Pisco Sour. Photo: vidiot, Flickr
The hottest liqueur debut goes to St. Germain elderflower cordial. The sexiness of the packaging and marketing equaled the quality of the liquid. Bartenders mixed it up with tequila, gin, vodka, whiskey, rum and even white wine. That's a rare success.
We saw a surge in interest in spirits that aren't typically found in your home bar like Peruvian and Chilean brandy called Pisco traditionally mixed with citrus juice, sugar and sometimes egg white and bitters in a Pisco Sour.
Brazil's spirit of choice -- cachaça -- made from fresh pressed sugar cane juice stole our attention in a variety of Caipirinhas mixed with lime and sugar and sometimes exotic fruit juices.
The classic Negroni appeared on many menus in various forms of gins, vermouths and bitters.
The classic cocktail renaissance continued to soar these last 10 years taking us beyond simple vodka infusions in jars behind the bar to the extremes of house-made syrups and bitters, bacon-infused bourbon and drinking establishments with "estate grown" herbs for muddling.
Organic spirits hit the scene and all natural mixers, muddles and madness stole the show with every form of Mojito you can imagine. The garden was raided for infusions, tinctures, muddling and garnishes.
The return to the classics renewed interest in popular brown spirits of our mixologist forefathers such as rum and whiskey. Bourbon sales soared. We heard of the "rye renaissance" with Manhattans made once again with American straight rye, sweet vermouth and bitters instead of Canadian or bourbon whiskeys. Even the site where George Washington once distilled rye whiskey was brought back to life at Mount Vernon. But even with all this, vodka remained the best-selling spirit, and we cannot recap trends without mentioning the rage of vodka mixed with cans of energy boosting drinks like Red Bull.
With the advent of blogging and tweeting, all of a sudden the world's full of critics and reviewers. No longer do we rely on the local newspaper to reveal trends or to tell us where and what to drink. The internet has served as an amazing resource to further the cocktail renaissance as groups all over the web of the world have made access to old books available and various techniques and ratios can be discussed like never before.
For the first time ever, professionals and amateurs share knowledge in ways that have never before been available, allowing home bartenders to become "experts" overnight.
The romance of pre-Prohibition and Prohibition drinking took us behind closed doors, through secret passageways and beyond passwords to pay extravagant amounts for drinks made by bartenders wearing suspenders, silly moustaches and sometimes over-serious glares.
The Star Chef movement spilled over into the bar with the term "Bar Chef" appearing and bartenders wearing chef's jackets with embroidered titles like "Master Mixologist."
Bartending went into the kitchen to create foams, solids and gels from booze. Drinking got all super serious with some bars boasting super expensive cocktails made with super aged rums, whiskeys and tequilas. And when everything gets so "super," the pendulum begins to swing the other way. Anyone up for a beer and a shot?
Alabama-born LeNell Smothers defines herself first and foremost as a bartender, but she's been called many things -- most recently, the head mixtress at Casa Cóctel. She's owned her own whiskey label, called Red Hook Rye, and has been recognized by her home state as an honorary Colonel. Other interests include gin, sin and men.