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Five midyear beverage trends bubbling up now

Now that it’s the midpoint of 2014, it’s a good time to reassess some of the trends we spotted in January. With summer here, there’s a lot of call for liquid refreshment, both alcoholic and non. Here’s what consumers are drinking, according to data from Chicago-based research firm, Technomic.

1. About 20 percent of customers are now choosing smoothies and milkshakes as snacks in fast-casual restaurants. Seasonal fruits such as blueberries, blackberries, watermelon and peaches are popular smoothie flavors this summer, but nonfruit ingredients such as kale and peanut butter are showing up, too.

2. Herbal and spicy flavors are infusing cocktails. Mixologists are flavoring vodkas with ginger, cucumber and lemongrass, and cinnamon is spicing up numerous spirits and mixed drinks. Mango is trending as a hot cocktail flavor, while honey and maple expand in whiskey drinks.

3. Cider rules. Bars and restaurants are expanding their hard cider lists and seasonal and specialty ciders continue to grow, as noted by the number of exhibitors at the International Wine, Spirits and Beer Event during the 2014 National Restaurant Association Show in May. The Northman, an all-cider bar featuring about 100 selections, is slated to open in Chicago this summer.

4. Hybrid beverages are on the rise. Red Robin’s beer milkshake debuted in 2012; this spring, the casual dining restaurant introduced a Mango Moscato Wine Shake. Cocktails that pair spirits with cider, beer, sherry and more also are trending.

5. Retro and specialty drinks are differentiators. Communal cocktails, such as punches, served in pitchers and other vessels at restaurants and bars are selling well to Millennials. Tiki drinks are especially big for summer, with concepts such as Chicago’s Three Dots and a Dash dedicating themselves exclusively to the genre. 

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