Crack a cold one and put the fizzy wine on ice. Summer is about to reach its heady peak, which means How to Make Gravy singalongs, fish-and-chips and drinking nice things by the pool.
For this prawn sandwich and party season, however, Australians look set to imbibe with a little less fervour than previous years.
"2019 has undoubtedly been the year of 'low alcohol'," says James Atkinson, booze writer and host of podcast Drinks Adventures. "A general trend towards 'wellness' and healthy eating across all food and drink categories means booze companies are creating more products that cater towards health conscious consumers. We're seeing options lower in alcohol across wine, beer, spirits and everything in between."
Drinks with lower alcohol don't have to be any less delicious than their boozier counterparts, says Atkinson. Here are five drink trends of the summer to enjoy with cheese, cabanossi and the sound of cicadas.
A vibrant combination of liqueur, soda and sparkling wine, the spritz has been going gangbusters in beer gardens around Australia for the last few years. More often than not, Italian Aperol is involved, but with an increasing amount of locally made amaro, vermouth and liqueur available, the all-Aussie spritz is becoming A Thing.
"We use Australian-made drinks for the same reason we use Australian produce in the kitchen," says Daniel McBride, co-owner of The Golden Gully bar in Leichhardt, Sydney. "If something is available locally and it's good, we want to reward the people that have taken the time and effort to make it." McBride's Golden Gully Spritz contains Regal Rogue rosé vermouth and Palloncino prosecco made in the Murray Darling.
Meanwhile in Melbourne, bar owner Sebastian Costello serves a Pavlova Spritz at Fitzroy's Bad Frankie. It's made with a meringue-based pavlova vodka from Old Young's Distillery in Swan Valley, sherry-style Pennyweight fino and a tart pineapple shrub. "Making Australian spritzes help a small distiller, plus you get to taste native botanicals that may not be used elsewhere," Costello says.
Less boozy wines
"There is massive potential for the low-alcohol wine market to expand," says Atkinson. "The best examples of low-alcohol wines available right now are coming from New Zealand, where a bunch of winemakers have worked out how to make really good lower-booze wine and sell it for a reasonable price. I don't know of any other collective that has done this before."
Those winemakers are from 18 companies that form the NZ Lighter initiative, focused on the natural production of lighter-in-alcohol wines (defined as wines containing less than 10 per cent alcohol by volume). Participating Lighter NZ labels to look out for in Australia include Giesen, Stoneleigh and Peter Yealands.
More boozy kombucha
Kombucha's fermentation process means the drink beloved for its professed probiotic properties has an alcohol content often sitting at around one per cent. Perhaps enough to put a P-plater over the limit, but hardly the kind of thing you would expect to find in the hands of punters at a rock show.
Enter K.Booch, launched by Nick Kogger in February in response to more consumers chasing booze that's (potentially) better for waistlines than standard choices. Four per cent alcohol, gluten-free and low in sugar, K.Booch is now in more than 600 bottle shops and set to feature at 70 music festivals over the next few months. Naughty Booch and Bootleg Booch are other local hard kombucha brands.
Ready-to-drink drinks worth drinking
The ready-to-drink (RTD) market has traditionally been flooded with high sugar "lolly water" containing all the complexity of vodka-spiked Fanta, but things are changing says Atkinson. "Smaller Australian companies are reinventing the RTD by using quality ingredients, but this is only the beginning. Expect to see a lot more distillers giving the RTD category the shake-up it needs."
Atkinson points to Four Pillars' tinned negronis and the just-released Love Cans as examples of RTDs worth a crack. The latter is a collaboration between Strangelove soda company and Poor Toms distillery, and the line includes a gin-and-tonic number with notes of grapefruit, and a yuzu and vodka creation weighted at one standard drink per can.
There's also a high likelihood hard seltzers will take off over the next 12 months. Alcoholic seltzers have found massive success in the United States, where Nielsen data shows sales of the carbonated fruit-infused soda have skyrocketed by 210 per cent since 2018. Beverage giant Lion launched Australia's first alcoholic seltzer, Quincy, in November.
"If Quincy does well, it will open the hard seltzer flood gates and a lot more drinks companies will look to include boozy soda in their offerings," says Atkinson. Indeed, Coles launched its alcoholic mineral water, Somma, in Liquorland stores two weeks ago and on Friday, craft brewer Two Birds announced the arrival of Chirpy, an easy-drinking boozy grapefruit soda.
Salty, sour beer
Beer which has an intentionally tart, acidic taste is known as a "sour" and the style is perfect for Australian summers, says Atkinson. "Sours are refreshing, often low in alcohol and when done well, they can be highly enjoyable. Boatrocker's Miss Pinky Raspberry Berliner Weisse is one to try."
Sitting under the sour umbrella is gose (rhymes with poser) beer, a salted brew of German origin becoming more prevalent in Australian bottle shops. Mornington Peninsula's Jetty Road Brewery released a blueberry gose this week.
"I really like drinking balanced beers and gose has a little bit more textural complexity than other sours due to its salt content," says Jetty Road co-founder Blake Bowden. "Consumers can expect to see a lot more sours on the Australian market - even one of my suppliers reported he had sold out of all his souring culture a couple of weeks ago. It's definitely going to be the beer trend for summer."