Gin experience essential for bars

Pubs can make the most of spirit’s boom by hosting events, say firms

The explosion in gin’s popularity over the last decade has been driven by distillers, who, in trying to take advantage of the spirit’s versatility, have helped create the burgeoning, vibrant and diverse category that’s impossible to ignore in the on-trade today.

And as this modern gin craze continues to show no signs of abating, with recent CGA figures revealing a near £20 million rise in gin sales in Scotland’s bars over the past year alone, operators will be keen to keep the monied momentum of the spirit going in their venues.

With more and more bars offering a good selection of gins for the army of connoisseurs out there, experts on the distillate told SLTN that teaming up with brands and hosting events, such as tastings, can help pubs stand out from their competitors.

“There is enormous value to brands and to bars or pubs in arranging gin-focused promotions such as samplings, masterclasses and food and gin pairing,” said Bob Fowkes, co-founder and marketing director of Brockmans Gin.

“It enlightens gin enthusiasts, often converts those who think they dislike gin, and shows how exciting the gin category can be for both classic and contemporary cocktails.

“With high interest in the category, hosting such events can drive traffic to bars on quieter nights.”

Paul Hughes, founder and managing director of Black Storm Distillery, producer of Bottled Storm Gin, reinforced that perspective.

He said: “The whole industry is moving towards an experience-led guest offering, so any activities that can add value to your guest will be worthwhile in the long term.”

There is enormous value in arranging gin-focused promotions, such as samplings.

Nick Williamson, marketing director at Campari UK, agreed and said hosting gin events in pubs and bars is “absolutely” a good idea, as “the modern gin consumer buys into experience, not brand”.

“Along with quality and taste, they want to feel a brand matches their values and experience in their consumption,” added Williamson.

In order to keep customers engaged with a bar’s gin offer, those in the know said licensees should frequently be looking to shake their selection up by bringing in new releases, covering different styles, flavours and trends throughout the year.

Jill Brown, distiller at Moray Distillery, the maker of Avva Scottish Gin, said that with the desire for new gins strong, operators who don’t “refresh” their menus routinely are “missing an opportunity”.

“We’ve spoken with a few on-trade customers who regularly change the menu to keep up with not only the volume of new gins to the market but also customer demands,” she said.

“Customers are really enjoying it, they see new brands and know that they can try a good range of ‘new’ instead of the same old offerings.”

Dan Bolton, managing director of Hi-Spirits, whose portfolio includes Brooklyn Gin, seconded that approach, saying a cyclically refreshed and varied menu is likely to be a hit with patrons.

He said: “Rotate rather than proliferate; change the gin serves on offer regularly to reflect seasonal flavours and current trends, rather than giving customers – and busy bar staff – too much to choose from.

Operators recognise the consumer thirst for quality products presented in a novel way.

“Every different gin needs to bring something different to the party in terms of flavour, strength or style.”

And as the number of different gins on the market continues to swell, a considered range is vital, agreed Bruce Perry, managing director of Marussia Beverages UK, distributor of Aberdeen-based Porter’s Gin.

“Operators should stock a number of highly differentiated and interesting brands,” he said.

“Think about gins that are authentic, have a genuine point of difference and have something unique to offer customers.”

But first and foremost when putting together a strong selection of gins, the most important factor is quality, according to Joanne Motion, UK customer marketing manager at Ian Macleod Distillers, producer of Edinburgh Gin.

She said: “The premiumisation trend within gin and many other spirits continues to drive growth – which is good news for the bars and pubs which gain a greater return on the premium offerings.

“Operators recognise the consumer thirst for quality products presented in a novel way.

“Having a gin offering that focuses on premium brands, carefully selected botanicals, and seasonally-appropriate flavours is great for the customer and the return.”

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Suggested Serve


Rosette Martini


“A combination of damask rose and pomegranate, mingling with lemon and pistachios for a taste of the Orient.”

25ml Seaside Edinburgh Gin

25ml Edinburgh Gin Pomegranate & Rose Liqueur

12.5ml lemon juice

Method: rim a coupette glass with crushed pistachios. Stir all ingredients together in a mixing glass with ice. Strain into the prepared glass.


Ian Macleod Distillers.