6 ways millennials have changed drinking forever
World Best Bar
May 09, 2020
26 November 2020
This generation’s desire to Instagram the hell out of everything, be super healthy and not get totally, horrendously trashed, has changed many things about the bar and cocktail scene – some are good, some bad, and some are pretty damn ugly.
Generation sensible – Low or zero-booze drinks
While Generation X spent their youth falling over on club dance floors, the millennial crowd spent theirs taking selfies in the smoothie shop. Yep, these new kids on the block (er… ironic retro description, obvs) are all about healthy choices. Millennials wouldn’t want to undo all the good work from that torturous chickpea and tofu diet or those intense daily yoga sessions by downing five Cosmos. Then there’s the need to look top-notch in all those Instagram pics, fuelling the desire to be constantly on form. Bedraggled hair and runny mascara are soooo 1999, a distant time in the past when you could enjoy a camera-free, undocumented evening on the tiles. This new generation of drinkers looks shiny and new all night long. They’re taking it easy on the alcohol and opting for either zero-alcohol options, or low-ABV drinks to keep them looking photo ready.
Low-alcohol drinks like Italian vermouth, sherry and Aperol are booming. Then there are zero-alcohol spirits like Seedlip, which is a huge hit (it wouldn’t even have seen the light of day 20 years ago). But because of this teetotal kudos, pretty much every self-respecting cocktail bar has a designated mocktail section on their menu, which has been carefully crafted, rather than just slung together as an afterthought.
Generation tofu – Vegan cocktails, wines and beers
Linked to this booming health craze is the whole vegan obsession. Baby boomers and Y-geners are amused to see this – once very unsexy – term transformed into the hottest thing since sliced rye bread. Today cities are booming with vegan joints, with a whole load of interesting vegan versions of classic cocktails on bar menus, using creative ingredients like aquafaba, e.g. chickpea juice, to replace the traditional foam on a whiskey sour cocktail. We’re also seeing more and more beer and wine brands switch to vegan, as the demand for fish gut-free booze increases.
Generation one-of-a-kind – ‘Craft’ crazy
Retro brands like Schweppes are OUT. Craft beers, spirits and mixers are IN. Millennials are all about bespoke, finely-crafted products, and they turn their noses up at anything mass-produced – see ya later generic Coca-Cola. Millennials will happily pay £9.50 for a small can of beer, as long as it’s adorned with a fancy hipster illustration and was made in the basement of the folk bookshop next door.
Generation experience, experience, experience! – Feeling adventurous
Not content with a mere glass of good wine in a nice bar, millennials expect to be wowed, shocked, to have a real, memorable experience when they step into a drinking establishment. They want to drink Prosecco in floating hot-tubs in the Thames or drink colourful sweetshop-themed cocktails in a grown-up plastic ball pit. Basically, any experience that can be captured on their phone and uploaded onto Instagram stories or Snapchat to create serious FOMO (that’s ‘fear of missing out’ for you Generation X-ers). It doesn’t matter if the thing is actually lame in real life, it just needs to look absolutely epic in the pics.
Greedy generation – Supersized cocktails
Back in the day, if there were more than two of you, you just stuck some extra straws in the glass. Nowadays, millennials have supersized just about every classic cocktail, a.k.a ruining them. There’s the 10 lbs Moscow Mule, served in a bucket-style copper mug, then there’s the Mega Margarita, served in a huge glass, loaded with a gallon of tequila and a whole Corona beer bottle sticking out of the top of it – because a slice of lime just won’t cut it anymore.
Generation Instagram – Crazy garnishes
Millennials’ big desire to snap pictures of everything they ever do, eat or see has also resulted in bartenders adding more and more outrageous garnishes to their drinks in a bid to be THE next viral cocktail on social media. A prime example is the Bloody Mary garnish trend where people try and balance the most obscene amount of fried edibles on top of the cocktail, from the burger garnish to an entire roast-chicken garnish, to the pizza-club-sandwich-stack-of-onion-rings garnish – yes they put all of that stuff on one wee Bloody Mary. Absolute garnish carnage. We reckon mixology’s patron saint Harry Craddock is turning in his grave.
But, despite the fact that this generation may have ruined many a cocktail from the good old days, the millennial crowd have a very positive influence on our drinking habits as a whole, showing old-timers that they can have fun without being absolutely sozzled, and that low-alcohol, healthier drinks can taste pretty damn delicious too. With fewer nightclubs, raves and boozy three-martini lunches, things might not be quite as wild, but it sure is giving our livers a good ole break from all the batterings they took during the 70s, 80s and 90s. Thank god for millennials!