Making a drinks list and checking it twice

Christmas remains a key sales driver but licensees must be prepared, say drinks firms

Christmas wine

IT may seem hard to believe, but Christmas is less than three months away, meaning the countdown to the busiest – and potentially most lucrative – time of year for the on-trade has officially begun. And while festive plans will be well underway in many outlets across the country, there’s still time to make some tweaks ahead of the busy spell, say drinks firms.

Making the necessary changes remains vital to truly capitalising on the Christmas period, reckons Eden Mill’s brand ambassador, Lara Williams.

She said: “Christmas is one of the busiest times of year in hospitality and every venue will be vying to attract as many people as possible. Reviewing their drinks menu and making changes to keep things fresh and interesting is imperative as there are so many options available to consumers.

“As long as venues are maintaining their standards, and spirits companies are still making efforts to create interesting Christmas-related bottlings, I suspect a steady increase [in sales] in line with previous years.”

Christmas and New Year are not ‘business as usual’ as far as drinks lists are concerned.

This was echoed by a spokeswoman for Diageo GB, who said: “Licensees can make the most of the occasion by planning well in advance and stocking up on must-stock premium variants, a wide range of the best selling brands, making spirits the perfect partner to your food-led occasion, and remembering the importance of extending the occasion by offering customers a spirit combination they might not expect to see.”

Similarly, Dan Bolton of Hi-Spirits, the firm behind brands such as Buffalo Trace and Southern Comfort, said both Christmas and New Year “are definitely not ‘business as usual’ as far as drinks lists are concerned”.

While acknowledging that “it’s important to offer something special across all categories”, Bolton reckons special attention should be paid to an outlet’s cocktails list – as this can prove especially lucrative during the festive period.

“With cocktail sales continuing to boom, meeting customer expectations for interesting, seasonally-themed spirit drinks will help drive trade,” said Bolton.

Christmas is the perfect time to up-sell premium, festive cocktails, say drinks firms.
Christmas is the perfect time to up-sell premium, festive cocktails, say drinks firms.

He advised utilising various liqueur flavours, such as chocolate, mint, butterscotch, vanilla and mandarin, which he said “are a cost effective way to add festive flavours to mixed drinks” which customers often “associate with Christmas”.

A festive drinks list should include ample opportunity to trade up, according to Dan Harwood of Halewood Wines & Spirits, the firm behind Whitley Neill gin, as during the festive period, “people often choose more expensive wines to indulge themselves as well as treat their family and friends”.

However, while agreeing premium offers should be on any festive drinks list, Bolton of Hi-Spirits reckoned that, with consumer spending “likely to be under pressure” this year, “it will be more important than ever to focus on ‘affordable indulgence’”.

As well as stocking up on “new and innovative” drinks brands, Bolton stressed that pricing will remain key – and could be the difference between securing customers for the night, or simply for one round.

He said: “Don’t overcharge – several rounds at a price customers think is good value will generate more trade than one overpriced round which prompts customers to move on.”

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Suggested festive serves



RedLeg Ginger Mojito


  • 50ml RedLeg
  • 10ml sugar syrup
  • Half a lime
  • 10 mint leaves
  • Ginger beer


Method: Muddle the lime to release the juices. Add 50ml of RedLeg and 10ml of sugar syrup.

Clamp the mint in your hands and add to the glass, fill with cubed ice and top up with ginger beer. Mix and serve.

– Hi-Spirits



Baileys Flat White Martini


  • 50ml Baileys Original
  • 25ml Smirnoff No.21 vodka
  • 25ml espresso
  • Three coffee beans


Method: Add cubes of ice to a cocktail shaker. Using a jigger, measure 50ml Baileys Original, 25ml Smirnoff No.21 and 25ml espresso into a cocktail shaker.

Shake until the shaker’s surface feels chilled; using a strainer, pour into a cocktail glass. Add three coffee beans on top to garnish.

– Diageo