Kimpton Spotlights 15 Culinary and Cocktail Trends for the Year Ahead

SAN FRANCISCO — Black pepper ice cream, coconut ceviche, and Japanese whiskey highballs are just a few trends that will be popular in 2020, according to Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants’ sixth annual Culinary and Cocktail Trends Forecast. Kimpton predicts that more adventurous health ingredients and plant-based menus will rise to the top, and lower-alcohol spritzes will take center stage at bars. From ingredients like seaweed, ashwagandha, and nutritional yeast to dishes like elevated ceviche and flavorful Levantine cuisine, chefs are getting creative while catering to consumers’ changing dietary and lifestyle preferences.

“Diners continue to be more educated, mindful, and globally connected than ever before. We polled our talented experts around the world to get their insights on how consumer dining habits and dietary preferences will shape restaurants and bars in the year ahead,” said Scott Gingerich, Kimpton’s senior vice president of restaurants and bars. “This forecast has been able to pinpoint cult classics à la last year’s Aperol Frosé and predict the next big thing in flavors and ingredients like black garlic, s’chug, and nutritional yeast for 2020.”

Each year, the Kimpton Culinary and Cocktail Trends Forecast reveals the most anticipated and innovative dishes, flavors, ingredients, and philosophies that chefs and bartenders will explore in the year ahead. Trends are uncovered through a survey of more than 130 chefs, sommeliers, general managers, and bartenders from more than 75 Kimpton restaurants and bars. Kimpton restaurants and bars incorporate many of these predictions into dishes and drinks on their menus.

16 Culinary and Cocktail Trends of 2020

1Alternative Diets Become Mainstream

Ebony & Ivory (Luxardo Abano Amaro, Galliano, Vanilla, Almond Milk, Espresso) at Sable Kitchen & Bar
Ebony & Ivory cocktail (Luxardo Abano Amaro, Galliano, vanilla, almond milk, espresso) at Sable Kitchen & Bar in Chicago

Diets once considered alternative are now the norm, according to Kimpton’s Culinary and Cocktail Trends Forecast. Hoteliers can expect to see gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian, vegan, and keto options become menu mainstays. According to 31 percent of chefs surveyed for the forecast, it’s no longer enough to have just one or two of these options on the menu.

The hospitality industry will see more gluten-free options in traditionally carb-centric dishes like pasta and breads, using almond flour, rice flour, guargum, or tapioca. From gluten-free cauliflower schnitzel to gluten-free calamari, chefs will continue to give more and more menu items a wheat-free makeover.

Oat and hemp milks will continue to dominate menus in 2020, alongside nut-based, dairy-free cheeses—think creamy cashew cheese alfredo sauces, plant-based burgers topped vegan cheese, oat milk honey lavender lattes, and vegan breakfast quesadillas filled with nut-based cheese, veggies, and tofu.

2Not-So-Obscure Health Ingredients

Boleo's Sudado de Mahi (Mahi Mahi, Sudado Salsa, Kale Chips, Aji Peruano, Peppers, Charred Onions)
Sudado de Mahi (mahi-mahi, sudado salsa, kale chips, Aji Peruano, peppers, charred onions) at Boleo in Chicago

Health ingredients are moving into the spotlight—alternative milks, plant-based ingredients, and superfoods are now commonplace compared to still up-and-coming items like nutritional yeast, ashwagandha, collagen peptides, and seaweed.

As an evolution of last year’s trend, fermented foods with gut-healthy probiotics are continuing to grow in popularity with tempeh, pickled vegetables, infused vinegars, and fermented dairy products popping up on more menus across the globe.

3Plant-Based Everything 

Vegetarian Mushroom Ragout at Double Take in Los Angeles (spaghetti squash‏ with quinoa, goat cheese, and soft herbs)
Vegetarian Mushroom Ragout (spaghetti squash‏ with quinoa, goat cheese, and soft herbs) at Double Take in Los Angeles

More than half (51 percent) of respondents to the Kimpton forecast predict plant-based meat alternatives will solidify their mainstream status in 2020. No longer just a cult following, the industry will see more plant-based takes on traditional meat dishes. In fact, 30 percent of chefs predict that vegetable tartare will be infiltrating restaurant menus in the New Year.

Hiding healthy ingredients are not just for kids anymore—chefs will also be “sneaking” more vegetables into pasta, pizza, breads, and sauces and even creating full-vegetable burgers, jerky, and chips made from ingredients like mushrooms, eggplant, sweet potatoes, carrots, spinach, or cauliflower.

