Bars can impress with strong events

Cash in on gin’s soaring popularity by offering a bespoke experience

Public engagement with food and drink-themed events has been on an upward tack in recent years, but the prospect of taking on an expert role can be a little daunting for the uninitiated.
While gin producers said they’ve been impressed with the events many operators in the trade have staged, they’ve also offered advice for those considering hosting an event for the first time.

Bob Fowkes, co-founder of Brockmans gin, reckons that while customers will “always focus on brands rather than styles”, there is “a massively expanding awareness that there is more to gin than previously imagined”. Fowkes said this “knowledge-hungry consumer” is “keen to trial a wider variety of gins”, creating sales opportunities for the on-trade.
Dan Bolton, MD of Hi-Spirits, the firm behind gin brands Brooklyn and Blackwoods, agreed that as customers become more confident about navigating the gin category “their expectations in terms of variety are definitely increasing”.
“Broadening the range of serves on offer, ideally with a signature drink for each brand, has a strong appeal to customers,” said Bolton.
Signature serves are a great start, but there will always be customers who want more, and demand for gin-themed events in the on-trade is expected to continue to rise.
Consumer knowledge is also on the increase – and it’s for this reason that Simon Fairclough, MD at Persie Distillery, reckons the days of picking a few gins at random and calling it a gin flight are over.
“Them days are gone,” he said.
“Customers ordering gin flights are much more discerning – they seek a rounded tasting experience with high expectations of the bar staff: this ranges from the careful selection of gin brands from across the flavour wheel to knowledge of complementary mixers and garnish. Ideally, the glassware also needs to be impressive and there should be a talent for storytelling to bring out the passion behind the gin.
“A tasting experience should also emphasise how the palate relies on the nose; coffee beans, essential oils and fresh botanicals add to the customer interaction and educate gin drinkers in a playful environment.”

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It’s time to talk tonic

“2015 and 2016 have seen the gin and tonic explode onto the drinks scene and the craze doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon.
“The number of premium craft gins on the market is set to continue to grow and we expect 2017 to be another mammoth year for the mighty G&T. At Fever-Tree, recent developments in flavoured tonic options have made G&Ts more accessible than ever.
“Our extensive tonic range offers an option for everyone and they work well when partnered with different gins using different botanicals. We’ve put a lot of time into sourcing the ingredients for the flavours of each one. ”
– Spokeswoman
“The choice of garnish and the mixer can make or break your gin and tonic.
“Garnishes typically can both harmonise with a gin’s key flavours, or contrast and balance them.
For example, some gins include no citrus botanicals during distillation, in anticipation of being served with an orange or lemon garnish.
“The choice of mixer for your perfect gin pairing is just as important. Juniper forward gins require a good strong foundation with a balance of sweetness and bitterness, such as Franklin & Sons Natural Indian Tonic Water, taking the quinine from Ecuadorian cinchona bark and sugar from British beet.”
– Justin Horsman
Franklin & Sons

Adam Hunter, commercial manager at Arbikie, reckons there are a number of operators in the Scottish trade hitting the nail on the head in this regard.
“There are a number of great gin events out there, and although some are very different they do share similar characteristics,” said Hunter.
“My advice would be to focus on the customer experience and ensure that any event is both informative and fun.
“Curating an interesting list of gins that showcase the diversity in the category is key. This could involve styles, production methods, serves, and botanicals.
“Personally, there are some real standouts for me in Scotland including Gin 71, 56 North, Sheraton Gin Bar in Edinburgh and Solid Liquids who run Juniper Festival.”
When selecting gins for a first flight or masterclass-style event, Carlo Valente of VC2 Brands, the firm behind Boë Superior Gin, suggested operators include some spirits “connected with the local area” as well as “gins that offer a point of difference, that the customer will enjoy and will continue to purchase after the event is over”.
Will Holt of Pinkster agreed that including some local gins is one way to theme a flight, but added there is “no shortage of fun to be had” from theming gins “by location, botanical mix, price point”.

Customers ordering gin flights are much more discerning.

“Do contact the brand owner to see what support they can lend, whether POS or perhaps sending along a brand ambassador,” said Holt.
“We’ve even seen a gin tasting where people had to wear an item of pink clothing, admittedly it was a ladies only gin club.”
A masterclass may be one of the best ways for an operator to win over the most discerning of drinkers, but it’s not the only area of the business where operators can improve their gin sales.
Ronak Mashru, sales director at Diageo GB, the firm behind Tanqueray and Gordon’s, reckons operators can use their food offer to boost sales of gin.
“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 up-sell, and supporting them to achieve consistent quality through the perfect serve.”
Justin Horsman, marketing controller for Franklin & Sons, agreed that food pairing has grown in prominence, and suggested that the tonic or mixer used here can matter as much as the gin.
“One important way operators can educate consumers is pairing the right flavours of a soft drink to complement the food offering on their menu,” said Horsman.
“The Franklins range all offer a tertiary food style ingredient from cracked black pepper, a squeeze of lemon to crushed juniper berries.”