Shaking it up for a merry Christmas

Quality spirit-based drinks options should do well over the festive period


IT is a well-established fact that customers are inclined to increase the time and money they spend in pubs in the run up to Christmas.

But, with competition for customers between outlets over the festive period stiff, a superior selection of on-trend drinks will be required in bars to set them apart, firms told SLTN.

James Bremner, on-trade channel director for Pernod Ricard, the firm behind Absolut vodka and Irish whiskey brand Jameson, said: “Outlets will need to work harder this year to maintain sales and value growth by offering a quality premium drink experience that will encourage people to come back to their outlet, stay longer and spend more.”

With that in mind, Bremner said that it is vital that operators construct the best possible selection of Christmas drinks and market them well with the use of menus.

He said: “The menu is still the most influential asset for consumers choosing drinks and, therefore, it’s important to get it right by providing trade-up options for consumers to tap into their mindset of higher spending during Christmas.”

That view was given further credence by Nicole Goodwin, marketing director at Mast-Jaegermeister UK.

“40% of customers haven’t decided what they want to drink when they get to the bar and 60% won’t buy what they can’t see,” she said.

The menu is still the most influential asset for consumers choosing drinks.

“That means menus and drinks visibility are key to driving incremental purchase, as well as the theatre and presentation of a drink.”

A range of well put together seasonal cocktails would help “engage customers and offer the range of choice needed to stop ‘festive fatigue’ setting in too early”, stated Poppy Croft, marketing manager of Hi-Spirits, distributor of Buffalo Trace and Southern Comfort.

In terms of which spirits could be in demand over winter, Jim Ewen, co-founder of Aberdeenshire-based Dark Matter Distillers, the producer of Dark Matter Rum, reckons that brown spirits will “come into their own over the festive period” and speculated that there would also be an increasing interest in craft spirits.

He said: “The enthusiasm for craft spirits continues to make waves, and as a result, we predict that consumers will be open to trying various spirits that sit within the craft category this Christmas.”

While there may be a temptation to offer ostentatious cocktails over the winter months, simple mixes could perform better on Christmas drinks menus as bars get busier, according to Julien Spiegel, senior brand manager at Jack Daniel’s.

He said: “We’ve seen interest in classic whiskey cocktails returning; it’s a trend we expect to continue into the festive season.

“Classics like the Old Fashioned or Manhattan are experiencing a revival thanks to their simplicity, elegance and serving speed – sometimes with a bit of a modern twist.

“Some serves, like the Old Fashioned, can be easily batched beforehand and measured out when ordered. This not only helps with minimising waste, but also maintains the consistency and speed of a serve, something which is of paramount importance when consumers are in front of the bar.”

Franck Dedieu, UK brand ambassador for elderflower liqueur St Germain, agreed, pointing to a need to keep cocktails straightforward yet exciting.

“You need to be daring and creative without compromising on the service,” he said.

“Bear in mind that your bar will be busy; pre-batching ingredients and not over-complicating cocktails is essential.”