4Love for Levantine Cuisine

Multiple dishes from BABA Restaurant and Bar in Edinburgh - Kimpton Culinary and Cocktails Trend Forecast
Multiple dishes from BABA Restaurant and Bar in Edinburgh, Scotland

Nearly 40 percent of chefs surveyed for the Kimpton forecast predict that Israeli, Turkish, and Lebanese cuisine will be the most influential style for menus in 2020. S’chug, a Mediterranean hot sauce, and muhammara, a red pepper and walnut spread found in Turkish and Levantine dishes, topped the list for spreads and sauces in this year’s Culinary and Cocktail Trends Forecast.

5Cross-Cultural Fusions

Tacos with Mexian Togarashi at King Tide Fish & Shell in Portland, Oregon
Tacos with Mexican Togarashi at King Tide Fish & Shell in Portland, Oregon

Local, responsibly sourced ingredients that bridge traditional culinary lines and blur the fusion moniker will continue to grow in 2020. More than half of chefs surveyed plan to incorporate cross-cultural fusion dishes onto their menus, with mashups including Mexican and Southeast Asian cuisine, French with Scandinavian flavors, Cantonese Chinese and Peruvian (or Chifa), and American South with Japanese.

Hoteliers can expect to see regional and indigenous-inspired cuisine, including more Native American, Scandinavian, Peruvian, and Russian influences. Peruvian dishes include creative takes on Sudado de Mahi and Tiradito de Salmon, as well as Chocolate Aji Panca ice cream.

6Funky Flavors and Sweet on Sour

Beef Mami Bulalo at Outlier in Seattle (Photo credit: Aubrie Pick)
Beef Mami Bulalo at Outlier in Seattle (Photo credit: Aubrie Pick)

Ingredients with sour flavor profiles like rhubarb, tamarinds, and vinegar will likely grow in popularity in the coming year, with nearly 23 percent of chefs selecting sour as their favorite experimental flavor. Chefs also noted that funky flavors will make their way into breakfast staples, including licorice and salty syrups and savory oatmeal made with bone broth.

Diners can also expect to spot more exotic peppers like Gochujang, piri piri, espelette, and Hatch chile peppers in their dishes, with one in five chefs selecting them as their top ingredient for 2020 in Kimpton’s Culinary and Cocktail Trends Forecast. Gochujang aioli pairs well with steak tartare and crab and espelette pepper packs a powerful flavor punch in pimento and blue crab cheese dip.

7Trending Dishes, Spices, and Ingredients

Spicy Miso Clams at Bookstore Bar & Cafe in Seattle
Spicy Miso Clams at Bookstore Bar & Cafe in Seattle

Elevated ceviche using unexpected ingredients—like spicy tomato granita, pickled carrot, or whipped avocado—was the top dish prediction for nearly one-third of respondents.

Unusual seeds like lotus, basil, and water lily seeds are predicted as one of the trendiest ingredients according to 31 percent of chefs surveyed.

Makrut lime leaves, pandan, and black garlic, which offers a sweet, earthy flavor and a date-like consistency, emerged as top ingredients on this year’s forecast.

Schmaltz, or rendered chicken or goose fat, will also be trending in 2020, according to a quarter of Kimpton chefs. Schmaltz croutons may accompany roasted chicken dishes, and schmaltz could also be the new olive oil for dipping baked bread.

8Restaurants with a Purpose

Vegetables Farm

Local collaborations will be king in 2020. Partnerships with local artists, distillers, farmers, purveyors, community members, and more will be important to diners and restaurants alike.

The social trends predicted as the most impactful on restaurant philosophies in 2020 include transparency across ingredients, sourcing, and production, and policies to reduce restaurants’ environmental footprints.

Sustainability will also continue to take center stage—restaurant and bar managers, chefs, and bartenders are crazy about composting, incorporating zero-waste techniques, and eliminating single-use plastic items.

9Dessert Trends

Birthday Cake Sundae at Henley in Nashville (Photo credit: Emily Dorio)

“Grown-up sundaes” using locally sourced, often unexpected ingredients will be one of the top dessert trends, according to one in five chefs.

Veganism will influence dessert menus as well, as a majority (47 percent) of respondents highlighted vegan desserts as the strongest sweet-tooth trend for 2020—like lemon tarts made with cashews, coconut, and lemon zest and vegan chocolate peanut butter cheesecake.

Savory items will be featured more prominently in desserts. Hoteliers can expect to see unique, savory-meets-sweet pairings like black pepper or sesame ice cream and truffle macarons.

