Christmas is not far off now and consumers will have their own wish lists of drinks they will want to see in Scotland’s bars and pubs.
Drinks firms are in agreement – the festive period has big potential for pubs – and with a bit of advanced preparation there’s no reason the season can’t be a cracker for licensees.
Martin Dyer, Scottish sales manager at Cellar Trends, described Christmas as “one of the most important trading periods for the on-trade” with many venues across the trade experiencing some of their highest sales and most consistent footfall of the year.
But Dyer stressed the importance of providing customers with a “premium” experience when they venture into the on-trade. And this is particularly important when considering an outlet’s drinks range.
“Expect to see premium spirits taking the lion’s share of the seasonal uplift,” he said.
“We know that cocktails are seeing ongoing growth, so any premium spirit which can be used in cocktails will see a greater uplift in sales; liqueurs and vodka will benefit, as will rum.
“We also expect to see continued growth from gin, tequila and malt whisky.”
In light of the seasonal shift towards richer tastes Jim Grierson, on-trade sales director at Maxxium UK, also suggested operators review their drinks range ahead of the festivities, “to ensure they are stocking the most popular brands in their respective categories”.
“Operators should make sure that they have a range of premium spirits in stock,” he said.
“This should include the big well-known spirits, liqueurs and speciality brands which have proven consumer demand.”
Echoing Dyer, Grierson said he expected the trend towards premium drinks to continue, adding that it should be “even more marked” at Christmas.
Grierson said that Christmas is also “the perfect time to feature the great classic cocktails”.
“This allows bars to use all different types of spirits and gives customers a wide variety of choice,” he said.
And with cocktails continuing to prove popular, licensees shouldn’t be afraid to be adventurous with their drinks lists, said Ashley Moore, category development manager at Diageo.
“Cocktails are all about the experience and new cocktails and flavours are always being created – that’s what is exciting about cocktails,” said Moore. “Different textures can be created, like using bubbles to change the flavour profile of a cocktail, or egg white to change the density of a cocktail.
“Spirits help you offer something unique and different from your competitors, allowing you to create many different combinations of flavours, colours and textures.”
The drinks menu isn’t the only area that offers scope for creativity, however, and Moore suggested operators could draw more attention to their winter drinks line-up with eye-catching presentation.
“In terms of more creative serving vessels, there’s not really a limit,” said Moore.
“If it carries liquid then you could use it. Think about something that fits with your brand and add to it – perhaps mini petrol pumps, teapots, or mini bathtubs.”
Generating excitement among customers is key, according to Nidal Ramini of Bacardi Brown-Forman Brands, who said operators should consider creating new menus and putting on “bespoke activities” to help drive footfall, “creating an atmosphere that will keep customers there for longer”.
Ian Peart of Pernod Ricard UK agreed that operators should be taking steps to drive customers to their venue this Christmas and encouraged operators to be more vocal about their offer.
“The more you promote your festive offer, the more successful you will be this Christmas,” said Peart.
“Pernod Ricard UK is encouraging on-trade retailers to get social this Christmas in order to inspire their customers and drive sales of premium wine and spirits, with research suggesting that more than one in four consumers will be keen to engage with outlets on social media to find out about the latest seasonal drinks and serve.”