Gin has more to give this summer

Licensees in the know can make the most of spirit’s continued popularity, say firms

THE slogan ‘I’m number one, so why try harder?’, which featured on musician and DJ Fatboy Slim’s 1998 album cover, could arguably apply to gin’s recent performance in the Scottish on-trade.

But while there’s no denying the spirit’s continued popularity over the past few years, contrary to the aforementioned slogan, there is plenty reason to try harder, according to drinks firms and producers, who said informed operators that keep up with the latest trends can further capitalise on gin this summer.

But what will prove popular?

Dale McQueen, managing director of Callander-based McQueen Gin, told SLTN he expects “to see a lot of people searching for something sweet, with just enough punch to accompany it”.

“We’ve seen first-hand how people are becoming more and more sophisticated in their drinking, with particular reference to gin,” said McQueen.

“With that in mind, we expect to see people becoming increasingly adventurous – something that we are always looking to address with our unique flavours.”

Paul Miller, co-founder of St Andrews-based Eden Mill, also foresees fruit flavours proving popular this summer. He said: “I expect we will see quite a lot of juicy and sweet flavours, with hints of citrus and tropical fruits this year.

“We are certainly seeing this type of flavour profile grow in popularity, with many brands introducing coloured gins in time for the summer.”

Echoing this view, Simon Fairclough, managing director of Persie Distillery at Auchenflower in Perthshire, said as consumer appetite for gin continues to grow, “the traditional juniper-forward London Dry style is slowly but surely being edged aside by a sweeter style of gin and mixer”.

“That’s why pink gins are on the up, violet gins are breaking new ground, and rhubarb gins are a hot favourite,” said Fairclough.

Similarly, Will Holt of Pinkster Gin said pink gin “is going to be a smash hit this summer, no doubt about it”.

However, Sasha Filimonov, brand ambassador for Hendrick’s Gin in the UK, reckons bitter flavours will still be in demand this summer.

“Some key flavours that I think will be big this summer include bitter/more international citrus variants, such as grapefruit, yuzu and kaffir lime,” said Filimonov.

Another trend to keep an eye on is the evolution of the gin garnish, according to Keith Bonnington of Wild Island Gin. He said: “Matching garnishes to complement flavours inherent within the spirit has been a gathering trend.

“Rather than just accepting a wedge of lime because it’s the bar standard, consumers are more and more challenging the norms – if there’s a heavy citrus influence within the botanical composition of the gin, citrus or mint is a good match; however, for something more juniper-led, a scattering of dark berries can often provide a better flavour balance.”

Jonathan Gibson, brand director at Hayman’s Gin, agreed, stating that “the use of interesting and unusual botanicals as garnishes is a key trend”. “Using the correct garnish to match a specific gin brings out the flavours within the gin, enhancing the flavour of the G&T, whilst surprising and educating the consumer and offering a better drinking experience out of home,” said Gibson.

But as the category continues to flourish and bartenders continue to seek out unusual and interesting flavours and garnishes, Dan Bolton of drinks distributor Hi-Spirits believes there “are definite signs of a back-to-basics trend”, stating that “some bars are now focusing on making sure they get the fundamentals right”.

And it’s vital that the basics – and beyond – are mastered, according to Kim Cameron of the Gin Bothy, who said “the right tonic and garnish served in the right glass is now an expectation – not a nice to have”.

Leanne Ware of Halewood Wines & Spirits – who said bars are facing increasingly inquisitive customers – agreed that bartenders must know what they’re talking about.

“Consumers are becoming increasingly knowledgeable about spirits and cocktails and are experimenting with techniques at home, but a bar team that is knowledgeable and passionate about their craft will have a deeper understanding about what’s emerging and interesting to stock, which of course lends itself to innovative creations on the classic serve and cocktail menu,” said Ware.

The glassware the gin is served in is also “a huge contributory factor” as “we all ‘feast with our eyes’,” said Gill Head of Artis. “So the message to bar managers and mixologists is very clear: concentrate on the ingredients, of course, but do not neglect your glassware,” she said.