If the latest forecasts are to be believed the Scottish on-trade could be in for a cracking summer, and while warm weather is in no way guaranteed, when the sunshine does arrive it creates an opportunity to make money through summer cocktails.
That was the consensus of a number of drink firms, who reckon pubs and bars who get their cocktail offer right this season could see a welcome lift in spirits sales.
Simon Green, marketing director at Global Brands, the firm behind Bundaberg rum and Goldschläger, said the demand for cocktails is “ever increasing”, adding that “it has been reported that outlets who serve cocktails sell 36% more spirits than ones that don’t”.
But it’s not just volume sales that are improving, Green reckons the category’s appeal is broadening as “more adventurous flavours” and “increasingly sophisticated cocktail mixology” make their way onto menus at more ‘mainstream’ venues.
With summer knocking on the door, publicans may be well-positioned to take advantage of this, as Green reckons the advent of warmer weather makes it “peak trading season for cocktails”.
“Refreshing, easy to drink beverages become more popular during the summer months,” said Green, suggesting that adding fruitier tastes to cocktail menus “can be a good way to drive sales in the warmer weather”.
Responding to the season with summer additions to the cocktail list was also suggested by Dan Bolton, managing director of Hi-Spirits, the firm behind the Brooklyn and Langley’s No.8 gins.
Bolton said that while operators should retain “a core cocktail menu”, it would be wise to add summer-themed variations at this time of year.
“Long cocktails, especially those that work well served over ice, obviously have a strong appeal during the summer, as do those with fruit flavours,” said Bolton.
When building a summer cocktail menu, licensees should consider their audience carefully, a spokesman for Halewood International, the firm behind Whitley Neill gin, suggested.
“Operators should develop a cocktail menu that appeals to and reflects its consumer base, whilst developing interesting serves to encourage customers to trade up, using a range of different spirits,” he said.
It’s not just the customers that determine what’s going to be a big hit this summer, it’s the culture too, and licensees may do well to capitalise on this year’s big sporting events.
Halewood International reckons Euro 2016 and the Olympics in Rio present an opportunity for publicans to adapt their cocktail menu to tie in with the tournaments.
“Operators could consider a cocktail menu which reflects the major nations competing in this summer’s international tournaments, to ensure they’re relevant to the events taking place,” said a spokesman.
Ashley Moore, category development manager for Diageo, agreed that publicans should pay attention to the “on-trend” flavours of the summer and look to see how these could be worked into the drinks menu.
“Could your head chef create a bespoke flavoured syrup? Think about what’s in season that you can use as an ingredient in your cocktails,” said Moore. “In summer, rhubarb or summer berry fruits could work alongside or replace your usual garnish.”
Flavour may form a large part of the cocktail appeal, but it’s not the whole pie, with drink presentation key to mixed drink success, according to Moore.
“Eight out of ten consumers tell us that aside from taste, presentation is what makes a drink perfect,” said Moore.
“Presenting your consumer with new and exciting serves is a great way of really differentiating your outlet in the marketplace.”
Amy Ledger, marketing manager at CWF, echoed Moore, suggesting that a significant part of ordering a cocktail at a bar “is the theatre involved”, which means staff need to be on top of their game.
“Bartenders need to be confident in their delivery and know how to make the end result look as well as taste good – creative flourishes such as garnishes and decorations that complement the key ingredients should be part of the package,” she said.
One area of the back-bar which Ledger suggested bartenders should pay close attention to is the liqueur range.
She said staff preparing cocktails need “a sound knowledge and understanding” of their range to ensure they can “meet the needs of those consumers who are 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,” said Ledger.
“Staff need to know exactly how each liqueur tastes and interact with other ingredients to ensure the correct amount is used to produce the perfect cocktail every time.”