Hong Kong F&B scene is ready to showcase its roots and heritage through concoctions created with new techniques and new flavours.
As a token of love to Hong Kong, bartenders will continue crafting cocktails honouring a single locally grown ingredient. These limited-time menus will be a great way to introduce more obscure ingredients to the international F&B scene.
Mixologists are also moving away from the smoke and mirrors of molecular mixology, acting like chefs in the kitchen—bar chefs if you will. Cocktails are now being prepared in advance, not only to stay consistent but to also let ingredients macerate longer in order to achieve stronger flavours. We will therefore start seeing more premixed Old Fashions, Manhattans and of course Negronis. The latter was certainly the star of the pandemic, easily made at home with various twists and variations, but the Martini will be the one to shine this year.
The rise of mocktails will continue, reflecting the younger generations’ interest in personal wellness and intention to live consciously. Low-to no-ABV cocktails such as non-alcoholic iterations of classic cocktails or sparkling teas will take up more and more space on the menu.
2023 will be a year of discovery more than recovery as bartenders across Asia showcase their talents aiming for a spot among the World’s Best Bars. Bangkok and Seoul are coming in strong as they move away from the traditional hotel bars and channel the local street vibe, flavours and aromas in their cocktails. After having been cut off from the Western world for so long, there could also be an opportunity for Spanish and Italian bars to shine, with a spot in World’s 50 Best maybe not so out of reach.
After years of restrictions and closed borders, the dragon has been unleashed and the bar scene in Asia is ready to step up to the international stage and establish itself as a pioneer and trendsetter.
John Docherty, Founder of Sipfree Hong Kong
Things may always be evolving the F&B industry, but we’re sure one trend is here to stay: the focus on wellbeing is at the forefront of consumers’ minds, and conversations around mental, physical and emotional health continue to take the spotlight. The pandemic changed our relationship to drinking – it taught us to re-evaluate how we cope with stress, how we relax at the end of a long day, how we celebrate.
For many, this means adjusting drinking habits, and the rise of the Sober Curious movement is testament to that fact. But slowing consumption – or abstaining altogether – doesn’t mean giving up on a good time!
For one, mocktails are becoming more mainstream, and consumers’ expectations are high. With 58% of consumers switching between non-alcoholic and full-strength drinks on the same occasion, venues will be looking to cater to everyone’s tastes – especially as group gatherings are finally back on the calendar. Bars will dedicate a section of their menu to non-alcoholic drinks that are just as carefully crafted, sophisticated, and indulgent as the real deal.
Flavour also remains a priority. As 61% of consumers look for a better choice among non-alcoholic drinks, the industry will move away from sugary, artificial-tasting ready to drink products and continue introducing products that are made with botanicals, better-for-you ingredients, and distinctive elements.
Finally, celebrity drink brands are nothing new – but something tells us Blake Lively, Bella Hadid and Katy Perry are just the first to launch their own line of non-alcoholic drinks.
Elliot Faber, Co-Founder of Sunday’s Spirits Sunday’s Distro and Sake Central
Every year, around this time, whoever I am lucky enough to share some holiday vibes with will hear me say that next year is OUR year and this time is no different! When I say OUR year, I mean our industry. From all the part-time bussers and barbacks, to all the lifetime KOL bartenders and chefs, plus everyone in between – we all have the chance to make next year OURS! I am so proud to be part of a community where people share ideas and resources, all in the name of improving the overall standard of how people eat and drink in this city – no matter the adversity. That being said: watch for more shochu cocktails and sake at western restaurants. Japan's craft beverage revolution is just beginning!
Luca Andrei, co-Founder of Bianco & Rosso
Vermouth, vermut, wermut, we can call it in different ways. It can come from the “old world” (Italy, France, Spain) or “new world” (United States, Australia), and it can be easily described as fortified and aromatised wine, which must be infused with wormwood (artemisia abshinthium), and it has botanicals and sugar in a form of caramel. Pretty simple, right?
Jiahu and Yinxu regions from Mainland China were the first archaeological discoveries related to fortified wines where many ceremonial vessels were found (circa 6200-5600BC). Royalty and upper class of [the] Shang dynasty were able to drink wine aromatized with Chrysanthemum flower (a Chinese mug worth closely related to Artemisia Absinthium), resins, hawthorn berries, clove, Jasmine, hemp.
As you can see, we are dealing here with a beautiful and complex category who left a great footprint in the history of cocktails. If you are not convinced let me, take you as close as a Martini, a Manhattan or why not a Negroni.
Bianco & Rosso as a concept covers mostly a significant spectrum of fortified wines and of course vermouths, which brings to life the aperitivo culture blended together with outstanding décor and a perfect ambiance for your late afternoons. Together with Ashes Gurung, formerly LPM HK and Caprice, we have put together the beverage programme, which is a journey from 0% abv to high abv.
Bianco & Rosso Negroni is our infamous signature where we use our house blend of vermouths, and we finish it with cedarwood oils and lemon. If you want to spritz it up first, you can try our Tomato Spritz where we use Mancino vermouth, gin, and fresh tomato water. This will open up a different view in your mind, it’s a different approach of a spritzer.
Well, there is no aperitivo culture without great food so here we need to give all the credit to our Head Chef Ban Jee Min, formerly LPM and Belon, who crossed paths with me for several restaurant openings in Abu Dhabi, Hong Kong or solo in Miami. We can take you from a cheeseboard and a spritz to a great sit-down dining experience where you can try our octopus carpaccio, the lobster risotto or go big for the 1.6kg yellow chicken. How can I leave out the beautiful fluffy cheesecake and the selection of Amari that we have ready for you?
Last but not least, our cocktail classes are a must to try, we will share with you more about vermouth and cocktail techniques in a fun and interactive two-hour workshop. Until then, I'll raise a spritz and look forward to seeing you here.
Richard C. Fernie, Bar Manager at 69 on Jervois
One of the big trends we see coming our way for 2023 is cocktail Infusions like never before. Next year will really tap into accessible and well-loved infusion cocktail combinations. We will also see mixologists creating interesting homemade synthetic spirits and liqueurs to enhance infusions.
With cocktail menus becoming increasingly complicated with obscure ingredients, we’re predicting a return to accessible, understood, and well-loved ingredients.
Next year at 69 on Jervois and Behind 69 we are focusing on those old reliable ingredients and will be shouting about our Taipanteani cocktail – an infusion of earl grey tea and gin, with homemade honey syrup and lemon. Plus, Apothecary’s Secret, a whiskey infused chamomile tea cocktail.
We are brewing our own spirits for many of our cocktails. The So Hong Sinner is infused with red wine and home brewed Vermouth – a must try!
Read the Series:
Hong Kong's Hospitality Leaders on the Top F&B Trends for 2023
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