Mixology: Trends in the Beverage Scene Using Local Sources, Homemade Infusions and Homegrown Ingredients

By Katie Brashear Complex Director of Public Relations, Sheraton Phoenix Downtown Hotel | August 10, 2014

Trends in the beverage scene -- they are a changing! To keep pace with a rapidly evolving industry, the availability of resources, patrons' requests, and guests' preferences, beverage connoisseurs and mixologists are experimenting with unique and innovative ways to maximize profits while serving up quality concoctions.

One prominent trend is the ability to rely on local resources and purveyors, which eliminates the need for lengthily transportation of ingredients. This cost-effective practice yields the freshest, most nutrient-dense products. Sadly enough, most food and many ingredients are produced hundreds or even thousands of miles from where it is consumed, which requires significant energy consumption and creates pollution with its transportation and storage. The longer food and ingredients travel, the more nutrients and flavor are lost along the journey. In fact, according to Turning Earth, LLC, in the U.S., the average fruit or vegetable travels 1,500 miles from where it was grown to your dinner table. Can you imagine?

In addition to reducing environmental impact and embracing fresh ingredients, another reason to rely on local resources and purveyors is to support and strengthen the community's local economy while attracting local patrons. For example, District American Kitchen and Wine Bar in downtown Phoenix only features dishes and beverages made with American-based products. After all, it is an American restaurant that serves comfort foods with a contemporary twist along with American spirits and brews. This restaurant embraces a sustainable culture as it partners with local vineyards such as Alcantara Vineyard located in Arizona's Verde Valley; numerous Arizona craft breweries such as Four Peaks, Nimbus, Oak Creek, and Santan; and local distilleries such as Arizona Distilling Co. in Tempe, which is home of the Copper City Bourbon, and Arroyo Vodka based in Tempe. In fact, to further support the sustainability movement, District American Kitchen and Wine Bar and a handful of other Phoenix-area restaurants have a 360-degree partnership with a local company called Refresh Glass to recycle and repurpose used wine bottles into functional products like drinking glasses, carafes, planters and candles. After recycling used wine bottles with the company, the restaurants in turn use the Refresh Glass products in their venues.

In addition to supporting local and focusing on sustainable practices, many mixologists and beverage connoisseurs are creating homemade infusions and bitters. Bitters were originally used as medicine to cure most any ailment, but are now considered an essential to the cocktail bar. Infusions and bitters add depth, balance and complexity to drinks. These homemade ingredients are cost-effective and unique, and they allow mix-masters the opportunity to unleash their creativity by devising their own versions of classic recipes as well as one-of-a-kind cocktails that can't be enjoyed elsewhere.

Another up-and-coming beverage trend is using homegrown ingredients from gardens and cultivators. For example, Sheraton Phoenix Downtown Hotel in downtown Phoenix has a flourishing rooftop garden that yields a variety of fresh, seasonal ingredients such as: French lavender, rosemary, basil, lemon verbena, sage, peppers, tomatoes, cilantro, mint, lemongrass, and much more! This hotel is also the first business in Arizona to install a commercial-use Urban Cultivator™ to grow, sprout and harvest a wide selection of fresh and aromatic micro greens and herbs. Now guests of the hotel and its restaurant can experience a wide array of delicious and hard-to-find greens all year round. The Urban Cultivator is a fully-automated indoor growing appliance that resembles a refrigerator with double glass doors and a series of growing shelves, lighting and water spouts. It is climate controlled and uses a method similar to hydroponic growing to grow herbs and micro greens. By growing right on property, the hotel is embracing hyper-local sourcing, conserving time, water and energy, thus minimizing waste and emissions. The bartenders and lead mixologist incorporates these fresh ingredients from the rooftop garden and cultivator into specialty cocktails available at the hotel and its restaurant's menus. Now that's fresh!

Another trend in the beverage scene is the creation of the Mixology Station. A Mixology Station is basically a service well with mixology in mind. It is displayed with fresh herbs and produce to intrigue the guest with only the freshest ingredients. The Mixology Station is also stocked with bitters, infusions, unique looking tools, a shaker and strainer, special ingredients, torches, and more. At this station, the mixologist has all necessary products and tools in one place at an arm's reach. Specialty drinks purchased at the Mixology Station are typically priced higher, but the station results in efficiency in turn higher productivity and increased revenue.

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