Trends: What Mzansi will be drinking in 2021 (or not)

We have all made peace with the changes Covid-19 has sparked. Rowan Leibbrandt, co-founder of Truman & Orange, has a few things to get off his chest and we are tuning in attentively to see if drink culture is changing for the better

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Before I hear any of you ask “Can you remind us what you said last year so we can check how clever you are?” or “Did you predict Covid, you idiot?” I’d like to point out that this exercise is totally devoid of any science, or anything remotely similar to research. 

Leibbrandt wonders could this be the dawn of room temperature cocktails? 2021 is nothing short of surprising. Phot: Supplied/Food For Mzansi

Disclaimer: Please note that no industry professionals, commentators, or authoritative figures were bothered in the writing of this report. Opinions are entirely your correspondent’s own and he has been wrong quite frequently in the past, but thought that South Africa might need a little more fun given the 2020 we’ve had.

And with that bold disclaimer your humble correspondent proclaims – with totally unjustified confidence – that when it comes to what we drink, the year ahead of us is going to be driven by the following mega-trends: 

Trend 1: The demise of the ice cube

2021 is almost certainly going to see us saying goodbye to the ice cube. Also known as the arse-coob in Durban, this drink addition has surprisingly become quite popular for those enjoying a cold one. However, recent years have seen some push-back driven by the tragic loss of building material it has translated into for the Northern Canadian Inuit community, with the desecration of their homes as their igloo walls are demolished and shipped in small pieces to popular cocktail bars around the world by ruthless ice foragers. 

With the millenial trend toward health and wellness, alcohol brands have had to make some very creative marketing decisions to ensure that they capture their market.
Not to say anybody can be bought with drinks, but it seems the pockets will be even looser this year. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi
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2021 is the year the ice cube – this cruel, yet long-time friend of every barman – will have reached the end of its useful life. In response, 2021 will be the year when we finally see the long-awaited rise of those mouth-watering, room temperature cocktails: the lukewarm-long-island-ice-tea, the tepid-tequila-daiquiri, and the increasingly popular icky-sticky-martini. 

La Med in Cape Town is widely renowned to have helped kick-start this sophisticated style of drinking, with the pioneering work they did selling sweaty little drinks to sun-burnt tourists standing in 40-degree sun, for fifty bucks.

Trend 2: Gin might make a comeback

Yes, you heard it here first, 2021 will see a boat load of new gins launched in SA.  A recent poll of two barmen, a car guard, my tipsy wife, and the uber driver taking us home, led me to draw the inescapable conclusion that 2021 will see gin becoming quite popular. 

“Gosh, hold the front page,” I hear you say. 


As unlikely as this seems, we are entering into a year which will increasingly see grown men quit corporate jobs they actually have degrees for and launch craft distilling businesses they are totally unqualified to run. 

Undeterred by the generation of bankrupt craft brewers that came before them, these enthusiastic distillers (small, polite cough) will open garage distilleries and launch craft gin brands with names like Octonaut’s Rectum. 

The world will rediscover rare ingredients like fungus and elephant dung, and once again come to the conclusion that they don’t have any place in a gin. This same poll predicted the long-awaited Vermouth trend’s arrival will consequently be pushed back to 2042 as a result of quite a lot of people not liking Vermouth, and the people expected to start liking it not having arrived yet.

Trend 3: Guys will start buying girls drinks in bars

Probably the most surprising prediction we’re making this year is that we anticipate the rise of guys smelling of Tommy Hilfiger wearing golf shirts with the collars stuck up, buying pretty girls in bars drinks, as part of a complicated mating ritual we are only beginning to understand. 

New gins galore in 2021. If international movie stars like Ryan Reynolds can make one, so can you. But do not be too outlandish with those ingredients. Photo: CNBC

Early signs suggest that these unsolicited bottles of champagne might be a form of subtle, non-verbal signal sending, whereby the middle-aged male is actually saying “please shag me”. This never-before-seen bar ritual will surprise some (the girls) for its audaciousness and surprise others (the golf shirt wearers mostly) for its extremely low return on investment.

2022 is likely to see a return to the more successful tactic where the male of the species slides his Golf GTI keys across the bar in front of his victim, and nods silently at them, while she does her best not to be overwhelmed by the suddenly handsome stranger.    

Trend 4: Quite a few drinks categories will change size

Finally, we felt the need to include some predictions for our business readers. Our extensive research in the South African drinks industry enables us to somewhat confidently predict that the size of the South Africa spirits segment will change by either plus or minus 11.1%. 

‘2021 will be the year when we finally see the long-awaited rise of those mouth-watering, room temperature cocktails.’

Unfortunately, our research isn’t granular enough to predict which way, but we are able to say is that the change will almost certainly see some categories getting bigger, while others might be get smaller.

We surmise that this might be as a result of certain drinks choices going up in popularity while others get less so. And while our research wasn’t able to establish which categories would gain and which would lose in 2021, we expect that by November we will be able to let you know.

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