TikTok can alter the drinks landscape in an instant. If a cocktail or technique goes viral among the social media app’s estimated 145 million American users, it’s almost inevitable that bartenders will get flooded with requests for whatever the trend is, even if nobody knew it existed the week before.
Bartenders typically tolerate such shenanigans with grace and aplomb. They’re professionals; it’s what they do. But that doesn’t mean they have to like whatever the mighty TikTok algorithm foists upon their universe.
In 2023, TikTok provided ample fodder to potentially test bartenders’ patience. We asked 10 bartenders about which of these trends annoyed them the most, and we received plenty of answers that implied a fair share of eye-rolling. We also received answers that hinted at the possibility that maybe, just maybe, DrinkTok may not be as ridiculous as it may initially appear. Then again, the app did compel a whole lot of people to dump Parmesan cheese onto their Espresso Martinis.
Espresso Martini “maximization”
Parmesan Espresso Martinis
Candy and sugar vodka infusions
Removing large ice cubes from a drink
The “shot straw”
Making drinks in cars
Pickles in everything
“While I’ve seen some horrific things — looking at you, BORGs — the worst TikTok trend of this year was the maximization of the Espresso Martini. I am historically a hater of what was the biggest drink of the past year, but I have come around to an extremely well made or thoughtful variation of one. That being said, there is a line, and between candy cane rims, brewing Martinis in a coffee pot, and yes, grating Parmesan cheese over the top, I think we’ve passed it.” —Christian Favier, beverage manager, The Ordinary, Charleston, S.C.
“It’s safe to say that savory cocktails are trending, but one TikTok trend that I need to stay far away from 2024 is the Parmesan Espresso Martini. Personally, the thought of combining cheese, coffee, and booze makes my stomach turn. Then again, I totally get the desire to add an umami element, and the combination is a delicacy elsewhere in the world. Maybe we can address how the cheese gets incorporated? The thick layer of “say when” parm is questionable, and I’d rather opt for an infusion of sorts. However, in this business. I’ve learned not to never yuck someone’s yum. I just agree to disagree… like pineapples on pizza.” —Erika Flowers, bartender, Cane & Table, New Orleans
“It’s the copious amounts of candy and sugar infusions to vodka for me. The bright colors and overly sweet, fake taste these trends produce have got to go. There’s definitely a balance out there, but just putting a random amount of candy to a blank canvas like vodka and hoping it will turn out good is simply asking for a sugar rush, headache, and regret. You’re better off sticking to the delicious, already flavored liquors out there.” —Julian Flores Torres, Bar Lead, Maizano/Entre Nos, Costa Mesa, Calif
“The most annoying TikTok trend is where a guest removes a large, solid ice cube from their drink and bitches about it being a ‘rip-off.’ The misconception that the bartender is ripping you off because of the ice displacement is an absolute joke. What people fail to realize is the science behind the utilization of large-format ice in drinks: Regardless if they’re stirred or shaken with citrus, each style of ice has a purpose. It’s almost the same mindset as a guest asking for less ice in their drink, thinking that they’ll get more drink itself — not the case. In fact, the downside of less ice means that your drink won’t stay as cold, and whatever little ice that’s in that glass is going to melt even faster.” —Libby Lingua, owner/operator, Highball, Phoenix
“Undoubtedly the rise of the shot straw, a personal shot luge contraption designed to deliver a chaser and a shot simultaneously. As a bartender, I hate this, mostly because I think it is dangerous and encourages reckless binge drinking behavior. I also hate it because it removes the focus from the liquor itself and highlights the sugary reward at the end. Cocktails should be savored.” —James Watts, lead bartender, Fat Cat, Las Vegas
“Why are so many DrinkTok drinks made in cars? That is the one place people should not be drinking! Also, it seems to me that these DrinkTokers have a tendency to drive through a Starbucks just to get cups of ice, and then they make their drinks where they shouldn’t.” —Alex Barbatsis, bar director, The Whistler, Chicago
“Personally, the worst TikTok drink trend of 2023 was the pickle craze. Look, I love pickles and a good Dirty Martini, but like so many TikTok trends, it quickly became a competition of unhinged ideas. Pickle flavored Martinis, pickle shots, pickle whiskey, and pickle Margaritas flooded my FYP. A bread-and-butter pickle Margarita was one of the stranger and more off-putting creations by far. Give me a cheesy Espresso Martini over a pickle Marg any day.” —Emily Peters, bar director, Decanter Room/Whisky Room at Kebab Aur Sharab, NYC
“Impractical ice was the worst trend for me. Ice is incredibly important in cocktails, and one of the hardest things to get right in a home bar setting, so the trend of spending extra time to make it worse with flavored or softened ice, tiny ice, shaped ice, and so on is just pointing people in the wrong direction. Clear ice at home is what should get the spotlight.” —Colin Stevens, bar director, Singlish, NYC
“The BORG (black out rage gallon) was the most awful alcoholic trend to hit my feed this year. [It typically involves writing] a borg-related pun on the outside of your gallon jug, and admittedly, that can be hilarious; BORGan Freeman was a particular favorite. Despite the humor, the gallon cocktail promotes consuming an entire liter (or more) of vodka by mixing it with water, hydration packets, and liquid flavor enhancer. And you tote the jug around like an athlete training for the Olympics. “You can’t taste the alcohol!” and “It’s watered down!” filled comment sections and attempted to justify why this trend was even remotely OK. SMH.” —Leigh Lacap, general manager, Frankie’s, Oceanside, Calif.
“It’s a toss-up between the Parmesan-topped Espresso Martini or the debate over large-format cubes. However, social media gave plenty of focus to the cocktail and bar industries in 2023. This focus is positive, it brings new eyes and pushes the envelope on trying new things. What may seem weird or corny on your phone might be delicious or cause you to look at cocktail making in a new light. That’s cool with me.” —Gabe Sanchez, general manager, Midnight Rambler at The Joule, Dallas
*Image retrieved from PhotoGranary via stock.adobe.com
The article We Asked 10 Bartenders: What Was the Worst TikTok Drinks Trend of 2023? appeared first on VinePair.