Food Scientist for Hire

ALCOHOLIC DRINKS FORMULATION & DEVELOPMENT

The discovery of a 13,000-year-old brewery in a cave near Haifa, Israel, shed light on the ancient origins of alcoholic beverages. It, is believed that it was used in ritual feasts to honour the dead. This find supports the idea that alcohol production may have predated agriculture, with early evidence found in sites like Jiahu, China, dating back to 7000 BC. Similar discoveries in regions such as Iran, Egypt, Babylon, Mexico, and Sudan further highlight the global history of alcohol. The Romans’ introduction of cider to Britain in 55 BC and its subsequent spread across Europe demonstrate the cultural exchange of alcoholic beverages. Throughout history, alcoholic drinks like wine and beer have played significant roles in various civilizations, from Classical Greece and Rome to Medieval Europe and the indigenous cultures of the Americas, reflecting their social, religious, and medicinal significance.

We saw different trends coming and going in the last two decades, including different initiatives to private label alcoholic beverage manufacturers for product development. From the rise of alcopops to the craft beer movement back to the alcopops with a twist and then to the no and low alcohol movement. We summarised below the trends we have seen in the last 30-40 years.

1990-1995:

  • The emergence of flavored vodkas like Absolut Citron.
  • Growth of wine coolers and alcopops. Think of Bacardi Breezer, WKD, Smirnoff Ice, Gordon Space and the likes.
  • Rise of light beers such as Bud Light and Miller’s Light.

1995-2000:

  • Martini culture resurges with iconic brands like Bombay Sapphire.
  • Premiumization of spirits begins, exemplified by Grey Goose vodka.

2000-2005:

  • Craft beer revolution begins with brands like Sierra Nevada and Sam Adams.
  • Traditional cocktails regain popularity with classics from brands like Bacardi and Jack Daniel’s.
  • Premiumization of spirits gains momentum with brands like Grey Goose and Patron.

2005-2010:

  • Craft beer movement gains traction with more microbreweries like Dogfish Head and Stone Brewing.
  • Gin starts to make a comeback with brands like Hendrick’s and Tanqueray. Gin & Tonic returns!

2010-2015:

  • Gin renaissance continues with artisanal offerings from brands like Sipsmith and The Botanist.
  • Rise of health-conscious options like low-calorie drinks from brands like White Claw and Truly.
  • Sustainability becomes a focus in production and packaging, led by brands like Patagonia Provisions and New Belgium Brewing.

2015-2020:

  • Hard seltzers explode in popularity with brands like White Claw and Truly leading the way. Push for diversity and inclusion in the industry, championed by brands like BrewDog and White Claw Hard Seltzer.
  • E-commerce and direct-to-consumer sales grow significantly, with brands like Drizly and Tavour gaining prominence.

2020-present:

  • Continued growth of hard seltzers with new entrants like Vizzy and High Noon.
  • Sustainability and social responsibility remain key concerns, embraced by brands like Four Pillars Gin and BrewDog’s sustainability initiatives.
  • Increased experimentation with new flavors and ingredients (e.g. dragon fruit, lemon peel and chocolate), seen in offerings from brands like Untitled Art and Wild Basin.
  • No to low alcoholic drinks and beers with better taste and gaining more and more popularity globally.

In this decade, from craft beers to artisanal spirits, the world of alcoholic beverages is as big as it has never been before. For alcoholic beverage development, you’ll need a fundamental understanding of how alcohol is created. Also, you must know , how ingredients interact with each other to get the best-tasting product. Creating a product that doesn’t only taste delicious but also gives you that buzz that the consumer is looking for is super important.

The alcohol in the alcoholic drinks is primary called ethyl alcohol or ethanol. It is typically made when yeast ferments the sugars in grains, fruits or vegetables. For example, wine is made from the sugar in grapes and beer is made from the sugar in grains and so on and so forth. For spirits like whiskey, vodka, and gin, the journey continues with distillation. This involves heating the fermented liquid of lower alcohol content to separate alcohol from water and other compounds. Because the boiling point of ethanol is 78°C and water 100°C, the two can be carefully separated by condensing the steam of this process. Distillation is essentially a water-removing process or an alcohol concentration process depending on which way you look at it.

FUN FACTS

Distillers carefully collect the “heart” of the distillate, the purest and most flavorful part, discarding the less desirable “heads” and “tails.” This process gives each spirit its distinct character. You can distil up to 96% alcohol.

The effervescence in champagne and sparkling wines comes from a second fermentation that occurs inside the bottle. Yeast and sugar are added to the base wine, producing carbon dioxide as a byproduct, which gets trapped in the sealed bottle, creating those iconic bubbles.

Vodka is known as one of the most versatile spirits due to its relatively neutral flavor profile. It can be made from various ingredients, including grains, potatoes, and even fruits. Additionally, vodka’s high alcohol content and lack of distinct flavor make it a popular choice for mixing in cocktails and infusing with different flavors.

During the aging process of whiskey in barrels, a portion of the liquid evaporates, known as the “angels’ share.” This evaporation, caused by changes in temperature and humidity, can be as much as 2-4% of the barrel’s contents each year. While it may seem like a loss, it’s considered a contribution to the unique flavors and characteristics of the final product.

Gin’s origins trace back to the Netherlands in the 16th century, where it was initially used for medicinal purposes. The juniper berry, a key botanical in gin, was believed to have medicinal properties, leading to the creation of jenever, the precursor to modern gin. Over time, gin evolved into a beloved spirit enjoyed for its complex botanical flavors.

Like wine, tequila is influenced by terroir, the environmental factors that affect the flavor of agricultural products. Tequila must be made from blue agave grown in specific regions of Mexico, including Jalisco and parts of four other states. Factors such as altitude, soil composition, and climate contribute to the unique flavor profiles of different tequilas.

Alcoholic beverage formulation and development is a journey that combines science, innovation and a passion for flavors. From the careful selection of ingredients to the artful blending of flavors, each step contributes to the creation of a unique and enjoyable drink. As consumers increasingly seek variety and distinctive experiences, the world of alcoholic beverage development continues to evolve, bringing new and exciting options to enthusiasts around the globe. Cheers to the creative minds at Food Scientist For Hire behind your favorite alcoholic beverages!

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