Brands urge bars to get in the mix

Suppliers say they’re keen to help create lists as sales continue to grow


OPERATORS have a significant opportunity to grow cocktail sales in the next few years.

Cocktails continue to go from strength to strength in the on-trade, having filtered down from the premium bar scene into the mainstream trade.
New research has shown that cocktail sales will grow 10% in the next two years, with Diageo suggesting that 62% of consumers are willing to upgrade to more premium drinks if given the opportunity.
Pernod Ricard is also upbeat about the premium spirits category, reporting that overall sales grew 6.2% in value over the past year.
“Therefore, it is important for Scottish operators to capitalise on the demand for cocktails by stocking popular higher-margin brands that consumers know and trust,” said Ian Peart, on-trade channel director for spirits at Pernod Ricard UK.
Cellar Trends, distributor behind Luxardo liqueur and Patron Tequila, argues it’s pubs that stand to gain the most from the continued success of the category. Quoting research from CGA, it says only 2% of cocktail drinkers currently go to pubs for a cocktail, with the others sticking to outlets such as style bars. It puts this trend down to the fact only 11% of wet-led pubs have a cocktail offer.
A spokesman said pubs without cocktail expertise should consider introducing pre-made cocktail mixes to tap into the market.
“Pub landlords, managers and bar staff must open their minds to the additional customer business they can generate by serving cocktails, accept that there does not need to be hassle in mixing cocktails and that their overall spirits volumes will increase,” he said.
Creating a cocktail list for the first time might seem like a daunting prospect, but Jim Grierson, on-trade sales director at Maxxium UK, said it needn’t be the case.
“Start with simple, well-known classic cocktails,” said Grierson, highlighting the Daiquiri, Margarita, Cosmopolitan, French Martini, Mojito and Bloody Mary. “Once established, evolve the list with more sophisticated drinks and ask customers what drinks they’d like to see included.”
And drawing up a list is not something operators need to tackle alone. Grierson said brand owners are more than willing to help pubs with their cocktail lists.
“If you’re not sure about how to launch cocktails and are concerned about limited staff knowledge, equipment required or what type of list you should create, simply ask the drinks companies who specialise in this area for their advice and help.”
According to Grierson, outlets can grow spirits sales by as much as 25% through proper cocktail training like Maxxium’s Mixxit programme.
Meantime Ian McLaren, head of product training and mixology at Bacardi Brown Forman Brands, advised operators to do some research before introducing a cocktail list.
“Don’t go into it half-baked,” he urged. “Anything anyone does that’s half-hearted never really fulfils its potential. Cocktails are no different.
“Do your research and understand what it is you are trying to achieve. Try and visualise your regular customers and see which ones you can convert from what they’re drinking normally into drinking a cocktail.
“Research involves going out and drinking some cocktails as well. You don’t have to like cocktails but you have to understand how they work and what kinds of drinks there are out there.”
McLaren said any list should be reviewed quarterly to strip out any drinks that are not selling, and stressed the importance of striking a balance between the interesting and the practical. “You need to get a balance of things people know and understand, things they’ve never seen before and that they feel inspired to try, and a balance of your ability as an operator to actually deliver,” he said.

Image: Only 11% of wet-led outlets have a cocktail offer, figures suggest, emphasing the potential for pubs.