The necessity of employing higher levels of skills to meet modern culinary challenges gets short shrift when the result is in beverage form. This was understandable when research chefs and culinologists were establishing their foothold in the world of product development. Beverages just were not thought of in terms of their creative origins. But, the infusing of artful combinations of ingredients in order to raise beverages to the next level is enjoying sudden demand, as chefs bring their expertise from oven and stove to blender, shaker and bottle.
One has to approach beverages as an artist would a fine painting; only, in this case, a canvas is chosen by distinct taste and spirit. The goal is to combine a mélange of flavors by adding color after color to create a masterpiece: one that always turns into an amalgamation of an original cocktail (if using spirits) or other beverage. There are no limits to creativity and imagination with a discerning palate -- all can be translated to batch production. 
It all starts with choosing a base. This will vary, not only within categories of dairy vs. juice, but from the highly acidic citrus to other fruits. It will involve liqueurs or purées; other bases can shift even from region-to-region. But, with the base in mind, bringing a formulation from a single order or small batch to suit a restaurant or bar to mass production can call on significant adjustments in ingredients and techniques.
There also are more fundamental considerations.
“The most technically challenging aspect of creating new/functional beverages is ingredient availability, lead times and minimum commitments from qualified suppliers,” says Andrew Dun, vice president at Insight Beverages Inc. “One can get sample ingredients to make protocepts in the lab. However, commercializing products with large-scale customers can be risky, if the ingredient is difficult to obtain; requires a long lead time; or has a high order minimum.”

Fruit on Base

The biggest challenge in formulating large batches with fresh fruit bases is making sure the citrus or fresh fruit or vegetable ingredients do not oxidize. Although this can call for preservatives or color stabilizers, it is possible to create liquid concoctions by the hundreds, with only refrigeration as the preservative. 
Keeping the ingredients at the lowest possible temperature and reducing contact with oxygen as strictly as possible can allow the beverage maker to have a pure product with a clean label, provided food-safety considerations are addressed through high-tech application of pasteurization or High Pressure Processing (HPP). 
The latter method has experienced a major increase in popularity due to its ability to sterilize without heat and without altering flavors.
When creating smoothie blends, one of the most important aspects to consider is the texture of the final product. There are limitless flavor combinations, and it is important to understand the texture -- and accompanying texture limits -- of each ingredient in reaction with the other. While starches, stabilizers and emulsifiers can help make a uniform product, sometimes the answer to smoothing out a lumpy or watery formulation can be to bring in a dairy component. 
For a non-dairy solution in a fruit smoothie, adding a low-acid/high-starch fruit, such as banana (or something more exotic, for example, cherimoya), can smooth out the final product.
Campbell Soup started combining fruits and vegetables in its V8 Fusions line, and since then, the trend is growing. Newcomers, such as Suja Juice LLC and Raw Foods International LLC, are enjoying substantial market penetration with juices mixing apple and lemon with kale, collards and spinach; or pairings, such as passion fruit and wheat grass or carrot lemonade, that would have been hard to sell to the masses even a few years ago. The excitement centers on the ingredients, with few added ingredients and minimal processing. This, with health-halo promises, such as “6lb of fruit in a single bottle,” have quickly hooked today’s consumers.
Avocado has enjoyed a recent upsurge for use in smoothies and fruit-based beverages. At first glance, this could seem strange, but an avocado is botanically a fruit. Its value to a beverage product is multi-faceted. The high (healthful) fat and fiber brings a velvety texture to the beverage, and the uniqueness adds a distinct, marketable aspect. 
As a low-acid fruit, avocado can add balance to a concoction without altering the flavors with which it is paired. And, the flavor of an avocado is mild -- even bland. This makes it especially effective at matching and enhancing stronger fruits or bridging several disparate strong flavors in a single formulation.
Dairy-free options for smoothie-type beverages (using fruit, or not) also are great substitutions for vegetarians, vegans and lactose-sensitive/-intolerant consumers. Dairy analogs from rice, soy, nuts and coconut have found favor among beverage manufacturers, when it comes to enhancing a texture with a subtle, sweet flavor to boot.
If using dairy, whether or not alcohol is involved in the final product, the hardest thing about dairy-based blends is the curdling that comes with them. Controlling both temperature and the time the dairy is added are critical to success. Also, adding dairy to a high-acid base will call for manipulations of the non-dairy portion first, in order to prevent curdling.

