A versatile spirit with plenty to offer bars

Rum is in demand and licensees should tailor their drinks range accordingly

UK rum sales surpassed £1 billion in 2017, according to recent figures from the WSTA

THERE are few drinks that can claim to be as ingrained in the spirit of revolution as rum.

When Westminster imposed its Sugar Act of 1764 on its American colonies, hitting the rum industry hard, it caused so much disruption to their economies that it went a long way to fuelling the fledgling nation’s revolutionary wars a decade later.

Over two and a half centuries later, it’s evident that people are still passionate about rum, as recent figures from the Wine & Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) revealed a modern rum uprising, with UK sales of the distillate surpassing the £1 billion mark last year.

With the drink’s popularity increasing, SLTN asked experts in the category what they think is driving rum’s growth in the on-trade and how operators can make the most of a spirit that’s on the up.

EmmaLi Stenhouse, brand ambassador for William Grant & Sons-owned Sailor Jerry, said rum’s growing favour with consumers has been driven, in part, by its versatility and use in cocktails.

Rum can be used to create fun, accessible cocktails, enjoyed neat or with a mixer.

“Rum is a flavourful, fun drink,” she said.

“It is accessible and appeals to a wide audience, especially those new to the rum category and exploring new serves.

“Rum can be used to create fun, accessible cocktails, enjoyed neat or with a mixer. It has a rich history and culture that appeals to a wide variety of drinkers.”

Dickie Cullimore, global brand ambassador at Bacardi, also stressed the spirit’s versatility.

He said: “It is the most diverse spirit we have access to and it allows us to play with or enjoy our drinks across many different styles; from refreshing serves such as the Mojito or Daiquiri, to tropical or tiki-style drinks made with fruit juices such as the Pina Colada or Mai Tai.

“Secondly, rum isn’t encumbered by rules. This can be frustrating but also liberating as it gives bartenders the freedom to create.

“If they want to play in a certain space for example, whether this is creating a summer cocktail list, winter warmers or even something for Halloween, they can.”

For licensees keen to exploit the rising thirst for rum in 2018, specialists on the spirit have said there’s benefits to introducing a concise selection of rum cocktails.

“A third of all cocktails include rum and this makes it a key ingredient for customers,” said Stenhouse of Sailor Jerry.

“There are a variety of rum cocktails, however by curating a short list, bars can ensure there is no menu fatigue and the list is easier to navigate for consumers.”

There are so many mixers a lot of consumers haven’t tried or thought of.

Another way to better a bar’s rum offer is by improving spirit/mixer serves by introducing a wider range of mixers, advised Collin van Schayk, director and head distiller of Orkney-based J. Gow Rum.

“Having the perfect mixer paired with a certain rum is an obvious route to go down,” he said.

“I think a lot of bars can benefit from perfecting mixer serves and learning the best serve for each rum.

“Offer more than just a rum and cola, there are so many mixers a lot of consumers haven’t tried or thought of.”

And when it comes to what to stock, there’s a clear advantage in making sure most of the key rum styles are represented in bars. Sarah Doyle, vice president of Bacardi Europe, said the number of rums on a gantry should reflect the venue.

She said: “If it is a dedicated cocktail bar, having a variety of rums for a variety of drinks is appropriate and if you’re running a rum-led or tiki bar, you will need lots of diversity.

“If your guests are versed in rums then that’s great but if they are still exploring they’ll always start with a rum they know and trust.”