Trendy spirit still has plenty to give

Opportunities abound for operators making the most of gin’s success

Gin has established itself as the trendy spirit of the on-trade for the moment – with producers and pubs alike getting in on the action and boosting profits in the process.

Gin Sales of G&Ts have shot up and spirits producers don’t think there’s much chance of the gin bubble popping soon; in fact, they’ve suggested there’s plenty more margin to be made from gin – with opportunities extending from the back-bar through to the kitchen.

clear cocktail garnish
Ally Martin, UK brand ambassador for Hendrick’s, said gin is “such a versatile and interesting spirit” that it can “create interest for people who have never been interested in gin before”.
“In the UK the emergence of an ever-increasing number of craft brands has been the most significant trend in the gin sector,” said Martin.
“The reason for its increasing popularity is because it’s got people talking about, and more importantly tasting, gin more and more.”
There are exponentially more gin brands to know than a decade ago, but Scottish customers haven’t become lost in a sea of spirits, according to Whitley Neill Gin founder Johnny Neill.
Neill reckons that gin knowledge among Scottish customers is “pretty high”, in part thanks to the work of staff in the Scottish trade.
“The Scottish on-trade has been at the forefront of the UK gin renaissance and the variety of gins available across Scottish bars is a testament to that,” he said. “This has also assisted new Scottish gin producers to thrive.”
When building a gin range from the broad spectrum of styles and brands available, Neill suggested first assessing the spirit’s quality.
“There can be a huge variance in gins even across a single gin style and flavour profiles are very subjective, so it is important to look at the quality of the gin first and foremost,” said Neill.
“Traditional G&Ts work exceptionally well with London Drys but that’s not to say new styles don’t work just as well, they’re just different.”
Stocking a range of premium gins doesn’t just provide an opportunity to boost spirit margins. Neill said it’s also “naturally helpful” to upsell premium mixers with quality gins.
“Tonic is an easy first port of call – there are several premium tonics available and one can pair certain gins with certain tonics,” he said.
“Garnish is also an area which can create visual interest within the site and a point of difference.”
Simon Green of Global Brands, the firm behind mixer brand Franklin and Sons, agreed that the popularity of premium gins creates the opportunity to cash in by upselling mixers.
“Premiumisation is an established trend that has helped to increase this demand for good quality in the spirits category,” said Green.
“Mixers have been well-positioned to capitalise on the growing demand from modern consumers for better craftsmanship and discovery in a limited and growing category.”
This upselling doesn’t need to be restricted to tonic water, either.
Green said that as the demand for gin grows, “the regular G&T is no longer enough for consumers”.
Quoting figures provided by CGA, Green said that cocktail culture is “growing year on year” with outlets that serve cocktails selling “36% more spirits” than ones that don’t.
Gin creates a clear wet-sales opportunity, but Ronak Mashru of Diageo, the firm behind Gordon’s, reckons the spirit can also create a premium food experience that will keep customers coming back for more.
“A trend towards a more casual culture of eating out is emerging and through our research we strongly believe that spirits present a huge growth opportunity in the casual eating occasion,” said Mashru. “We encourage operators to think about how they maximise this opportunity by inspiring consumers to choose spirits, educating their staff to upsell, and supporting them to achieve consistent quality through the perfect serve.”

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Hosting a hit gin masterclass

“As a bartender prepares for their first gin-centric event they can probably group gins into those which suit traditional consumption and those which lend themselves to exciting cocktails. And those which have the versatility and character to span the divide.
“Gins which have the backbone to remain individual when paired with, for instance, ginger beer, will have different characteristics to those which need to be paired with something like a light tonic or cucumber. So use the event to find the perfect gin for all occasions.”
– Angus Gordon Lennox, Gordon Castle

“Keep the masterclass simple, try to make it as interactive as possible – perhaps get consumers making their own gin drinks and get them thinking about the variety of different flavours offered by the botanicals with the gins themselves. Keep it short and make it fun!”
– Johnny Neill, Whitley Neill Gin