A Little Fizz

Trendy carbonated beverages have been rolled out in the past few years by companies such as Ayala Herbal Waters Inc., Boundary Waters Brands’ Joia line, Twelve beverage LLC’s 12 NtM and Dry Soda Co., to name just a few. They showcase botanicals and uncommon fruits, such as lavender, hibiscus, lemongrass, juniper, rhubarb, cucumber and dragonfruit, etc. (A unique beverage category all its own has been Jones’ Sodas novelty savory sodas -- the annual holiday release of its Turkey & Dressing, Green Bean and Yam carbonated beverages range from amusing to surprisingly refreshing.) Such botanical mixes derive advantages from not needing to be heavily sweetened.
Although many of these products are sweetened only with the fruits used in them, herbs and spices also can bring out the best aspects of low- and zero-calorie botanical sweeteners, such as those from monk fruit and stevia. The mild, functional sweetener ribose also has been making its way into beverages. Ribose is a 5-carbon sugar molecule that is used in making RNA and DNA, and it helps provide energy for the body’s cellular machinery. It is less sweet than sucrose and has no aftertaste.
Technically, carbonated concoctions can be one of the trickiest categories. Once drinks are carbonated, the bubbles will intensify flavors and sensations. Finding the perfect balance within a carbonated cocktail is extremely complex. Having the awareness of the properties of CO2, including the size of the bubbles, will give the power for a sublime judgment on the final product. 
If using spirits, it is important to recognize that alcohol breaks down the pressure, so adding more gas and pressure could be necessary to achieve maximum carbonation. The average carbonation should range from 11-14psi.
Syrups, for cocktails and coffee drinks, acted as an early foray into adding flavors and sensations to standard formulations, but more as an afterthought. The next step was to take the concept back to the development stage and make use of their capacity to provide pure flavors at the onset. Syrups and intensives are a maceration of ingredients that will allow creative value according to how high their initial quality is, with those that are truly hand-crafted being the pinnacle.
Syrups used to be notorious for their electric and unnatural colors. But, recent technical developments by ingredient makers have created emulsion technologies for natural colorants that allow more subtle and effective combining of multiple oil- and water-based components. 
This makes it possible for them to provide a complex color matrix that’s able to coexist in a single delivery system, thus achieving new natural color shades that were previously unattainable. For example, different vegetable juices and natural beta-carotene can be combined to make a vivid, yet stable red that can be used instead of carmine. Being water-based emulsions, they are easily incorporated into beverage applications.

Hot and Cold

Hot beverages have their own sets of challenges and demands. 
“R&D often must work with marketing and flavor suppliers for insight on the latest trends,” says Lynn Gunderson, R&D group leader for Insight Beverages. “When working on cocoas and cappuccinos, trends in desserts and ice creams tend to translate well. We take surveys across multiple flavors and work toward the specific profile.” 
Although hot beverages have the same need as cold drinks when it comes to capturing the taste of an original flavor development, texture and aroma in the beverage feature much more prominently than in a cold product.
“Many of the flavors we develop are related to desserts, which have a significant texture aspect to them,” Gunderson explains. “We want consumers to drink a carrot cake cappuccino and say ‘that really tastes like a carrot cake cappuccino.’”
Because many cocoas and coffee drinks rely on fat (often dairy fat) as a flavor transporter, creating lower-calorie beverages calls for careful considerations. 
“For a skinny product, it’s best not to do too much,” advises Gunderson. “Simpler flavors lend themselves better to this product type, as it is more problematical to deliver a complex flavor when the system is sugar-free or low in fat. Fat carries flavor, so it is challenging to make a product flavor stand out when it is low in fat.
Providing a creamy, indulgent mouthfeel can also be difficult; hydrocolloids and some flavors can help reconstruct the perception of creaminess.”
Sugar also helps carry the flavor and creates a balanced profile. 
“We have to search for flavors that work well with the high-intensity sweeteners in the product,” continues Gunderson. “For items such as high-energy products, we focus on very established flavors with wide-ranging appeal. A consumer might want high-energy but not with a novel flavor. Mocha or French vanilla tend to sell best.”
Coffee beverages are serving as a great platform for seasonal ingredients. In a 2012 menu trends survey, Datassential Inc. reports: “Gingerbread and pumpkin frequently appear on fall/winter menus, while mint and tropical fruits are featured on spring/summer menus.” The report further supports Gunderson’s observations on the connection between dessert and hot beverages, noting that, “Many coffee beverages have dessert-like qualities, with mix-ins like cookie crumbles, crème brûlée, ‘turtle’ ingredients and whipped toppings.”
This is reflected in what Datassential researchers found to be the “trendiest flavors and descriptors associated with coffee beverages.” Environmental descriptors, such as “organic” (+11%) and fair trade (+9%); fall flavors, like gingerbread (+29%), cinnamon (+11%) and peppermint (+15%); dark chocolate (+10%); and spice (+9%).
Hot beverages also have greatly influenced cold beverage development—beyond the simple chilling of tea and coffee, that is. Specific flavorants once reserved for mug and teacup are infusing bar beverages and bottled thirst-quenchers. 
Datassential reports, “Savory, smoky, and spicy flavors -- chipotle, chili pepper, rosemary, cloves, sage -- are all top-trending drink ingredients among U.S. innovators.” 
The research group also notes tea flavors -- Earl Grey, chamomile, sweet tea -- are other fast-growing drink flavors, while trending herbs and spices include tamarind, sage, cardamom, rosemary, basil, mint and cloves. The top-growing flavors of hot tea reported were rooibos, at 33% growth; jasmine at 14% growth; chamomile at 12%; and green tea and English breakfast at 7% and 6% each, respectively.

Datassential also notes several over-arching trends in drinks, beyond specific flavor patterns. Health has infiltrated the pleasure-beverage scene. Using natural agave sweeteners and adding antioxidant-rich ingredients (pomegranate, green tea) make juice and iced tea drinks a nutritious treat.  Substituting low-fat frozen yogurt or sherbet in smoothies is another popular way to reduce fat and calories in sweet drinks.

Fired Up Beverages

New and daring techniques in beverage development are aggressively setting new heights to the bar of product development. One example, pioneered by chef Merino, is incorporating the art of grilling. For example, grilled fruit and the bold flavors it imparts are being parlayed into new drink trends that are built on combining the vibrancy of bar and kitchen. Grilling stone fruits, such as apples, peaches and pears; citrus, such as oranges, lemons, grapefruits and limes; and tropicals, such as pineapples, coconuts, mangos -- even bananas and watermelons -- enhances the flavors in a natural manner. These combine especially well with the very hot trend of heat from spice. More beverage culinologists also are using chili peppers (especially dried peppers, like chipotle and ancho) and smoke to flavor cocktails and mocktails
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