WITH the clocks changed and the temperatures dropping, it’s traditionally the time of year when consumers might be tempted to turn to darker beers, wines and spirits.
However, just because the days are shorter it doesn’t mean there’s no room for lighter spirits in Scotland’s pubs and bars; and gin, in particular, is likely to remain popular in the coming weeks.
Drinks firms have said they expect the ‘gin boom’ to stay strong throughout the festive season, but advised that licensees may have to tweak their serves to reflect the season if they are to get the most out of their gin range.
Leanne Ware, senior marketing manager at Halewood Wines & Spirits, said consumers are “more inclined to choose those flavours and scents that we closely associate with the season” and advised licensees to consider a greater selection of flavoured gins “as well as a seasonal cocktail menu to showcase a sophisticated and diverse mix, and capitalise on the willingness to spend more”.
Lara Williams – the brand ambassador for Eden Mill gin – agreed.
“I suspect the way forward for gin in the winter months will be for more winter-flavoured gin cocktails to appear – mulled gin, warmed cocktails and anything with some spice,” she said.
However, she stressed that operators shouldn’t need to make major changes to their range.
“Licensees shouldn’t worry about changing their stock too much – but a back-bar needs variations in appearance, so ceramic bottles along with glass and colourful branding is important to make your bar stand out,” said Williams.
In a similar vein, Ibolya Bakos-Tonner of Caorunn gin reckons operators can make small switches that stand to make a big impact; she advised licensees to “use simple, but exciting ingredients to complement the gin”.
“As the focus in winter is often on the festive season, add sweet and spicy flavours to your cocktails to create a taste of Christmas,” she said.
James Nicol, co-founder of Kokoro gin, agreed.
Nicol said that, in his view, long drinks with ginger ale “will bring out the spice, and short, warmed fireside drinks will be a big hit for the festive period”.
“The trick is to work with the botanical ingredients and create serves that enhance the warmer, spicier flavours,” he said.
More unusual serves, and those often associated with other spirits, can also be worth considering, according to Lindsay Blair, global brand ambassador of Daffy’s gin.
“Winter warmers always go down well,” said Blair.
“A hot gin punch is a great way to bring together seasonal ingredients like apples with some familiar Christmas spices.
“Simply swapping whisky out for gin in a hot toddy tastes great too.”
In addition to full-strength gins, recent years have seen an assortment of gin liqueurs launched into the trade. Here, too, there is potential for festive serves.
Andrew Richardson, director of VC2 Brands, the firm behind Boë Gin, said gin liqueurs mixed with Prosecco can prove popular over the festive season, “particularly with women”.
Liqueurs were also highlighted by Hi-Spirits, which distributes the Scapegrace, Brooklyn and Langley’s gins. The firm’s Dan Bolton said it promotes its Scapegrace and Brooklyn brands alongside richer-flavoured liqueurs in the winter months, while the Langley’s Old Tom gin is promoted with orange or grapefruit juice.
“Provided operators are offering interesting, well-served drinks, there should be no real dip in sales from summer to winter in the current booming gin market,” said Bolton.
But perhaps the strongest argument for introducing a few winter serves came from Will Holt of Pinkster gin, who said: “They don’t need to be too ambitious but good ingredients and a snappy name will allow you to up-sell from a standard G&T.”
With such a wide array of options, it can be beneficial to create a winter-inspired gin menu to guide customers, according to Finlay Cowe of Darnley’s Gin. He added that licensees should take advantage of staff training that is offered by brands, as it can teach staff “about the production process and how to make best use of the botanical recipes that make up the gins”.
And echoing this view, Bob Fowkes of Brockmans Gin said that, most importantly, operators and staff should ensure they “talk to customers – so they understand the possibilities [on offer]”.
Trader by the Sea by Hi-Spirits
40ml Broker’s gin
15ml Punt e Mes
Fever-Tree Mediterranean Tonic
Three dashes Regan’s Orange Bitters
Garnish with orange
Method: Pour 50ml Broker’s gin over cubed ice and top with tonic, add two dashes of lavender bitters and garnish with blueberries and basil. Serve in tall or Copa glasses.
The South Pole by Daffy’s Gin
One part Daffy’s gin
One part fresh lemon juice
Two parts fresh orange juice
One part off-boiling English tea
One part orange liqueur
Cloves, pinch of allspice and sweeten to taste
Method: Combine and gently warm all ingredients – except Daffy’s – on the stove until off-boiling, stir in Daffy’s then serve.
Whitetail perfect serve by Whitetail
50ml Whitetail gin
Mix with Fever-Tree Mediterranean Tonic
Garnish with a slice of pink grapefruit
Finish with a sprig of rosemary and serve with a large amount of ice.