AS October closes out it’s safe to say the countdown to Christmas has well and truly begun.
But even at this late hour there are some simple steps bar and pub operators can take to make their offers a little more seasonal.
Drinks firms have advised that a few tweaks to a range, whether it’s stocking up on a few new spirits, introducing a different take on a classic serve or even just switching in a different garnish, can make all the difference.
“At Christmas, consumers are likely to be looking for new, premium twists on familiar serves, so encouraging staff to experiment can pay dividends,” said Dan Bolton, managing director of Hi-Spirits, the firm behind brands such as Antica sambuca, Buffalo Trace bourbon and speciality spirit Southern Comfort.
And it’s not necessary to come up with an entirely new drinks menu, according to Jill Brown, distiller at Moray Distillery.
Brown said some minor changes, such as switching in a different mixer or garnish to particular drinks, can help make a menu more fitting to the season with minimum hassle.
“For Christmas time and winter beverages think spice, apple, orange and bubbles,” said Brown.
“Even as simple as warming apple and cinnamon to make a spiced mixer – this will cover Halloween, fireworks night and festive parties.”
Fergus Franks of Fever-Tree agreed.
“Offering a diverse range of mixer options for both light and dark spirits means the licensee will be providing something for everyone,” he said.
“To add interest to serves, licensees can also add a more ‘Christmassy’ element to their serves with a selection of garnishes including cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. When it comes to presentation, adding an exotic garnish to a simple serve is an easy way to make it stand out.”
Combining sparkling wines such as Prosecco with liqueurs can be a quick and easy way to provide customers with something a little different, according to Laura Smith, brand manager at Chambord UK.
“Prosecco is still a huge trend for UK consumers, especially around the festive season,” said Smith.
“Over the past year, the UK enjoyed 34.4 million gallons of sparkling wine; a growth of 76% versus the same period five years ago. This offers an excellent opportunity for on-trade outlets to capitalise on during the Christmas period, by adding simple twists to surprise and delight consumers.”
Old favourites are also likely to prove popular.
Scott Dickson, marketing manager at Loch Lomond Group, the firm behind Glen’s vodka and Loch Lomond whisky, pointed out that vodka, in particular, is expected to be in demand over the festive season “as one of the most popular and flexible ingredients for use in cocktails”.
“Single malt whisky is also a firm favourite in festive drinks with almost half of UK adults (49%) now drinking dark spirits, according to recent research published by Mintel,” said Dickson.
And licensees were reminded that not all customers will be looking for alcoholic drinks this Christmas.
“Operators should consider the most popular drinks categories within their businesses and ensure they stock an alcohol-free alternative to ensure they not only meet the needs of those customers that choose not to drink alcohol but also maximise the profit opportunities that premium alcohol-free alternatives afford,” said Rob Salvesen at Kopparberg.
Whatever drinks licensees opt to stock over the festive season, it’s essential they communicate their range to customers, according to Bolton at Hi-Spirits.
“Operators should never forget that many customers walk up to the bar without knowing what they plan to order,” he said.
“Posters, printed drinks menus, chalkboard cocktail lists highlighting festive serves, point of sale such as bar runners can all be used to influence customers at the point of purchase.”