There have been big changes in the gin market in recent years, not least of all a boom in Scottish brands muscling onto back-bars, but while customers may be seeking out new flavours, there’s one serve that continues to dominate in terms of on-trade gin sales.
The gin and tonic is still a big hitter and the firms behind some of the biggest brands in the trade have offered their advice on how publicans can use this serve to showcase their range and create a quality experience for customers.
The profit potential of the G&T was highlighted by Luke Benson, head of on-trade marketing for tonic water brand Fever-Tree, who said gin “isn’t going anywhere soon”, adding that this has been proven by an increase in sales across Scotland.
Benson said it’s essential to “recognise and adhere to consumer demand” and so operators should “definitely be offering an extensive range of gins” in their outlets.
And while the gin boom has given Scottish mixologists some room to spread their wings, Benson suggested the G&T is as attractive to customers as ever.
“2014 and 2015 proved to be huge years for the monumental G&T, and I can’t see the craze dying down anytime soon,” said Benson.
Scott McKenzie of Eden Mill agreed that the gin and tonic serve has retained its relevance through the craft gin explosion.
And he suggested that customers looking for variety from the gin range want the same thing from a bar’s tonic offer.
“Consumers are not only open to trying new gins but also pairing with the correct tonic because they know that affects the flavour,” said McKenzie.
Will Holt of Pinkster gin also pointed out that customers seem to be up for trying something new when they visit the on-trade.
Holt said drinkers are “keen to explore” and “open to discovering new flavours”.
And he added that, when serving a premium gin, “we recommend using a premium tonic and charging that little extra accordingly”.
Stocking a premium tonic water was also recommended by Renaud de Bosredon, UK brand ambassador for Bombay Sapphire.
“I would recommend having two different brands for a tonic mixer – your house choice and an alternative or premium option in case your guest has a different preference,” said de Bosredon. “Always keep in mind that tonic will make two thirds of the gin and tonic; different tonics can make a major difference to the final taste so don’t be surprised if some customers have preferences.”
Choosing the right mixer is essential, said Mike Hayward of Makar Glasgow Gin, as the right mixer combined with a fresh garnish “will enhance the serve considerably and encourage repeat purchase”.
In fact, the right garnish can add a whole extra dimension to a gin and tonic, according to Emma Hooper of Darnley’s View gin. She said the right garnish offers publicans a chance to create something special without steering too far from the beaten track.
“Without losing the essence of the classic G&T, offering a unique garnish, as a special offer perhaps, is a good way to test customer opinion,” she said.
Despite its popularity the gin and tonic isn’t for everyone, and so Hooper suggested operators have a bit of diversity on the drinks menu to keep all bases covered.
“With the huge interest in gin, a cocktail is a good way to diversify menus and show another side to the spirit,” said Hooper.
“Tonic does not suit everyone’s palate so a cocktail can be a way for them to make that purchase.”
Tim Homewood, brand ambassador for Tanqueray, agreed that publicans should offer a diverse range of serves if they wish to boost gin sales.
“With consumers increasingly experimenting with different flavours and serves, operators should expand their gin menus to benefit from this trend,” said Homewood. “Longstanding gin cocktails like the Martini and Negroni remain popular and provide operators with an opportunity to be creative with flavours and put their own twist on a classic.”
Getting the perfect line-up of gin serves could take some fine-tuning, but that’s not a task publicans need to perform on their own.
Vivienne Muir of North Berwick-based NB gin suggested that the best way for operators to perfect their gin offer is to consult with their clientele and “make conscious buying choices based on quality and feedback from customers”.