THE standard of long mixed drinks served in Scotland is high, but many bars have yet to tap into the potential the category offers.
This ‘could do better’ verdict came last week from Funkin, the cocktail mixer supplier, which said long serves are proving to be an avenue for male drinkers to get into cocktails.
“Scotland as a nation embraces cocktails and long mixed drinks, but there is a real need for more venues to offer them,” said Funkin CEO Andrew King. “There are lots of excellent examples of fabulous delivery across Scotland, but many bars are missing out on a valuable profit opportunity.
“Long mixed drinks are growing in popularity and the Mojito is now the number one cocktail in the UK.
“This is increasingly driving cocktail penetration for male drinkers and as the number of consumers going out post the winter lock down grows, long mixed drinks offer a great alternative to the default wine or beer choice that has perhaps become the consumer staple for those who have stayed at home.”
And according to King there’s no better time for operators to turn more people on to long drinks than spring.
“Many of the larger operators offer variations on the Mojito, Daiquiri or Collins, adding a strawberry, raspberry or passion fruit for added variety and seasonality on their menus,” he said.
“[The] opportunity for pitcher serves with longer spring evenings and sunshine should see [an] increase in footfall and al fresco dining and drinking occasions.”
The prospect of lighter nights is also viewed by drinks distributor Cellar Trends as an opportunity for operators to profit more from long mixed drinks.
And spokesman Martin Watts said melon liqueur brand Midori offers plenty of scope in this regard.
“It is always good to stimulate consumer interest by refreshing the mixed drink range offering, keeping the regular good-selling cocktails or pitcher drinks and bringing in something new and fresh,” he said.
“Spring time and warmer days are a good time to concentrate on fresher tasting drinks. Long drinks made with Midori, for example, have always proved popular in Scotland.”
With lighter nights around the corner, better weather (hopefully) in store, and demand for long drinks growing as a result, all the ingredients are there in terms of the trade opportunity.
But what are the crucial components of a great long drink, and are there enough skilled bartenders around in Scotland to execute them well?
Funkin boss Andrew King said it’s essential bars offer consumers drinks that are not easily accessed at home, citing strawberries, morello cherries, lychees and passion fruit as the fruit flavours which proved most popular in cocktails last year.
“As with all on-trade solutions, a differentiated offer is crucial,” he said.
“As the on-trade competes with the increasing at-home consumption, licensees need to deliver a great serve and one that is worth coming out for.
“While some cocktails and mixed drinks are drunk at home, these are not as prevalent as the at-home staples.
“Long mixed drinks should have a garnish, crushed ice, a quality spirit and cocktail mixer.”
At Maxxium UK, bar training expert Andy Gemmell said operators shouldn’t get hung up between what constitutes a long drink and a cocktail.
While he said the purists among the bartending community insist there are technical factors which differentiate the two, he told SLTN that when it comes down to it the combination of any flavours that creates a great tasting drink can be called a cocktail.
And when it comes to the art of cocktail-making, and indeed the craft of bartending in Scotland, he feels great strides have been made over the past decade.
“There’s still a long way to go in terms of bartending being seen as a profession, but it has come on,” he said. “For me, bartenders have had to up their game – not just in spirits and cocktails but the whole package.
“If anything, the current [economic] climate has made people work harder, because they’re worried about keeping their jobs.”
Meanwhile, Bacardi-Brown Forman said forthcoming events like the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the Olympic Games offer an opportunity to boost spirit and mixer sales.
“People will be looking to make the most of the extra bank holidays and quintessentially British occasions, where premium spirit serves will help them capture that celebratory mood,” said the firm’s mixology chief Ian McLaren. “Great examples include the Windsor Punch, which uses Jack Daniels Old No.7, and the Royal Mint, using Bombay Sapphire.”
Irish spring punch
Ingredients: 10ml Jameson; 50ml blood orange juice; 50ml pomegranate or cranberry juice; sugar syrup; half part orange bitters; 100ml ginger beer.
Method: mix all the ingredients, except the ginger beer, in a pitcher. Add cubed ice to chill and garnish with slices of blood orange, fresh mint leaves and assorted berries. Top up with ginger beer and serve.