IT’S been several years since a resurgence in cocktails helped breathe new life into on-trade spirits sales, and the popularity of quality drinks appears to be going from strength to strength.
Drinks firms have told SLTN they are confident the trend towards original and adventurous cocktails will continue in the years to come.
According to figures quoted by Coca-Cola European Partners (CCEP), cocktails are now offered by 28% of outlets across the UK, with 48% of women and 27% of men enjoying cocktails regularly.
“Statistics also show that 59% of women consume cocktails during a special celebration, which makes offering a wide selection important as people celebrate personal occasions like birthdays or anniversaries,” said the company’s trade communications manager, Amy Burgess.
In fact, cocktail culture has become such a part of Scottish life that customers are now increasingly expecting quality cocktails in any venue they walk into – whether that outlet is a dedicated cocktail bar or not.
“The fact that the Tales of the Cocktail festival is coming to Edinburgh at the start of April is a tribute to Scotland’s thriving cocktail culture, and just as importantly consumers increasingly expect to be offered high quality, well-made cocktails in mainstream pubs and bars as well as in premium venues,” said Dan Bolton, managing director of Hi-Spirits, the firm behind brands such as Brooklyn Gin, Buffalo Trace and Monte Alban mezcal.
“Success in today’s on-trade is all about giving customers experiences they can’t get at home, and a well-planned cocktail list fits the bill.”
Bolton added that gin is currently “a big driver” of cocktail sales, with the firm also seeing increased demand for bourbon, rum and tequila as bases for cocktails.
This chimes with comments provided by drinks giant Diageo.
A spokesman for the Smirnoff and Gordon’s owner said that, as customers become more knowledgeable about drinks, it’s vital that bartenders experiment with different ingredients and serves to keep consumers interested.
“As consumers increasingly demand and appreciate the best ingredients, bartenders are sourcing their ingredients more carefully with a focus on provenance, and improving their training so they can supply their opinionated and knowledgeable consumers with what they want,” said the spokesman.
The focus on flavours and ingredients has natural parallels with food, and Diageo has predicted a blurring of the lines between restaurants and cocktail bars this year, as restaurants recognise they can use cocktails to encourage customers to stay for longer, and more bars introduce quality food for the same reason.
Bolton at Hi-Spirits agreed, saying that the UK is still lagging behind the US when it comes to cocktails served with food.
“Figures from CGA show that the UK lags behind the USA in this area,” said Bolton.
“In the UK on-trade customers drink cocktails on 34% of food-led occasions, compared to 49% in the US. This offers some interesting headroom for brands that can align with popular food trends.”