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Drinks trends to sip and savour this summer

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

"Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer. Those days of soda and pretzels and beer. Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer. Dust off the sun and moon and sing a song of cheer…"

made popular by Nat King Cole,1963.

The forecast for this summer is hazy beers, spritely spritzers, lighter wines, and a sip and savour approach to spirits and luxe liqueurs says the NZ Alcohol Beverages Council (NZABC), and there is an abundance of options for those looking for that ‘better for me’ beverage with low alcohol, sugar or carbs.

"The boom of the craft beer industry has led to Kiwis developing discerning palates when it comes to knowing a pale ale from a pilsner. But it’s hazy beers that are all the craze, so you’ll see plenty of them around this summer, and they’re the beer selling out the fastest on tap," says Bridget MacDonald, NZABC’s Executive Director.

"Innovation is key when bringing any new products to market, but it is just as critical for the industry to listen to its customers and respond to their needs. Customers are keen on drinks with a lower alcohol profile as well as low-carb and low-sugar. Demand for craft beers has shifted from stronger brews to craft beers of 4-5% abv (alcohol by volume). We’ve also turned a corner when it comes to choosing a beer that is full-flavoured but has no- or low-alcohol. Over the past five years, the volume of beers under 1.15% abv has increased by 256%. No- and low-alcohol beers are not only becoming increasingly popular but more broadly accepted and respected when we’re socialising," Bridget says.

"Something light and bubbly is always popular this time of year whether it’s New Zealand’s finest sparkling wine, champagne or a crisp dry prosecco in a spritz cocktail. The blush of rosé remains on the rise this summer; still, you can never go wrong with your favourite chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, or pinot gris, or perhaps try a different varietal like an albariño for something light, floral and spicy. What’s really impressive is the innovation by some of our finest winemakers who are producing 0% wines and lighter wines under 10% abv - and still bursting with flavour," says Bridget.

"The new kid on the block is the seltzer - either a beer, wine, spirit or cider base that is mixed with sparkling water and natural fruit flavours to provide a refreshing lower alcohol beverage (around 5% abv) that also offers low sugar and carbs. With refreshing flavour combinations from watermelon and strawberry to kiwifruit and lime they make an ideal summer drink. Many of the slimline cans contain one standard drink, so it is easy to keep an eye on how much you are drinking. Cans are conveniently portable for summer picnics and easily recyclable," she says.

"Cocktails are ever-popular because it’s all about taking your time and having a ‘sip and savour’ experience with a drink like a decadent espresso martini. Gin has been extremely popular over the past couple of years right across the country, and people supporting local gins have been rewarded with flavour profiles of indigenous herbs and botanicals like kawakawa, manuka, and horopito. But rum is making its move to knock gin off its perch - we’re seeing this globally too. In Wellington, bartenders say high-quality tequila is getting its fair share of interest as a sophisticated sipping drink and following global trends this will only increase in popularity," says Bridget.

"What we are mixing our drinks with is changing too. The ‘better for me’ trend is influencing interest in functional ingredients often associated with wellbeing such as kombucha, ginger and turmeric. Demand is increasing for premium tonic water and mixers to be paired with premium spirits - with exotic aromatics or flavours like elderflower they are often quite enjoyable on their own. We’re seeing a lot of support for local producers too," says Bridget.

"New Zealand produces some phenomenal alcohol beverages that are world-class in quality, flavour and uniqueness. We might not be able to travel, but we can be transported to somewhere exotic or explore our own backyard through our tastebuds. The trick is to ‘travel’ safely and responsibly - so good rule of thumb is ‘Go no, low or slow’. It’s always okay to choose no or low alcohol drinks. If you choose to drink, pace yourself and enjoy your drink slowly," says Bridget.

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