This summer Kiwis will be reaching for hazy beers, spritely spritzers, lighter wines, and taking a sip and savour approach to spirits and luxe liqueurs predicts the NZ Alcohol Beverages Council (NZABC).

NZABC’s executive director Bridget MacDonald says the rise of the country’s craft beer industry has meant the Kiwi palate has become quite discerning, with hazy beers becoming the next big thing along with beverages with lower alcohol, lower carbs and lower sugar.

“Innovation is key when bringing any new products to market, but it is just as critical for the industry to listen to its customers and respond to their needs.

“Over the past five years, the volume of beers under 1.15% abv has increased by 256%. No- and low-alcohol beers are not only becoming increasingly popular but more broadly accepted and respected when we’re socialising,” MacDonald says.

“Something light and bubbly is always popular this time of year whether it’s New Zealand’s finest sparkling wine, champagne or a crisp dry prosecco in a spritz cocktail. The blush of rosé remains on the rise this summer; still, you can never go wrong with your favourite chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, or pinot gris, or perhaps try a different varietal like an albariño for something light, floral and spicy. What’s really impressive is the innovation by some of our finest winemakers who are producing 0% wines and lighter wines under 10% abv – and still bursting with flavour.”

Macdonald says gin with local herb and botanical flavour profiles such as kawakawa, manuka, and horopito has also seen a rise in popularity.

“But rum is making its move to knock gin off its perch – we’re seeing this globally too. In Wellington, bartenders say high-quality tequila is getting its fair share of interest as a sophisticated sipping drink and following global trends this will only increase in popularity,” she says.

“What we are mixing our drinks with is changing too. The ‘better for me’ trend is influencing interest in functional ingredients often associated with wellbeing such as kombucha, ginger and turmeric. Demand is increasing for premium tonic water and mixers to be paired with premium spirits – with exotic aromatics or flavours like elderflower they are often quite enjoyable on their own.”

Despite not being able to travel, MacDonald says Kiwis are keen to be transported somewhere exotic or explore their own backyard through their tastebuds.

“The trick is to ‘travel’ safely and responsibly – so good rule of thumb is ‘Go no, low or slow’. It’s always okay to choose no or low alcohol drinks. If you choose to drink, pace yourself and enjoy your drink slowly,” she says.