It’s the season for premium

Christmas is a time when party goers want to spoil themselves and indulge in spirits, long drinks and cocktails that they wouldn’t normally order, say drinks producers.

Christmas cocxktail
• Christmas-themed cocktails represent a lucrative opportunity for operators during party season.

And demand for premium serves, in particular, is expected to increase as customers enjoy a treat during the celebrations.
Dan Bolton, managing director of Hi-Spirits, recommended licensees plan ahead and create a range of festive drinks which are “right for customers” and simple for staff to serve.
He said: “Christmas trading is broadly divided between those looking to treat themselves and those out for a good time on a more limited budget.
“Customers are definitely more inclined to try new brands and more indulgent serves over the festive season, but the key to Christmas is to keep the message simple. Nothing dampens the Christmas spirit like a  bar queue.”
Buying behaviour is said to change during party season and in addition to upgrading to premium spirits, long serves and cocktails, Ian Baines, category manager at William Grant & Sons, said consumers tend to spend more time in outlets.
“They also become a lot more experimental and willing to try new and interesting serves and drinks,” said Baines. “Because of this, consumer engagement is crucial in this period, when their spend levels are high.
“Premium spirits will also become more and more important over the festive season. Malt whisky, spiced rum, premium gin and tequila have been key winners this year, so operators should ensure their back-bars are well-stocked with premium and innovative offerings.”
Adapting conventional serves to create a seasonal offer can also drive sales during the festive season, claimed Tom Warner, co-founder of Warner Edwards gin.
“Seasonality is always a key feature at Christmas,” said Warner. “As we only sell gin, it’s our most popular spirit but there is a significant uplift, we do 40% of our turnover during this golden quarter.”
Sometimes even a small tweak to a serve can make all the difference, according to Simon Green, marketing director of Global Brands.
“Using premium offerings on the cocktail menu is an excellent way to incorporate the festive cheer,” said Green.
“Small additions of seasonal flavours such as ginger or cinnamon can elevate a traditional cocktail to a true Christmas treat.”
In fact, sometimes simplest is best.
Carlo Valente, director of VC2, whose brands include Stivy’s, said: “The secret is to keep the cocktail recipes simple; this can be done using the various unique flavoured liqueurs.”
When changing a cocktail range, Andrew King, chief executive of Funkin, said licensees should bear in mind that certain flavours are particularly popular at this time of year.
“Ginger is a great flavour for this time of year,” said King. “In fact, CGA reports that 60% of frequent cocktail drinkers like ginger cocktails.
“The secret is to keep the cocktail recipes simple; this can be done using the various unique flavoured liqueurs.”
And it’s not just about cocktails. Keith Bonnington, senior brand manager (malts) at Maxxium UK, advised licensees to ensure they have a strong range of premium whiskies on the back-bar.
“It is important for licensees to stock and display the variety of spirits on offer on their back-bar, perhaps switching summery spirits and liqueurs for high quality single malt whiskies,” he said.
“The way in which whisky is being enjoyed, whether it’s a straight dram, over ice, or a cocktail, is further responsible for its growing popularity among both men and women alike.”