10Inspired Cocktail Ingredients

Dr. Feelgood cocktail at Pacific Hideaway in Huntington Beach, Calif. (Photo credit: Tanner Johnson)
Dr. Feelgood cocktail at Pacific Hideaway in Huntington Beach, Calif. (Photo credit: Tanner Johnson)

Grilled, roasted, and fire-blasted fruits, as well as tea-infused spirits and syrups, rose to the top of the trending ingredients in this year’s forecast, with bitter vermouths and wine as cocktail ingredients as runner ups.

Aromatic (inedible) garnishes were cited as one of the up-and-coming trends bartenders are most excited to experiment with in the coming year. Examples include spice sachets with cloves and allspice, burning sticks of wood, or even absorbent, scented squares of paper clipped to glassware.

11Culinary-Crafted Cocktails

MC Yammer (sweet-potato-infused Tito’s Handmade Vodka, Licor 43, almond milk, maple, pecan vinegar, pecan orgeat, and toasted marshmallow) at Geraldine’s in Austin, Texas (Photo credit: Hannah Hagar)

Kimpton bartenders predict that bars will continue to leverage culinary techniques in cocktail prep. The industry will see more bartenders learning from chefs (and vice versa) as bar and kitchen collaboration only increases.

For example, bar leaders will request kitchen time and the use of kitchen equipment to impart culinary flavors into their drinks, to more efficiently prep, and to store ingredients for the bar.

12Spritzes Will Reign Supreme

Ginger Watermelon Spritz at The Garden in Edinburgh, Scotland (Photo Credit: Gemma Harrison)
Ginger Watermelon Spritz at The Garden in Edinburgh, Scotland (Photo Credit: Gemma Harrison)

Influences from Mediterranean regions will shape bar menus according to 46 percent of respondents. The industry will see light, refreshing, often low-alcohol spritzes all over bar menus in 2020. These lower sugar, crisper cocktails are the next evolution of the Spanish Gin & Tonic, which took over bars a few years ago.

Spritz culture will also affect coffee programs, according to nearly a third of respondents. Drinks like the Espresso Tonic will be requested all year round.

13Liquor Trends

Texas Sunburn (Del Maguey Vida mezcal, chareau aloe liqueur, ancho reyes, house-made grenadine, and lemon) at Geraldine’s in Austin (Photo credit: Hannah Hagar)

Expect to see the rise of alternative-grain spirits like Baiju, Shōchū, and Soju—spirits that originated in China, Japan, and Korea, respectively.

Mezcal will continue to dominate in 2020, with more than a third of respondents choosing it as the predicted spirit of choice next year. Bartenders are having fun with the smoky spirit and using it to reimagine traditional cocktails in unexpected ways. For example, one Kimpton bartender pairs mezcal with rum, macadamia orgeat, La Colombe espresso, and caramelized pineapple for a smoky, sweet, rich cocktail.

Whiskey highballs—a trend largely driven by the popularity of lighter Japanese whiskeys—are predicted to gain a cult following next year, followed closely by spiked seltzers and the return of the Paloma.

14Beer and Wine Trends

Glasses with different types of cold tasty beer on wooden table

More than a quarter of bartenders are most excited about sour beers in the year ahead, followed by hazy or juicy IPAs and high alcohol kombuchas as a beer alternative.

Next year’s biggest wine trend will be the emergence of more natural wines, or wines farmed organically without adding or removing anything in the cellar. Orange wines and Pét-Nat sparkling wines are also becoming more popular with wine aficionados.

Just as spirit enthusiasts are adding hard seltzers to their coolers, wine connoisseurs are seeking out unadulterated wines that are naturally low in alcohol, like Vinho Verde or Txakoli.

15Non-Alcoholic Beverage Trends

Pick Me Up in Jalisco at 4 Saints in Palm Springs, Calif.
Pick Me Up in Jalisco at 4 Saints in Palm Springs, Calif.

Many experts are predicting coffee spritzes as the hot (cold) drink of 2020. The other top coffee trends for 2020 include nitro coffee on tap, cold brew alternatives, and CBD coffee.
Botanical-infused sparkling drinks is cited as the non-alcoholic trend bartenders will most likely experiment with, followed up by alcohol-free spirits and up-leveled teas with exotic fruit flavors like guanabana, lulo, and passionfruit.

Of the bartenders surveyed in Kimpton’s Culinary and Cocktail Trends Forecast, 42 percent are excited to embrace the no-alcohol culture as part of their overall bar experience in the year ahead.

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