Going in for the skill this summer

Consumers set to seek out bars with an informed approach to mixology


A LOT has been made of a greater desire amongst patrons of the nation’s bars and restaurants to be offered experiences when out in the on-trade.

And there’s few better ways to do that than by having skilled staff behind the bar this summer crafting quality, on-trend seasonal cocktails, drinks firms told SLTN.

“Cocktails are now a menu staple for many licensees and the cocktail craze isn’t showing signs of stopping,” said Amy Burgess, senior trade communications manager at Coca-Cola European Partners.

“Whether it’s a fruity Piña Colada or smoky flavoured Negroni, cocktails are becoming the go-to drink for many occasions, with an estimated 8.7 million British consumers enjoying cocktails when drinking out of home.

“In years to come we predict that eclectic mixes will find their way onto the market, catering to an open-minded consumer seeking new flavour experiences.”

The importance of flare and a demonstrable level of ability that will impress customers was underlined by Ellie Jones, marketing manager at Love Drinks, which counts Gosling’s Rum and vermouth brand El Bandarra within its portfolio.

She said: “Part of the fun when drinking in the on-trade is seeing the subtle differences from bar to bar, bartender to bartender.

“I always like to see twists on classics and a bit of creativity, which is exactly what a cocktail list in the on-trade should provide.

“Eating and drinking out has to be an experience so the more we can get consumers to try something new, the better for everyone.”

Bartenders need to know how to make the end result look as well as taste good.

That view was reinforced by Amy Giacobbi, marketing manager at Continental Wine and Food.

She said: “A significant part of ordering a cocktail at the bar is the theatre involved, so bartenders need to be confident in their delivery and know how to make the end result look as well as taste good.”

In the age of social media, aesthetics have never been so important when it comes to drinks.

So it follows that time must be taken to consider how each cocktail on a drinks list will appear.

Tim Garratt, spirits brand manager at Franklin & Sons parent firm Global Brands, said: “Young British drinkers are digging deep to pay for cocktails, but they must look great, be served superbly, contain the latest must-have ingredients and generate a barrage of attention on social media.

“Cocktails should include on-trend ingredients and bartenders should add extra theatre to serves, by using things like herbal ice cubes.”

Katie Macleod, operations manager at Orkney Distilling, producer of Kirkjuvagr Orkney Gin, agreed.

She said: “I think people want to see value for money in their cocktails, so they want to see bartenders use premium ingredients, care to prepare it and come up with some unusual ideas that they would either struggle to do or it would take a lot of effort for them to recreate at home.”

The need for good looking serves can play well into the current trends for pink gin and flavoured spirits, said Margaux Maupate, brand manager for strawberry gin Puerto de Indias.

“In today’s digital world everything is about how it will look on our Instagram feed,” she said. “Flavoured spirits often contain natural colours which are easy on the eye as well as the all-important taste.”

On the other hand, Laura Edwards, managing director of Hi-Spirits, distributor of Southern Comfort and Buffalo Trace, stated that licensees should ensure their drinks menu is in line with the ability of staff.

She said: “As summer approaches, we’re also encouraging operators to match their cocktail offer to the available skills.

Young drinkers dig deep to pay for cocktails, but they must look great and be served superbly.

“A small range of simple long spirits drinks, mixed with fruit juice and carbonates and served over ice, can be made quickly and simply from scratch.”

A key consumer trend for licensees to keep in mind throughout the summer is the increasing prevalence of lower ABV cocktails and mixed drinks and this translates to a greater demand for spritz-style drinks in the on-trade this year, said drinks firms.

Stuart Fritz, marketing director for Mangrove, which distributes Kokoro Gin, said: “Low-ABV serves are sweeping the nation.

“I believe the spritz category is gearing up for a large bang. They are simple to make, lower in ABV, delivering a great GP to the bar and price point for the customer.”

Teddy Joseph, senior whisky specialist for Edrington-Beam Suntory, which counts Highland Park and Jim Beam within its portfolio, agreed.

He said: “Low-ABV cocktails continue to prove popular, with both the Spritz and Highball staples on menus across the country.”