‘Tis the season for high-end drinks

Premium spirits, wines and serves expected to be popular this Christmas

A STRONG range of premium products will once again be the best way to capitalise on Christmas trade, according to drinks giant Pernod Ricard.

• Christmas occasions in the on-trade will include staff nights out and catch-ups with friends.
• Christmas occasions in the on-trade will include staff nights out and catch-ups with friends.

The firm – which counts Absolut, Chivas Regal and GH Mumm among its brands – reckons Christmas 2016 will follow a similar pattern to last year’s festive season, when the number of trips to the pub fell when compared to previous years, but overall spend increased.
“We would expect that premiumisation trend to continue this Christmas, as it has throughout the year,” said the company’s on-trade channel director, Ian Peart.
“Premium drinks are growing tremendously and will be one of the key things we’re expecting to see again.”
People visit the on-trade for a range of different reasons over the month of December – from staff parties to catch-ups with friends – and having the right drinks offer for each of these occasions will be vital to making the most of the season, said the firm.
On the spirits side, Peart said cocktails and long drinks are likely to be as popular as ever, and advised operators to encourage any festive parties to pre-order their drinks ahead of time.
“One of the things you can do is offer cocktails on arrival, which takes some of the pressure off waiting staff when you get in there,” said Peart.
“Or you can put a bottle of spirits on the table, with some glasses, some ice and some mixers, so people can have some fun mixing their own drinks.
“Again, it takes the pressure off the waiting staff with everyone turning up at once and ordering different drinks.”
For occasions that include food, matching spirits serves with the food menu is another opportunity to up-sell to premium products, said Peart.
“I am much of a believer in trying to work with spirits and food matching, particularly where we are now with casual dining, smaller plates and tapas,” he said.
“Years ago if you went out for food the automatic choice would be wine.
“I don’t think that’s necessarily the case anymore.”
That being said, wine will clearly be a big part of the season as well, and Peart advised that here, too, it will be important to make things as easy as possible for groups of customers.
“Certainly in these kind of big occasions the consumers are not going to want to spend hours pouring over a wine list looking for something they might like,” he said.
“We think that branded wine can play a really key role in terms of something that people recognise and that they know the quality of.”
And licensees who experiment with different takes on classic hot drinks such as mulled wine could also stand to gain during the colder December weeks.
“I think there’s something there about doing some very festive drinks,” said Peart. “Obviously mulled wine is a typical one.
“It’s a hot drink and is particularly suited to that type of occasion.
“Christmas is probably the one time of year that people really go for hot drinks in general, but particularly in the on-trade, and to do a sort of twist on the classics there is quite a nice thing to do.”
Pernod Ricard’s own Christmas plans include distributing festive serving vessels for its Absolut and Malibu brands as well as promoting various Christmas serves.
Examples include the Christmas Colada, which combines Malibu and Havana Club with passionfruit and lemonade, and a Bellini containing Absolut vodka and Champagne.