TikTok’s Cocktail Reach

The video-based social media platform shapes drinks trends on-premise.

Social media has been influencing pop culture since its inception, and online social networks like TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube have become big-time influencers at the bar, too. The on-premise is a social business, after all, and social media has naturally become a source of information and idea-sharing for consumers and bar aficionados. From a bartender perspective, social media often spreads awareness on new drinks trends and cocktails at a much more rapid pace than old fashioned word of mouth. TikTok in particular, thanks to its short video clip format, has become a haven for drinks trends. 

“TikTok has an outsized influence over the drinks business due to its enormous reach,” says Sother Teague, partner and beverage director at New York City bar Amor y Amargo and its parent company Overthrow Hospitality. “Social media affects the bar and cocktail scene more than most industries because we’re already in a social business. I don’t adjust my menus based on the trends of social media, but I alert my teams so that they’re aware of what may get requested at the bar.” 

Teague points to niche cocktails like clarified milk punches and smoked drinks as getting a boost from TikTok, but adds that more common cocktails like the Frosé—which was hugely popular last summer—also gained major steam from the online platform. “I see a lot of clarified cocktails on my social feeds and they seem to capture the imagination of audiences,” he explains. “They’re popular because they take time to produce and are transformational, but in a 30-90 second video they’re instantly gratifying.” 

This past February, a group of social media content creators dubbed one week to be “Batanga Week” and Teague says the effect was significant at his bar. The influencers had essentially made it up after taking a trip to Mexico, but it gained major traction thanks to social media. The Batanga is a relatively simple Mexican drink comprising Tequila, Coca-Cola, and lime juice, served in a salt-rimmed glass and oftentimes stirred with a large knife, and Teague says he had many requests for one at his bar during the month of February. “It went absolutely viral and was truly a testament to the strength of influence,” he adds. “This is how information moves now.” 

Daniel Beedle, the assistant food and beverage director at Birch & Bloom steak house inside Kimpton’s The Forum Hotel in Charlottesville, Virginia, notes that social media platforms are doing away with the concept of “trade secrets” in the bar industry. Consumers can easily find information on how to mix cocktails that were once available only from a seasoned bartender. And it’s also breaking down global barriers, allowing the general public to see what’s happening in bars thousands of miles away from their home. 

“TikTok makes it easier than ever to try cocktail-making at home,” Beedle says, noting that his bar embraces new trends as long as they fit within the scope of the concept’s beverage program. “TikTok’s most popular drinks tend to be visually appealing. We’ve sold more than 700 Espresso Martinis this year, and that’s probably one of the biggest influences TikTok has had.” 

Birch & Bloom’s Espresso Martini ($17) blends fresh espresso with Diplomático Reserva Exclusiva rum and Tito’s vodka, as well as Kahlúa and Frangelico liqueurs and Averna amaro. In addition, Beedle says TikTok’s Brazilian Limeade trend has hit his bar and become very popular. The venue offers it as a zero-proof drink ($10) made with a base of lime juice and sweetened condensed milk, and rotates through several flavored variations. The bar also allows guests to add rum for a full-proof cocktail. 

“Social media platforms like TikTok will continue to significantly influence cocktail culture by providing accessible information and inspiring home bartenders to innovate and reach larger audiences,” Beedle says. “It encourages creativity and experimentation, leading to new trends and popular drinks.”