Gin can be the spirit of Christmas

As the thirst for festive serves in pubs and bars begins to grow, gin comes into its own

festive ginWITH the nights drawing in, the need for serves which capture the essence of the season becomes as pronounced as the dropping temperatures.

And as gin is as in demand as ever, drinks firms told SLTN that the spirit should be given a starring role on winter lists as more customers start to make their way through the doors of pubs and bars throughout November and December.

“Consumers buy into the whole idea of Christmas, and this can be said in regard to their drink preferences at the time too,” said Vicky McQueen, co-founder of Callander-based producer McQueen Gin.

“Picture the scene, it’s the last Friday before Christmas and you and your friends are heading out for some celebratory cocktails. Are you going to go for a Piña Colada or the new festive cocktails made with warming blood orange gin and cinnamon? There’s only one winner at this time of year.

“People are full of festive spirit, so why not give them a festive spirit?

“Add a Christmas twist to bespoke cocktails or pours and take advantage of the Christmas joy that is oozing out of punters.”

To create a winning selection of Christmas drinks, McQueen stated that operators should look to inject the flavours which are reminiscent of winter into drinks offers.

She said: “People are going to be looking for flavours that remind them of being sat in front of the fire on a Christmas night.

“Flavours such as cinnamon, orange, cranberry, ginger and chilli will catch the attention of customers. If you can implement these into your cocktails then you’ll be on to a winner.”

Ben Stewart, director of UK sales at Wemyss Family Spirits, producer of Darnley’s Gin, seconded that view and encouraged licensees to capitalise on flavoured gins in particular.

“A list of seasonal drinks will certainly provide your guests with more choice, and experience, as well as increase your venue’s exposure on social media platforms.

“Consumers are looking for an experience and they want to share this. Creating a list that covers a wide range of gins and mixers will encourage experimentation.

“Flavoured gins are in strong growth and the popularity of premium gin with innovative botanicals is on the rise. Pair these with various tonic waters and lemonades to offer your guests exciting serves that will keep them engaged.”

Crucially, when it comes to Christmas drinks, staff must be on top of their games as pubs gradually start to fill up.

Neil Everitt, chief executive of Brockmans Gin, advised operators to make sure their bar staff are trained on any new serves and make sure such drinks are simple enough to make quickly when the pressure is on.

He said: “A seasonal menu of cocktails, complementing a food offering if there is one, can be a successful way of lifting sales.

“Serving fast, consistently yet still with style, is a must. Training is essential. Make sure the team members know the recipes by heart.

“A small number of well-made cocktails is better by far than a list of 30 complicated drinks where the bar team have to look up recipes and don’t understand the garnishes, delaying the flow of customers at the bar.

“Prepare your cocktail menu well in advance. Go for something different such as a hot gin toddy, which is wonderful on a chilly night and can get the conversation flowing with customers.”

Carlo Valente, director of Boë Gin parent firm VC2 Brands, reckons staff can play a crucial role in increasing takings throughout the winter months by successfully up-selling to the festive throngs.

“The margin opportunities at this time of the year are invaluable,” he said. “This is one of the times in a year in which outlets can increase margins, incremental sales and win over consumers for future business in the coming year.

“Up-selling is an opportunity that should not be missed or taken for granted just because business is booming; bar staff are key in influencing sales so ensure they are offering a drinks experience to customers by up-selling and increasing the bar’s margin opportunity.”

Top tips

There is no doubt of the increased popularity in flavoured gins over the past two years – and this trend is set to continue into 2020, so to maximise this publicans should make sure they offer the trend-setting gins that their customers want.

– VC2 Brands.

Think about the glassware and how your Christmas drinks look as well as taste.

– Brockmans Gin.

Bars need to up their game and grab consumers’ attention by offering something interesting, different and of the highest quality. If you get your Christmas drinks offers spot on, the benefit is the repeat custom that it can drive.

– McQueen Gin.