Why Have Disco Drinks Made a Comeback in the World’s Top Bars
Drinks are defined by an era and each era can also be defined by its most popular drinks.
The ’70s were considered to be an iconic time by many and while some of the fashion (ok, most of the fashion), food and culture are a thing of the past, something that has surprisingly been making a comeback in 2021 is the drinks range.
Not just any range either but Disco Drinks to be exact!
After 2020, it’s fair to say that most people need a bit of Disco in their lives. The upbeat, carefree, and vibrant vibe of the Disco era was something that allowed people a momentary reprieve from everyday life. Disco Drinks are therefore just as notable in that era as the music itself was.
Some similarities can be drawn between the two eras and we’re therefore going to look at just why Disco Drinks have suddenly made a comeback in the world’s top bars.
What Are Disco Drinks?
Disco Drinks are cocktails that quite visually interpret and sum up the 1970’s. Bright colours, artificial flavours and ingredients, and sweet flavours were key. The best way to describe these cocktails though is by listing out some of the more commonly used ingredients:
- Creme De Menthe
- Creme De Cacao
- Blue Curacao
- Galliano (arguably the single ingredient that defined a true Disco Drink)
- Fruit Juice (not fresh)
- Egg Whites
- Cream (yes, roughly 1 in every 3 Disco cocktails would have an addition of cream whether it be a creamy liqueur or actual cream!)
Everyone has their own tastes – some like sweet, some like bitter. If, however, you were a drinker in the Disco era, chances are your options were limited to sweet, creamy drinks that wouldn’t look amiss on a dessert menu!
A Disco Drink was also characterised by their outlandish and sometimes sleazy names. Take the Screwdriver as a very good example, which then spawned the Slow Screw which then led to a whole host of Slow Screw based cocktails (Slow Comfortable Screw Against The Wall springs to mind!).
We have the 1970’s to thank for some classic cocktails that are still popular to this day including the Tequila Sunrise, Pina Colada, Tom Collins, Blue Hawaii, and White Russian. There were however many more that did not quite make it into the next decade (Midori Sour, Grasshopper, or Snowball) yet still, pop up on a menu from time to time.
Though, considering the Midori Sour couldn’t be further from the current health-conscious trend of low sugar, low calorie, natural ingredients, we can only assume their appearance on modern cocktail menus is for nostalgia rather than customer demand?
As a brief overview, Disco Drinks are essentially party cocktails. They are fun, vibrant, a little outlandish, and while certain groups of people still love them, they are mainly despised by most cocktail bartenders!
Due to the common ingredients in a Disco cocktail being the likes of cream, creamy liqueurs, sugary mixers, and over-the-top tropical garnishes, you’ll find that many modern bartenders are reluctant to revive these drinks. They basically see them as a cocktail range that is better left in the era from which they originated.
If the general opinion is that cocktail bartenders don’t link to re-create these drinks, and modern consumers prefer natural and low-calorie ingredients over the likes of fruit juice and heavy cream, then why is it that Disco Drinks are making a comeback?
Why Have Disco Drinks Made a Comeback?
Drinks trends change on a yearly basis and it’s often difficult to see what the next trend is going to be. When it comes to the Disco Drinks come back though, it’s maybe not too surprising….
The Disco Drinks, while not being on-trend in terms of ingredients, do represent a time when it was accepted that you can forget about the world’s problems and quite literally dance the nights away.
After 2020, it’s therefore not too surprising that people are finding relevance in these fun and vibrant drinks that represent happier times.
The Disco Drink trend has made a two-part comeback. Part one started in 2018 when drinks journalists and brand specialists anticipated that Disco Drinks were set to make a comeback (though this never materialised), while part two started in late 2020 – early 2021 and has very much taken off this time.
We know that the comeback is very much real this time because some of the world’s top bars now have a dedicated menu to show for it. The most notable of which coming in September 2020 with the Artesian Bar launching a reimagined version of the most iconic 70’s Disco Drinks.
Ranked number 41 on the Worlds 50 Best Bars list , you know when a bar of this calibre releases a new menu that it’s not a gimmick.
The menu featured a more modern twist on some of the classic Disco Drinks including;
A Blue Hawaii made with 100% blue agave tequila and blended to create a visually striking slush. A Brandy Alexander which has yellow chartreuse and Cocchi rosa added to an already creamy cognac, creme de cacao and cream base. Most noticeable on the menu is perhaps the Grasshopper (arguably the most popular Disco cocktail) served Martini style with whiskey and salt to offset the intense creamy flavour of the original Grasshopper recipe.
