With the right cocktails, bars could continue to tap into the home market
THE COVID-created trend of bars offering professionally-made cocktails for home delivery could be here to stay, say bartenders.
During the pandemic a number of bars have made cocktails available for customers to order and enjoy in their homes. But even after the current shutdown is over and premises are allowed to reopen for business, bartenders in Glasgow and Edinburgh reckon there will still be a market for professionally-made cocktails in the home.
Iain McPherson, owner of Edinburgh bars Panda & Sons, Hoot the Redeemer and Nauticus, established cocktail delivery service Edinburgh Booze Delivery in April. It allows consumers in Edinburgh to order cocktails from a number of the city’s bars for delivery to their homes. Cocktails on the site include Panda & Sons’ Switched Negroni and Switched Coconut Daiquiri.
Like bartenders across Scotland, McPherson is looking forward to being able to reopen his bars for business. But he reckons demand for quality cocktails in the home will continue.
“I think there is a strong majority of folk that can’t wait to get back to bars, but there is also a group of consumers that have taken quite a liking to treating themselves from home,” he said.
“I think the real truth will await us once the furlough pay stops for everyone.”
Mal Spence of Kelvingrove Café in Glasgow agreed. Several of the bar’s cocktails are available through Glasgow service the Glasgow Cocktail Collective, including a Paloma and dark rum cocktail the Treacle.
Spence pointed to examples in China, where lockdown has been eased for some time and where home-delivered cocktails remain popular.
“I don’t think this is going to be a short-term thing,” he said.
“If the industry reacts in the right manner, this is probably a layer that could exist in this industry long-term.”
Home delivery is obviously a different proposition to ordering a drink in a bar and so choosing the right cocktails to offer for a delivery service is vital.
Matt Ronald of Blue Dog – which, like Kelvingrove Café, has offered cocktails via the Glasgow Cocktail Collective – said choosing serves from the bar’s cocktail list for home delivery “was quite a complicated process”.
“So much of [Blue Dog’s menu] relies on fresh fruit, fresh produce,” said Ronald.
“Very few of our drinks would really suit this platform because it’s all fresh and made to order.
“So what I did was have a trawl through our offering to find what is popular and what wouldn’t spoil overnight in someone’s fridge. Something they could order on a Monday or a Tuesday and it’d still be fine on a Friday.
“Everything we do relies heavily on fresh strawberries, fresh raspberries, mint, etc and that can’t be put in [these drinks].
“So we found a couple of drinks that people had liked and would work quite well being left in the bottle, re-shaken in the bottle and then served over ice.
“So they’re not some of the more iconic Blue Dog drinks but they are things that have been on the menu for a while and are popular.”
Ronald opted to offer Blue Dog’s Jack Daniel’s-based Jumping Jack Flask and vodka-based Emily Emily cocktails for home delivery.
Making the drink as easy as possible to prepare at home is another important factor, said McPherson.
“I think consumers want convenience,” he said.
“Just like the food delivery projects going on, they do at least half the job for you. So it’s literally follow step one, two and three, as opposed to taking hours to make an ingredient from scratch.”
Presentation is another aspect of cocktails that is much more difficult to achieve when the drink is poured at home and for this reason Spence at Kelvingrove Café decided against offering one of the most well-known classic cocktails, the Old Fashioned, through the online service.
“With an Old Fashioned, realistically, a serving of two is going to look small,” he said.
“I think the process of making and serving it, the control of that drink, I think it needs a wee bit more than batching it and serving it out.”
This was echoed by Ronald at Blue Dog, who said presentation can’t be factored into the price of a delivered cocktail in the same way it can in a venue.
“It really depends on what works and what people are willing to pay for,” he said.
“If you’re putting something out that usually is put in a shaker, shaken over ice and then put in a Martini glass and is worth £7 then putting it in a bottle is not really the same experience.
“You’ve got to be careful about what you offer.”
Theatre and engagement with the bartender are other aspects of a bar that can’t be replicated at home and Spence reckoned venues that are determined to offer delivered cocktails long-term will have to find ways to enhance the experience beyond just the liquid itself.
He said: “It’s going one step further than delivering a bottled cocktail. So it’s how we adapt to that environment. How do we deliver the experience of the bar to people’s doorsteps and then into their home as well?
“So we’re looking at different avenues about how we do that, and we’ll be using digital platforms like Youtube and Instagram and stuff to extend what it is, rather than it just being a cocktail you crack open and pour.”