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Savory Cocktails Are Having a Moment. Here Are 21 to Try.

As we mature as drinkers, our palates evolve. That’s why, much like a favorite childhood candy, sweet concoctions may not hit the same way over time. They may taste more cloying or lacking in complexity, leaving us wondering what else is out there. Enter savory cocktails, which call on flavors from fish sauce to chili bitters to challenge palates and offer delicious alternatives to sugar-forward drinks. Bars across the country are getting in on the trend, introducing new offerings that go far beyond olive juice-splashed dirty gin martinis.

“Social media plays a huge part in exposing patrons to unique cocktails beyond the classics,” explains Mackenzie Muller, the bar lead at Scratch & Co. That increasingly means savory cocktails. “People are more willing to put their trust in the bartender, as they would a chef, to make them something they’ll love.”

Need proof? Earlier this year, the Parmesan espresso martini took TikTok by storm, transforming a seemingly abominable combination into a certified craze. Dirty martinis have even made the jump from drinks to food, inspiring everything from a briny salad dressing to an olive-studded pasta. It points to the wider embrace of savory cocktail flavors, particularly in combinations outside the norm.

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“Our drinks make you think a little differently,” says Mace head bartender Emily Holser of the New York City cocktail den’s savory offerings. The spot has been experimenting with unique ingredients since its 2015 opening, including fermented garlic honey, sumac and peanut butter-infused vodka. More recently, however, Holser has noted a shift in customer attitudes. 

“I’ve noticed a larger trend of people asking for traditional cocktails to be less sweet,” Holser says, adding that she believes this can be a gateway to expanding one’s palate.

Is the average drinker shifting away from sweet flavors? Whether or not that’s the case, indisputable is that Google searches for “savory cocktails” are currently at their highest level in more than a decade.

Interested in finding a savory cocktail that speaks to you? For all of the umami lovers out there, here are some of Wine Enthusiast’s favorite savory libations, from an everything bagel-inspired martini to a carrot-infused gin sipper.

1. Everything Bagel Martini

Dirty Bleu
Image Courtesy of Caesars Entertainment

Delivering rich umami flavor and an appealingly crunchy texture, everything bagel spice is our new favorite thing to put on a martini rim.

2. Parmesan Espresso Martini

Parmesan Espresso Martini
Image Courtesy of Noah Fecks

Behold the Parmesan espresso martini—which is exactly what it sounds like.

3. Celine-Dijon

Celine Dijon Cocktail / Photo by Tom Arena

This pun-tastic drink, which gets its punch from Dijon mustard and passionfruit, makes our heart go on.

4. Dirty Martini

Dirty Vodka Martini
Dirty Vodka Martini/ Photography by Ali Redmond

Forget sugary Appletinis and fruit juice-spiked Mississippi bourbon punch. If your drink preferences skew more savory than sweet, the dirty martini belongs in your order queue. With a deep umami kick from a heavy-handed splash of salty olive brine, this cocktail has earned its honored spot in the cocktail canon.

5. Latke-Sour

Latke Sour
Latke Sour Cocktail / Photo by Ezra Pollard

This holiday cocktail is a potato pancake in drink form, with a spuds-forward flavor, rich froth and a whiff of smokiness.

6. Spicy Margarita

El Pepino margarita
Photo courtesy Michael Persico, Styling courtesy Kelsi Windmiller

Whether you’re a lifelong spice fiend, or simply looking to heat up your next happy hour, this spicy margarita recipe is a spirited riff on the classic cocktail.

7. Catbus Garden Cocktail

Greenmarket Cocktails Catbus Garden cocktail
Catbus Garden Cucumber Cocktail / Photo by Chelsea Kyle Prop Styling by Summer Moore / Food Styling by Jamie Kimm

Named for a character in an animated film, this cucumber cocktail is the perfect summer sipper over ice

8. Grin & Carrot

Grin and Carrot Cocktail
Photo by Katrin Björk

Gin, meet your vegetables. This cocktail gets its creamy body from fresh carrot juice, while caraway adds a savory note and vermouth ties it together.

9. Seven Serpents (corn)

Greenmarket Cocktail Seven Serpents Corn Cocktail
Seven Serpents Corn Juice Cocktail / Photo by Chelsea Kyle / Prop Styling by Summer Moore / Food Styling by Jamie Kimm

This spicy corn cocktail features chili bitters, fresh corn juice, lemon juice and the spirit of your choice.

10. NA Carrot Cocktail

Bunny in a Top hat
Photography by Tom Arena

With fresh orange juice and zero-proof tequila, this savory and sophisticated cocktail is worth sipping all year long.

11. Seaweed Scotch Cocktail

A Scotch cocktail
Photo by Sang An

DIY nori-infused gin, white port and Talisker make up this smoky yet salty Scotch cocktail.

12. The Sum Nice, Sum Spice Genever Cocktail

The Sum Nice, Sum Spice Genever cocktail
Photo by Penny de Los santos/ Styling by Frances Boswell

Cucumber, serrano pepper, mint and lime make this refreshing cocktail more like a spicy spa water. No Genever? Swap it out for tequila or vodka.

13. The Pirate Mary Cocktail

The Pirate Mary Cocktail
Photo by Meg Baggott

Break out the juicer for this light, bright version of the classic Bloody. Thanks to a tropical mix of pineapple and coconut water, this is a bit sweeter than the typical Bloody Mary, but it still leans savory thanks to yellow tomato juice and celery bitters. A generous dose of black pepper adds a mouthwatering edge.

14. Smoky Mary

Getty

Mezcal imparts a savory smoky note to the classic brunch cocktail.

15. El Gallito Cocktail

The El Gallito cocktail
Photography: Kelly Puleio © 2018

This drink straddles the line between sweet and savory. A handful of cherry tomatoes tamps down the fruity flavor without pushing the drink into full-on Bloody Mary territory.

16. Garlicky Citrus Bloody Mary

Photo by Steve Ross / Getty

Hudson Valley Distillers crafts vodka from a fruit that’s been the region’s bounty since colonial times: apples. The vodka features a subtle sweetness from the apples, so Moyer pairs citrus fruits, horseradish and jalapeño with roasted garlic for this sweet-spicy take on a Bloody Mary.

17. Sangrita for the Non-Conformist

A tomato-based sangrita
A tomato-based sangrita / Photo by Meg Baggott

This American riff on sangrita uses a “more is more” approach to ingredients, and decidedly emphasizes the savory to strike balance with the sour. Tomato juice is used in equal proportion to orange juice, and roasted vegetables take center stage.

18. Traditional Michelada

If your guests crave a savory hop-tail, try this Mexican classic. The michelada melds a Bloody Mary with Mexican light-style ale, while its salted rim gives a small nod to the country’s other signature drink: the margarita.

19. Chinese Hot Mustard

Ezra Star was inspired to make her spicy mustard cocktail by one of her favorite childhood snacks. “I was kind of a bizarre kid and loved to put mustard on oranges,” says Star, general manager at Drink in Boston. “My favorite way to use orange is with tequila, so it seemed like a perfect pairing.”

20. The Yellow Line

Photo by Burcu Atalay Tankut / Getty

This drink incorporates turmeric, a root usually ground into a yellow-orange powder that’s popular in South Asian cooking.

21. Pickle Shot

Pickle Shots
Pickle Shots / Photo by Caitlin Bensel

This strong-and-sour shooter has been making the rounds on social media for the past couple of years. We can see why: It’s a fun, playful drink that’s easy to make and adapts to whichever ingredients are in your bar/kitchen.