Change your list with the seasons

A refreshed cocktail offer this spring can help venues stand out from their competitors

ALTHOUGH there hasn’t been much sign of an uplift in the temperature yet, spring is just around the corner and, with the nights getting lighter, licensees will be hoping for an uplift in trade.

And as consumers make up their minds about where to go for a drink, a well thought-out list of cocktails could prove to be the deciding factor as pubs and bars seek to differentiate themselves from their competition.

The demand for cocktails is clearly booming, and their popularity has been evidenced by the fact 15,000 outlets across the UK have added cocktails to their over in the last three years, according to wholesaler Matthew Clark.

James Wright, managing director of Aber Falls Whisky Distillery, believes that seasonality will again “take a front seat” in the cocktail market this year.

He said: “As we shake off the winter weather and welcome spring, it’s time to think about spirits, mixers and ingredients that offer refreshment and embody the flavours of the new season.”

For operators intent on replicating the season on their drinks list, Andrew King, managing director of Funkin, which supplies cocktail mixes and syrups to the on-trade, said fruity gin-based drinks, such as the Bramble, served with fresh garnishes can help bring spring to cocktail menus.

He said: “Gin is the most popular spirit in the UK, moving into the number one position in 2017.

Skinny cocktails represent a great opportunity as consumers look ahead to the summer.

“The Bramble is a popular gin cocktail in the UK and it’s widely regarded as a classic. Having a Bramble on your cocktail list is a must for spring and summer months.

“A great way to incorporate the season of spring to cocktails is with fresh garnishes.

“For serves like the Bramble, Mojito or Elderflower Collins simply add some berries, mint or a lemon wedge to help elevate the cocktail and make it more seasonal.”

With many consumers keen to lead healthier lifestyles, it falls on pubs and bars to offer lower-calorie options on the drinks list as well as the food menu.

With this in mind, prudent operators have been advised to include ‘skinny’ selections on cocktail lists.

“There is defnitely merit in including some ‘skinny’ cocktails on your menu,” said King of Funkin.

“Skinny cocktails have been predicted as the number two trend for 2018, according to the latest CGA Mixed Drinks Report. This represents a great opportunity; especially in the spring months as consumers look ahead to summer.”

Managing director of Hi-Spirits, Dan Bolton, agreed with that assessment.

He said: “The trend for skinny cocktails is part of a wider consumer expectation that pubs and bars will offer healthier choices across food and drink menus.

“Highlighting drinks flavoured with fruit juices and natural sweeteners will help the cocktail list appeal to those looking for healthier choices.”

As more and more outlets start to offer cocktails or improve their lists, heightened competition within the market means operators who distinguish their offers from those around them can profit.

Creating new and interesting cocktails is one of the best ways to make a venue stand out.

A variety of signature serves can help a bar differentiate itself. “Creating new and interesting cocktails – with
premium, craft ingredients – is one of the best ways to make a venue stand out,” said Jen Draper, Franklin & Sons’ head of marketing.

“With consumers becoming more discerning, they are searching out new flavours, and cocktails provide the ideal opportunity to experiment with avours.”

Tim Homewood, head of advocacy at Hayman’s Gin, agreed, but said that with a thirst for classic serves on the rise too, operators should aim to provide both signature drinks and old favourites.

He said: “Having a signature cocktail list is a great point of difference and can be a valuable tool to set the venue apart from another.

“However, consumers do like what they know, and we have seen a rise in demand for classic serves.

“We would recommend offering a menu that meets both needs: a signature serve menu, featuring cocktails exclusive to the venue, and a traditional menu featuring the much-loved classics.”

Staff skill levels should also be kept in mind when deciding how ambitious to be with a cocktail offer, said Dickie Cullimore, global brand ambassador for Bacardi.

“Think about the capability of your staff,” said Cullimore.

“If they are capable, you’ll probably be more inclined to serve signature cocktails or spins on classics. If cocktails aren’t a focus for your bar, have a solid list of understandable and accessible drinks.”