Mix things up during the warmer weather

Operators can cash in on demand for high quality cocktails, say spirits firms

After the UK was gripped by a heatwave – and even Scotland managed to catch a few stray rays of sunshine – licensees have no doubt been reminded that there’s money to be made if they offer the right range of cocktails.

And with several weeks of summer to go, a number of drinks firms have reiterated the importance of a strong cocktail list.

Ali Reynolds, luxury ambassador at Diageo Reserve, said that summertime “provides fantastic opportunities for the on-trade as consumers want to make the most of the lighter evenings and head out to pubs, bars and restaurants”.

“There are a number of ways to capitalise on this opportunity, including creating a bespoke summer cocktail menu, introducing seasonal promotions and up-selling premium spirits that deliver on consumer desire for quality,” he said.

Taking a similar stance, Jonathan Gillibanks of Whyte & Mackay, the firm behind rum liqueur RumChata, advised licensees to curate a drinks list designed around the weather.

“It’s definitely worthwhile having a drinks list for sunny days – the appearance of the sunshine traditionally sees beer gardens filled to capacity, and it’s not unusual that people want a refreshing cocktail to match their mood,” he said.

Quoting CGA data, Gillibanks added that 20% more outlets are selling cocktails year on year, “so their popularity isn’t going away – and that’s something that the trade can tap into”.

This could be particularly true in Edinburgh, where cocktails have been a major focus this year. Earlier in the year the capital became the first European city to host bartending event Tales of the Cocktail: Tales on Tour, and more cocktail-focused festivals and events will take place in the city later in the year.

“This alone could see a spike in cocktails as the drink for summer,” said Lara Williams, brand ambassador for Eden Mill. “People have seen just what our relatively small city can do – and pints or carafes of wine may not cut it this time around.”

Williams explained that drinkers “are increasingly interested in the provenance of their spirits these days”.

“Bespoke, hand-crafted, artisan – these are all terms for something with personal history, they tell the story of men and women getting their hands dirty making something they’re proud of,” she said.

“I think cocktails with the same degree of individuality will be what shine this summer, possibly ones that show off what Scotland is making; the first ever Scottish rums or some of our unusual-method gins.”

The provenance of ingredients was also highlighted by Reynolds of Diageo Reserve. He said: “Today’s consumers are instantly drawn to brands with a strong background and heritage that they’re able to identify with.

“Essentially, it comes down to storytelling and it’s the role of bar staff to inspire customers. Not only does this enable customers to discover and engage with new spirits, it hopefully leads to repeat visits as well.”

As well as storytelling, bartenders should focus on quality and consistency over timing, according to Williams of Eden Mill, who said a good cocktail “is worth the wait”.

“Don’t risk a drop in quality or consistency just to shave five minutes off the wait time,” she said.

Presentation is another important aspect of cocktails, reckons Dan Bolton, managing director of Hi-Spirits.

He said that “customers enjoying long drinks with plenty of ice and fruit garnish, especially from POS such as branded mugs and mason jars, are selling your drinks offer to the next thirsty customer who walks in”.

“Interesting summer serves are also likely to be shared on social media, promoting your summer drinks offer beyond the venue,” said Bolton.