Tradition takes centre stage in the winter months; from office parties to Hogmanay, there’s plenty to keep pubs busy, but it’s no secret that bar takings can take a dip in January.
Luckily for Scottish publicans, Robert Burns, the nation’s most famous poet – and a firm supporter of the on-trade in his day – continues to line the industry’s coffers every January 25 as customers head out to celebrate the bard’s life, tucking into Scottish produce in the process.
Operators looking to make the most of the occasion should be sure to stock up on Scottish products behind the bar, suggested Alan Hay of AG Barr, the firm behind Irn-Bru, who said that Burns Night presents “a fantastic profit opportunity” for pubs stocking home-grown brands.
Hay said Burns Night can “offer licensees the perfect opportunity to boost sales”.
Jenny Rogerson of independent whisky bottler Douglas Laing & Co, agreed that the event should lead to a boost in sales for Scottish brands – and whisky in particular.
“We choose the drink for the occasion, sometimes opting for something we wouldn’t normally go for, just because it feels appropriate,” said Rogerson.
“When the World Cup was held in Brazil, sales of the country’s national spirit – Cachaça – skyrocketed as the world went crazy for the topical Caipirinha cocktail.”
Rogerson said this trend creates a “huge opportunity” to introduce the whisky category to a new audience on Burns Night, “when it just feels right to be enjoying a celebratory Scotch whisky”.
“We have an opportunity through cocktails and long serves to make Scotch more accessible to a new audience on these occasions, and convert them to aficionados for life,” she said.
Euan Mitchell of Isle of Arran Distillery echoed Rogerson, suggesting cocktails are ideal for customers “looking to get into the spirit of the occasion”.
For operators keen to give cocktail creation a go, Mitchell suggested using “subtler whiskies that lend themselves to mixing as opposed to the stronger, peated malts”.
“The key is for operators to give themselves as much scope as possible to create varied cocktail menus that will attract a variety of consumers,” said Mitchell.
Katy Macanna, UK brand manager at Ian Macleod Distillers, agreed that having a Burns Night whisky cocktail could help drive sales of the spirit this January.
“Having a special whisky cocktail or other serve on offer during these events really helps attract new customers to the category,” she said.
Mixed drinks aren’t the only opportunity to pair whisky with other products on Burns Night, of course.
Whisky has long been the traditional drink at a Burns Supper and Stuart Baker, of William Grant & Sons, said the night presents an opportunity for licensees and customers alike to celebrate produce that is “uniquely Scottish”.
He said: “As one of the key drivers of growth in the on-trade, food and drink pairings such as haggis and a dram at Burns Night can drive additional value and some volume at that time of year, particularly due to the cultural significance of the night and also the provenance of the food and drink.”