The Ladies&Gents cocktail bar in London has also jumped on this emerging trend and are providing Disco inspired cocktails in a pouch.
5 Popular Disco Drinks In 2021
As Disco Drinks is looking like a strong trend for this year, we wanted to compile a shortlist of some of the best, or most popular drinks that you can expect to see this year paying homage to the decade of colour… and cream.
The Grasshopper is an iconic Disco Drink that summed up the era. Yes, iconic is a strong word but the Grasshopper had the two components that are most synonymous with the time – bright colours and a creamy texture.
The mint flavoured cocktail is often considered an after-dinner option yet rose to prominence in the 70’s due to its electric green colour alongside an ingredient build of creme de menthe, creme de cacao, and cream.
Modern twists look to tone down the heaviness of the original cocktail with Baileys and ice cream acting as substitute ingredients that allow for more flavour combinations as a result.
A Blue Hawaii can go by a few names depending on ingredients used as you might have also heard of Blue Lagoon or Blue Hawaiin. When it comes to the ’70s in particular, Blue Hawaii was the top of the list when it comes to blue coloured drinks (if that’s a category?).
Consisting of rum, pineapple juice and blue curacao, A Blue Hawaii provides a delicate balance between sweet and sour and is actually one of the few Disco Drinks that still remain popular today. As we’ve already mentioned, the Artesian has experimented with tequila and a blended mix though the best variation (in most bartenders opinion) is the stripped back version popularised by John DeBary.
Just make sure you don’t confuse a Blue Hawaii with a Blue Hawaiian (same ingredients but with coconut liqueur). A Blue Hawaii maintains the vivid blue colour that made it such a hit in the ’70s.
This drink may stand out on the Disco Drinks list because it doesn’t look like a Disco Drink if that makes sense?
The reason for the Godfathers popularity in this era is because of the film and not much else. Due to the initial popularity though, this drink is one that has stayed through the ages and is always subject to modern twists and riffs.
The original cocktail is incredibly simple, whiskey and amaretto made in equal parts. The blend works well, though its simplicity is often overlooked. Currently, bartenders are utilising overproof bourbon and Irish whiskey to balance out the flavour of the drink but when it comes to getting creative, very few bartenders try to get too fancy with this cocktail as the initial recipe just works.
The White Russian is a variation on the Black Russian and its popularity very much coincided with the cream heavy, dessert based cocktail range so popular in the Disco era. While initially created in the ’60s, the White Russian took off in the Disco era and was one of the most popular drinks by the turn of the ‘80s.
The fact that the White Russian was THE drink in the Big Lebowski also helped its popularity!
Initially, the White Russian was made with vodka, coffee liqueur and heavy cream, though many bartenders feel this is a tacky and unsophisticated mix. Unlike many other Disco Drinks, however, bartenders do find a lot of base potential when it comes to the White Russian and modern twists are commonplace.
Craft coffee liqueurs are the primary reason why White Russians still remain relevant. Kahlua is seen as a cheap and unimaginative option but brands like Mr Black and Cazcabel are offering premium mixes to an otherwise basic cocktail.
The most debatable cocktail on this list is the Midori Sour. Much like a Blue Hawaii, the Midori Sour was ridiculously popular in the ’70s because of its visual colour and sweet taste. Unlike the Blue Hawaiin though, people soon stopped drinking melon based cocktails as it’s simply an acquired taste.
The Midori Sour (with Midori first launching on the shelves of Studio 54, the driver of many cocktails from the Disco Drinks era) was mixed with vodka and soda water which is still a relevant combination to this day. The issue however was that Midori lost popularity as people moved away from sugar-based liqueurs.
Fast forward to 2021 though and you’ll find that the revamped Midori formula using more natural ingredients is once again a sought after ingredient.
Most respected cocktail bartenders openly admitting displeasure at drinking or even creating the drinks that defined an era in the ’70s. Despite this, we’ve slowly been seeing them sneak into menus over the last few years with the back-end of 2020 proving to be a catalyst.
Usually, these drinks are reserved for backstreet local bars. They’re easy to throw together and relatively kind on cost. For the top bars though, respected bartenders are once again experimenting with some of the long-forgotten ingredients (creme de menthe and cream we’re looking at you), we’re seeing a revival with more sustainable and organic ingredients for the “classic” cocktails.
Some people are likely to be thrilled to see some fun and colour in their drinks after the year we’ve had and if we’re being honest, we’re glad to see some of these unique drinks get their moment in the limelight (or disco light) again.