I have to admit, I am an easy target for LISTS. I imagine that I am not the only one, though, given that these types of articles populate many publications, websites, blogs, etc., throughout the year. However, when we are looking ahead to the next year, it’s hard not to want to indulge even more on these quick-hit lists.

One list that caught my eye recently was the National Restaurant Association’s (NRA) “What’s Hot in 2015” survey. Although the survey highlights a number of food menu trends, it also identified some trends to look out for when it comes to alcohol drinks and cocktails. Leading the alcohol list is micro-distilled/artisan spirits, with 75 percent of survey-takers naming this a “Hot Trend.” Fifteen percent considered this yesterday’s news, and 10 percent identified it as a perennial favorite, according to the survey results.

Although craft distilling is no stranger to the beverage industry, it does seem to be gaining steam. Organizations such as the American Craft Spirits Association and the American Distilling Institute continue to gain a deeper following, adding new members and drumming up excitement through their annual events. Craft distillers also are making headlines. Last year, Lake Bluff, Ill.-based Terlato Wines International, a U.S. marketer of premium wines and spirits, and Heartland Distillers, Indianapolis, announced plans to jointly produce and market a collection of premium American craft spirits.

“When we started building our artisan spirits portfolio, we knew it would need to include a selection of unique and distinctive handcrafted American spirits,” said Terlato Wines Chief Executive Officer William A. Terlato in a statement. “Small-batch American spirits are one of the fastest-growing and most dynamic categories in the U.S. drinks market, especially with millennials. We have been looking for a distillery partner who has the knowledge and passion to craft exceptional spirits of the highest quality and character. Our partnership and co-development of spirits with Heartland Distillers marks our entry into the luxury American craft spirits segment.”

The Terlato-Heartland partnership also touches upon another of the NRA’s “What Hot in 2015” trends: locally produced beer, wine and spirits. Seventy-two percent of respondents cited this as a “Hot Trend,” while 11 percent called it yesterday’s news, and 17 percent named it a perennial favorite.

Heartland, which opened after Prohibition ended in 1933, uses locally grown ingredients when crafting its spirits. “My personal passion and quest to distill exceptional spirits in my home state of Indiana led me to start Heartland Distillers,” said Stuart Hobson, Heartland Distillers founder and master distiller, in a statement. “The partnership with Terlato Artisan Spirits is an exciting step in this journey, and we look forward to collaborating with the Terlato family and their team to produce products that speak to the terroir and history of Indiana distillation.”

But going small and local are not the only trends the NRA is predicting for 2015. Rounding out the Top 5 of its “What’s Hot in 2015” survey for alcohol is onsite barrel-aged drinks, regional signature cocktails and culinary cocktails. It looks like when consumers are dining out this year, they will be looking for more ways that they can specialize their alcohol and cocktail selections.


Jessica Jacobsen