Costello on Cocktails: 2016 Trends


From his current haunt at Ledlow in downtown, Tom Costello, a highly sought after bartender in Los Angeles, gives The Manual the skinny on upcoming trends, recipes, and some craft beer guidance.

Drink Local Craft Beer

The US currently has around 3,000 breweries, which means it only took us the better part of a century to get back to pre-Prohibition numbers, so where to even start when looking for good craft beer? Drink local. That’s a rule Costello lives by, especially when travelling. “With the laws governing distribution and sales of alcohol in the US and the cost of distributing product over large distances, some of the best beers in the country are only available regionally: Third Rail in New York. Monkish and Three Weavers in Los Angeles. Cigar City in Tampa. If you’re in Virginia, you get to drink Port City!” Costello cautions that just because something appears to be a craft brew doesn’t necessarily mean it is. Ballast Point out of San Diego sold for somewhere around a measly ol’ billion dollars to Constellation Brands and LA’s own Golden Road was snapped up by AB-inBev. That fact doesn’t make them any less delicious; all it means is that if you want truly craft beer, it’ll take a moment more of research. According to Costello, sour beers (think Belgians) will be the big thing this summer.

Colonial Cocktails on the Rise

In 2016, cocktail trends are going way back, reviving a popular drink from the Colonial period (and maybe created by smugglers!): shrub cocktails. While it conjures up images of a tumbler of scotch garnished with unwieldy sprigs from a bush, it’s far more appetizing. “Shrubs are infused, vinegar-based syrups and are super-tasty…” Not only are you getting to party like it’s 1776, the shrub concept can also be applied to virtually any recipe you already love.

Costello promises it’s easy to make. “Simple syrup is a 1:1 or 1.5:1 or 2:1 sugar:water solution depending on preference. I like 1:1. Bring a volume of water to a boil, add the equal dry measure of sugar, stir. Chill. To infuse said syrup, add whatever aromatic or herb or fruit desired (example: Vanilla beans, basil, cranberries, pineapple) while you heat the water.

To make the syrup into a shrub, add a vinegar component (something fresh, preferably, example: Apple cider vinegar from [your] farmers market) after stirring in sugar.”

DIY Cocktails

Not into trends, but also haven’t found a cocktail to make your signature drink? Costello has an idea. “My feeling about creating new drinks is that the classics are your friend and your guide. Certain proportions just work well together. Example: A Manhattan is 2:1 whiskey to vermouth with a dash… of bitters. You can change that drink any number of ways – half/half sweet vermouth with dry; different flavor of bitters in whole or in part; take out vermouth altogether and add shrub (as vermouth was the sweetener). You never have to start from scratch and yet can create something new and distinct.”