Over the past decade, cocktail bars have become more reminiscent of kitchens. They often feature top-quality ingredients, experimentation, and incredibly talented bartenders displaying impressive knife skills and juggling acts that once would have only belonged in a circus. Though menus still typically contain the old classics like Martinis, Daiquiris or Negronis, they often appear a dull choice when compared to an of-the-moment speciality creation displayed on a chalkboard. What’s more? The bars themselves have never been more eclectic in nature. You can find anything today, from tiny holes in the walls to some of the most glamorous jewel-encrusted rooftops and hotel lobbies.
The subtle differences from city to city are intriguing. So much so that one young lad, Lorenzo Capo, set out on a mission to explore the variety of cocktails and bars around the globe. Starting in Europe, from Italy to Barcelona, Barcelona to Sydney, Sydney to Melbourne, Melbourne to Miami, Miami to Havana, and then back to Italy and Barcelona.
Lorenzo’s passion for hospitality started when he was young. He dreamed of becoming a chef at just 9 years old. He changed his mind a few years later after witnessing a bartender’s performance, launching rotating bottles into the air and effortlessly catching them while whipping up some fancy concoctions. Inspired by what he had seen, Lorenzo became a bartender instead. He later enrolled in hotel and catering school and eventually the hospitality industry.
To ward off boredom during the pandemic, Lorenzo started researching bars, hot in the cocktail scene, worldwide. He packed up some stuff and moved to Barcelona to start his adventure. Throughout his travels, Lorenzo worked in bars in each city. He got a full 360 view of the industry and insights into what happens on both sides of the bench.
What Lorenzo noticed was interesting subtle differences from location to location. Firstly, customers’ likings for sweetness, sourness, and overall strength varied greatly in each city. Australians tended to enjoy drinking cocktails that were either very sweet or sour. And surprisingly, less boozy than all the other cities visited. In America, cocktails were much stronger than in Europe and Australia, but the extra alcohol was often balanced with more sugar. Although classic staple cocktails were available on most bar menus, they tasted slightly different in each country and reflected the local taste preferences. The most popular creative cocktails generally contained fruits and vegetables or random items like bacon and cheese. Wacky combinations are trending, and it is now possible to have delicious alcoholic pizza or a salad poured into a glass.
Barcelona had the best variety of bars. In Lorenzo’s opinion, it is home to some of the best bars in the world. Even though Melbourne and Sydney are bigger geographically, Barcelona’s bar scene is the most diverse and experimental. It is also more common for people to show up alone, sit at the bar, order a cocktail and casually spend the night chatting to a bartender in Europe than in Australia, Spain or America. Miami’s cocktail scene was the most chaotic of all the cities visited. It was clear people were out to have a good time when sampling cocktails and it is common to find them served with a side of karaoke, DJ sets and a range of guest performers.
From city to city, one thing is clear. The crazy cocktail trends will grow over the next 5-10 years. People everywhere are having fun sampling quirky combinations, and the demand for creative new recipes has never been greater.