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2024's Trendiest Cocktail Is A Low-ABV Libation

The Hugo is designed to be enjoyed over and over, with no regrets.

It might not sound as catchy as its teetotaling cousin Dry January, but Damp January is definitely growing in popularity. As millennials and Gen Z move away from drinking, there's more collective enthusiasm for sophisticated zero-proof beverages. Lots of people, though, aren't eschewing alcohol altogether, but rather seeking a more balanced approach to consumption. Damp January is the most visible example of the move toward a happy medium that still allows for scaled-back imbibing.

The rise in popularity of low-ABV (alcohol by volume) libations speaks to the growing trend. These cocktails, often based in fortified wine or amaro liqueurs, have as much flavor as a martini but allow you to tip back a few and still feel fresh the next morning. One example you've likely seen on many menus is the Aperol Spritz—but the aperitif has been done. And done again.

According to Paul Feinstein, author of the just released mixology collection Italy Cocktails: An Elegant Collection of Over 100 Recipes Inspired by Italia, the cocktail you're going to see everywhere in 2024 is a take on the spritz that's refreshing in more ways than one: The Hugo.

The Hugo cocktail, explained

The ingredients in the Hugo are simple: elderflower liqueur, Prosecco, seltzer, and a sprig of mint. While it isn't on many American menus yet, Feinstein told The Takeout, the new Italian classic is about to be. The drink, already popular in Italy, was created by bartender Roland Gruber in 2005 at the Sanzeno bar in South Tyrol, Italy, a region where elderflower is common.

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"One of the reasons the Hugo is trending is because the popularity of the Aperol Spritz caused drinkers to tinker with other possible fizzy drinks that work well as an aperitif," Feinstein said. "The other reason is because it's a low-ABV cocktail. This allows pre-gamers to toss back more than a few without getting wasted, while at the same time lubricating the upcoming night with a touch of liquid confidence."

The popularity of the Hugo also has to do with another trend on the rise right now: bartenders making their own liqueurs. Elderflower might had have had a massive moment in the late '00s when St. Germain was released, but since then, the brand has faded in popularity as less expensive imitations have come on the market. Now, however, more and more mixologists are experimenting with house-made options.

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"Personalized elderflower liqueurs have become incredibly popular among the bar set, as it's easy to make and often surpasses old staples like St. Germain," Feinstein said. In 2024, we can expect to see even more of this bartender-led experimentation. Feinstein highlights fat-washing (infusing butter or oil into liquor), rotovapping (distilling/infusing liquors with a rotary evaporator), and other sophisticated techniques "to make flavors in cocktails pop in surprising ways."

There's no reason to wait for 2024 to try the Hugo, though—especially since sparkling wines are basically required for a midnight toast on New Year's Eve. Here's the original recipe, from Italy Cocktails.


The Hugo cocktail recipe

Serves: 1

  • 1 oz. Fiorente Elderflower Liqueur
  • 3 oz. prosecco
  • 2 oz. seltzer
  • Spring of mint, for garnish
  • 1. Fill a wine glass with ice, add all the ingredients, and lightly stir.

    2. Garnish with a large sprig of mint, gently compressing the leaves to release the oil.

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