TEQUILA has long been regarded as something of a sleeping giant within the drinks industry.
However all the augurs suggest that consumers are starting to wake up to the potential of agave spirits and their suitability in a wide selection of serves.
Advanced by bartenders and aided by food and drink macrotrends, the drinks, and tequila in particular, are said to be on course for a big year within Scotland’s bars.
Tim Garrett, spirit and mixer brand manager at Franklin & Sons, said: “Tequila is increasing in popularity amongst Scottish bartenders and is predicted to grow in the on-trade, as it becomes incorporated into more serves in order to change the common consumer perception that associates the spirit with shots and hangovers.
“The on-trade plays an essential part in educating consumers more on the versatility of this spirit and the countless combinations which consumers can experiment with, particularly moving from shots to sipping.”
Pointing to recent CGA figures, Matthew Sykes, director of international marketing for Patrón Spirits International, said tequila had shown an “impressive 40% value growth in Scottish independents last year”.
“The premiumisation of the category is potentially driving this growth and more commonly great Scottish bars are using Patrón tequila in their signature cocktails,” he added.
The profile of tequila in Scotland has risen significantly over the past few years.
But it is not just city centre cocktail bars that can gain from incorporating a few premium expressions on their back-bars, reckons Garratt of Franklin & Sons.
“All types of venues would in time benefit from stocking up on high-end tequilas,” he said.
“The quality of the tequila plays a fundamental role within the mix as it enhances the best flavours from the spirit. The serve can then be adapted to suit the style of venue.”
When it comes to marketing the spirit in outlets – be it in cocktails, spirit mixer serves or as a sipper – bartenders can push the artisanal qualities of the spirit to increasingly engaged clienteles.
That’s the approach currently being taken by Hi-Spirits, distributor of Corazón tequila and Monte Alban Mezcal, according to the firm’s managing director, Dan Bolton.
He said: “We want to engage knowledgeable consumers who enjoy cocktails when they’re out to eat and drink, and who appreciate spirits with authenticity and provenance.
“Along with premium cocktail serve ideas, we’re offering information about the heritage of premium tequila and the terroir of agave, tapping into that artisan spirits trend.”
Proceeding with an informative plan of attack was also highlighted by Grant Cunningham, sales manager for Scotland at Indie Brands, distributor of Tequila Fortaleza and Gem & Bolt Mezcal.
“Education is key,” he said.
All types of venues would in time benefit from stocking up on high-end tequilas.
“It wasn’t that long ago when consumers didn’t seem to like gin but through education, they found confidence in different gins they now order.”
And making the spirit accessible is important to this process, said Cunningham, who advocated for making subtle changes to classic cocktails to demonstrate what the broader tequila and mezcal category can offer.
“A Margarita is a tequila cocktail that most consumers already know,” he said.
“Exchanging the tequila for mezcal in a Margarita can be a good idea, as this gives the consumer a familiar drink but with the twist of smokey mezcal and is absolutely delicious.”
Mirroring other categories, the spirit has also enjoyed popularity in longer drinks as well, said Sykes of Patrón Spirits International.
He said: “We’ve experienced a lot of success with classic long drinks in bars along with their respective twists; we expect this to continue throughout 2019.”
60ml Patrón Silver tequila
90ml grapefruit juice
15ml fresh lime juice
Pinch of salt
Wedge of lime or pink grapefruit slice
Salt rim (optional)
Method: add all ingredients to an ice-filled highball glass and stir. Garnish with a pink grapefruit slice or wedge of lime.