Set the bar with summer serves

A quality cocktail proposal can make for a sizzling season of sales

Summer cocktails

WHILE Scotland has already enjoyed a few great weeks of sunshine, there’s plenty of summer ahead for operators to make the most of.

And a good list of cocktail serves can be just the ticket to grow margins, as the good weather drives customers into bars, drinks companies have said.

“Cocktails have become one of the most important trends of the last couple of years in the on-trade,” said Jen Draper, head of marketing at Franklin & Sons.

With this in mind, Draper said licensees can cash in by offering classic cocktail serves that “epitomise the season with a modern twist”.

Sasha Filimonov, Hendrick’s Gin’s brand ambassador, agreed.

“Cocktails offer the chance for the on-trade to encourage an increase in spend per head while providing a memorable and lasting experience,” she said.

And exploiting the season in cocktail menus can reap rewards for licensees this summer as seasonality continues to become an increasingly significant trend in food and drink generally.

Paul Miller, co-founder of Eden Mill, said: “Using a flavoured or coloured gin and a seasonal mixer can put a simple summer twist on a classic drink.”

“We’re seeing a lot of bars experimenting with quirky seasonal serves.

“These allow you to try something different while keeping customers on their toes and enticing them in for a repeat visit to try something new.”

Using coloured gin and a seasonal mixer can put a simple summer twist on a classic drink.

While Peter O’Connor, whisky ambassador at Diageo Reserve, whose portfolio includes Roe & Co Irish whiskey, said whiskey from Ireland is “gaining significant traction with bartenders and consumers” and added seasonal serves can help “open people’s minds up to Irish whiskey all year-round”.

Something else that’s in demand amongst consumers at the moment, Amit Sood, senior whisky specialist at Edrington-Beam Suntory reckons, is lower ABV serves, a trend he said is “here to stay” as “they allow customers to enjoy the complexities of a cocktail” without having a high alcohol content.

Tom Chisholm. co-founder of Aelder, a wild elderberry liqueur, reinforced that view, adding that local provenance is a trend that has some way to go in the on-trade.

He said: “Lower ABV serves will continue to pick up and the thirst for products using natural, local ingredients is still very popular.”

Yet all the work of putting together a comprehensive list of cocktails can be undone if the drinks used aren’t visible to customers.

Jonathan Dennys of Mast-Jägermeister UK, said: “When at the bar, 43% of consumers are undecided on what they want to order and 60% won’t order what they cannot see.”

However, although cocktails have become much more widespread over recent years, there are many outlets which are yet to introduce a cocktail offer.

Vicky McQueen, co-founder of McQueen Gin, encouraged such venues to do so.

She said: “The customer is changing with the times and it’s essential that bars are able to do the same.”

For those operators just starting out with mixology, Sophia Blawat of Red Bull said a premium approach to drinks is “key to repeat custom and increased profits”.

Another factor to be considered when offering cocktails is the skill of staff on-shift, meaning a good level of training is important for bartenders.

Amy Giacobbi, marketing manager for Continental Wine & Foods, said: “Bartenders need to be confident in their delivery and know how to make the end result look as well as taste good.”

Simple drinks that are executed well are far better than complicated drinks without consistency.

While Hi-Spirit’s managing director, Dan Bolton, encouraged operators to “make the most of any training support available from suppliers”.

“Consumers are more informed than ever so staff need to keep up with this,” said Bolton.

If a venue has less cocktail expertise amongst the rank and file, more straightforward serves that can be utilised well are licensees’ best bet, said EmmaLi Stenhouse, brand ambassador for Sailor Jerry.

“Simple drinks that are executed well are far better than complicated drinks without consistency,” she said.

“If an operator is not confident that all staff can execute the menu to the same quality standard, simplify it so it is possible.”

Michael Sim of Ian Macleod Distillers, owners of Edinburgh Gin, concurred that “consistency is crucial”.

“It’s extremely important for staff to be properly trained,” he said.

And as social media now plays a major part in many consumers’ lives, drinks that look, as well as taste, good can advertise venues on their own via customers’ posts, said Bob Fowkes, co-founder and marketing director of Brockmans Gin.

“The influence of social media means the right glassware and creating theatre around the cocktail with those garnishes is an important means of getting your venue some attention on Instagram and other platforms,” he said.

“A cocktail should be a little work of art: no matter how simple the serve.”