Empower staff with drinks know-how

Bartenders are pivotal to convincing customers to trade up to premium spirits

THE old adage ‘knowledge is power’ is fitting when it comes to up-selling premium spirits in the Scottish on-trade.

From gin and whisky, to rum and vodka, bartender know-how is critical to convincing consumers to trade up to premium spirits, according to various spirits producers.

Jim Ewen, co-founder of Banchory-based Dark Matter Distillers, told SLTN: “The more knowledge a bartender or mixologist has to hand regarding any product or serve, the more adept they can be at presenting choices to the customer, in turn gaining their trust to step outside their comfort zone and try premium vs mainstream spirits.”

Teddy Joseph, whisky specialist at Edrington-Beam Suntory – which counts single malts Laphroaig and Bowmore within its drinks stable – agreed that staff expertise is crucial to successfully up-selling spirits.

“Staff knowledge is extremely important when it comes to premium spirits,” he said.

“When a bartender is knowledgeable on the heritage, production and tasting notes of a premium liquid, it adds context to the drinker’s experience.

“It also allows them to recommend serves suitable for different palates and price points.”

Therefore, training is “extremely important”, according to Joseph, who added: “I would always recommend outlets enlist the support of brand ambassadors and spirits specialists as it is a great way to ensure staff have a strong knowledge of the premium drinks category.”

Adequate training is especially pertinent as, more than ever, customers seek out brands with a story to tell, reckons Ewen of Dark Matter Distillers.

He said: “This year has seen a continued trend towards exploration from the consumer, especially in the on-trade where we’re seeing a thirst for premium spirits, fuelled by an ongoing thirst to discover new cocktails and a push towards ‘perfect serves’ that the top-end brands can own.”

The more knowledge a bartender has, the more adept they can be at presenting choices.

When it comes to offering customers premium perfect serves, the right presentation is vital.

“If you’re up-selling to a premium spirit at a higher price point, that product should be presented to the highest possible standard,” said Ewen.

“Using quality, complementary garnishes is another element in showcasing an elevated premium drinks experience.”

Similarly, Joseph of Edrington-Beam Suntory said: “Choosing the right glassware and garnish is extremely important, and arguably one of the simplest ways to enhance the appearance and flavour of any drink.

“My top tip: always double check every glass has been properly cleaned. A dirty glass can completely ruin a customer’s experience and is one of the easiest mistakes to prevent.

“Garnishes should always be kept simple. What’s more, they should always be fresh; I love to use fresh fruits such as raspberries, lemons and grapefruits when making cocktails as they help to enhance the simplest of flavours.”

Focusing on service is also important when offering premium drinks, according to Poppy Croft, marketing manager at Hi-Spirits.

“One obstacle to premium cocktail sales in pubs is consumer concern over quality and speed of service,” she said.

“If a complex cocktail list is a challenge, it may be better to focus on offering a small number of premium, simple serves.”