Gin has been one of the drinks industry’s biggest success stories in recent years.
And it seems the spirit’s revival is showing no sign of diminishing as a new generation of drinkers seek out new flavours in what producers claim is a “buoyant” category.
But with so many gins now on the market and such a wide selection of botanicals featuring in them, how do licensees go about choosing what to stock?
Bob Fowkes, co-founder and marketing director of Brockmans Gin, said the category’s popularity is continuing to grow “significantly, particularly at the super-premium price point”.
In order to cater for a variety of customer tastes, Fowkes suggested licensees stock a selection of both traditional and craft gins.
“List a couple of high quality traditional, dry gins; one or two that are variations on a traditional style; and then a small selection of interesting craft gins that offer a completely new taste profile and which look as good on the back-bar as they taste when poured,” he said.
Frazer McGlinchey, on-trade brand consultant for Caorunnn, advised operators to focus on quality rather than the quantity stored on the gantry.
“Trust your instincts, and think of your customers,” he said.
“Provenance and quality are fundamental. Better a relatively limited offer with well-trained staff and great drinks than hundreds of mediocre gins gathering dust.”
Alex Nicol, managing director of the Spencerfield Spirit Company – the firm behind Edinburgh Gin, said consumers are increasingly interested in the ‘story’ behind the spirit.
“Consumers don’t need to be limited to the standard brands of the last 20 years, craft distillers can be more experimental,” said Nicol.
“Furthermore younger consumers are drawn to brands their parents have never heard of.”
With small batch stills and new craft gins popping up on an almost weekly basis, there’s no shortage of brands to choose from.
“We are right in the middle of a [gin]renaissance at the moment,” said Paul Donegan, Scottish gin ambassador at Pickering’s Gin in Edinburgh.
“Whisky producers are using their extensive expertise to create really high quality spirits and other less well-known distillers are making award winning gins in tiny facilities.”
With the emergence of so many new products, well-trained, knowledgeable bar staff are key.
Vivienne Muir of NB Gin said it’s important that bartenders know about each of the gins stocked and are trained in recommended serves.
“Care has to be taken in terms of bar staff being aware of the brands they are selling and the unique selling points of each,” said Muir.
“Just because a gin is described as ‘craft’ or ‘small batch’ this isn’t necessarily an indication of quality and if operators are worth their salt, they have to be recommending good products.
“Customers really like a bartender’s ability to explain what makes a gin different, how it’s best served, which tonic is best matched to the botanicals, and to give some background about the gin’s origin, ingredients and story.”
Beyond the ever-popular gin and tonic serve, the spirit offers plenty of scope in cocktails.
Mike Hayward, marketing director at the Glasgow Distillery Company, which makes Makar gin, said: “Gin will always be synonymous with cocktails, and while many will stay loyal to the classics – the Dry Martini, the Negroni, the Martinez – others will be looking for something new and different, something tailored just for them.
“Whatever the guest is looking for in a cocktail, gin should have the answer.”
The popularity of gin cocktails was underlined by Will Holt, director of Pinkster Gin.
“Our British Mojito rounded off what passed for summer rather well,” he said.
“And the Pink Paloma, in honour of retro singer Paloma Faith, mixes Framboise, pink grapefruit juice, soda water and lemon juice rather effectively.”
Catherine Conaghan, head of trade relations for Scotland at Gordon’s gin owner Diageo, said gin-based cocktails are growing in popularity – especially amongst the younger demographic.
“Cocktails are an exciting way for consumers to enjoy gin,” she said.
“Not only do they drive frequency of purchase amongst existing gin consumers but also attract new younger gin consumers.
“Presentation of cocktails, and providing customers with ‘the perfect serve’ is of utmost importance in attracting and retaining gin drinkers.”
Despite gin’s versatility as a cocktail ingredient, the gin and tonic remains the most popular serve.
“Gin and tonic as a serve doesn’t look to be going anywhere soon, so it’s important to recognise this and adhere to demand,” said Luke Benson, UK on-trade marketing manager of tonic brand Fever-Tree.
“We offer all bars pubs and restaurants a bespoke gin and tonic pairing menus. These have shown to be hugely popular; in fact, some bars have reported an 80% increase in premium gin sales since using them.
“The gin and tonic trend is set to continue throughout 2015, and we’ve seen a lot more bars take on our Mediterranean and Elderflower options, which shows the desire for variety, is building in the on-trade.”