With the nights now drawing in, the time is right for pubs and bars to start planning for the festive season.
At the tail end of a year that’s seen premium spirits and cocktails continue to thrive in the on-trade, drinks firms reckon that stocking a broad range of liqueurs could be one of the best ways for operators to grow profits this Christmas.
Jonathan Dennys of Mast-Jaegermeister UK, the firm behind Jägermeister, suggested that liqueurs and speciality spirits owe their popularity to their versatility.
Dennys said these products perform well “as they can be served neat but also lend themselves particularly well to long serves and cocktails”.
Andrew King, managing director of cocktail mixer brand Funkin, agreed, adding that with more customers visiting the on-trade over the festive period, “many of those consumers are looking for something special”; he suggested that cocktails are “a great way to give consumers a drink that fits with the celebratory occasion”.
“By using a good quality cocktail mixer and a spirit or liqueur, a wide range of wonderful cocktails can be created in seconds,” said King.
The importance of offering unusual serves was stressed by Dan Bolton of Hi-Spirits.
He said that, while liqueurs served neat will always have a place in Scotland’s pubs and bars, it’s important for venues to offer something new and different.
“Indulgence is an important part of any Christmas drinks range and cream liqueurs remain a favourite, but customers are looking for more interesting brands and serves,” said Bolton. “Buffalo Trace Bourbon Cream works well as a simple serve over ice as well as in cocktails. Liqueur brands such as Antica Sambuca and Fireball, served from the chiller, are popular choices as part of a party drinks menu.”
It’s liqueur-based cocktails, in particular, that could come into their own over Christmas, according to Amy Ledger of CWF, who said that “customers are increasingly willing to try liqueur cocktails as an aperitif”.
“For example the Aperol Spritz, made with Aperol, Prosecco and soda, which opens up opportunities for bars to introduce liqueurs to customers in a new and exciting format,” said Ledger.
“Having said that the established classics will always work in their own right, and amaretto, grappa and sweet or dry vermouth have been popular in the on-trade for a long time.
“It is essential therefore for bar owners to provide a range of options to appeal to all.”
Liqueurs may provide an opportunity, but it could be wasted if staff aren’t able to steer customers towards them.
Ledger said bar staff must have a “sound knowledge and understanding of the liqueurs they have” to ensure they can “meet the needs” of customers looking to experiment.
“If the delivery is good cocktails are a great way to expose customers to liqueurs they would not normally opt for, broadening their knowledge and tastes,” she said.
“Staff need to know exactly how each liqueur tastes and interacts with other ingredients to ensure the correct amount is used to produce the perfect cocktail every time.”
But cocktails aren’t the only way to boost liqueur sales this season.
Ledger said venues that serve food can use their menu as a platform to promote their back-bar.
“An effective way to encourage consumers to try liqueurs is to add suggestions to food and dessert menus in addition to wines,” she said.
“This again can inspire customers to try something new.”