The perfect match for summer spirits

A selection of great tonics is vital to elevate a bar’s gin offer in the months ahead

WHAT’S good for gin is good for tonic water. And as the spirit has experienced remarkable growth in recent years, so too has its classic mixer partner.

There’s now an increasing number of premium tonic water brands and flavoured variants on the market.

And, according to the drinks firms behind the tonic waters, choice, quality and seasonality are increasingly important factors for consumers and, therefore, worth paying attention to when selecting a new mixer range.

Leanne Ware, senior brand manager at Halewood Wines & Spirits, whose portfolio includes the Lamb & Watt tonic water range, said: “The ongoing growth in premium and super-premium spirits – particularly gin, which saw sales increase by seven million bottles in 2017 – has naturally put a spotlight on mixers, as consumers, bartenders and brands look for the perfect accompaniment that will elevate their drinks.”

With the global tonic market expected to rise over the next seven years, Ware said there is “lots more innovation to come” from within the tonic category, meaning licensees must “evaluate their premium mixer offering as it is vital to ensure they are complementing their spirit offering and meeting consumer expectations”.

The gin and tonic is more popular than ever before and could be a valuable summer focus.

Amy Burgess, trade communications manager for Coca-Cola European Partners (CCEP) – the firm behind Schweppes, agreed that demand for premium mixers will continue to grow.

“With three quarters of consumers buying premium spirits when in a pub or bar – and nearly half saying they would rather order a premium spirit when buying a long mixed drink – premiumisation is likely to continue driving growth in the drinks market for years to come,” she said.

As summer approaches and the classic G&T serve becomes more popular, operators should give thought to growing the number of different gin and tonic serves they can offer their customers.

“The gin and tonic is more popular than ever before and could be a valuable summer focus for all operators,” said Fergus Franks, on-trade marketing manager for Fever-Tree.

Fresh flavours look set to dominate the on-trade this summer, coming through in gins and mixers.

“It is imperative that outlets continue to meet consumer demand and provide new and engaging G&T offerings throughout the warmer months.”

Seasonality is an increasingly important factor for drinkers, and with seasonal plays on cocktails or spirit/mixer serves likely to prove popular in licensed venues, there is an opportunity for operators to ensure their mixer range is in demand by incorporating summer flavours.

Jen Draper, head of marketing at premium soft drinks firm Franklin & Sons, said: “Fresh flavours look set to dominate the on-trade this summer, with citrus fruits like grapefruit and bergamot, as well as traditional fruit flavours like raspberry and strawberry, coming through in both gin, mixers and garnishes.

“Floral flavours will also continue to grow in popularity, with floral gins being used in a number of summer serves.

Gin pairing menus are the perfect way to encourage customers to try new mixers.

“We also predict that Mediterranean flavours will start coming through this summer.

“Taking inspiration from the increasingly popular Mediterranean diet, we foresee flavours like olives (a tried and tested garnish in Martinis) becoming familiar sights on menus.”

However, a seasonal range of quality mixers needs to be served with the correct spirits.

In order to do so operators should create a gin menu with pairing suggestions as it’s “the perfect way to encourage customers to get out of their comfort zone and try new mixers”, said Andrew Jackson, marketing director for Fentimans.

And the influence a knowledgeable bar staff can have in making informed recommendations and getting customers to explore new options should be taken into account, said Jackson.

“Having good staff that can effectively suggest mixer options for specific gins is really important, it encourages customers to try something new,” he added.