Prioritise quality post-lockdown

Concise gin offer that packs a punch can pay dividends

Quality is key to a post-lockdown gin offer in pubs and bars, drinks firms say

A GIN offer that focuses on quality over quantity could go a long way over the coming months as the trade gets back on track.

That is the message from drinks firms who say pub-goers returning to their favourite haunts after months of lockdown will be seeking memorable drinking experiences that can’t be replicated in a home environment.

Amy Burns, global marketing manager at Tobermory Gin parent company Distell, said: “They’ll also be searching for creativity both in choice of cocktails and with serves – hoping for something different as they enjoy their first drinks in the on-trade in months.

“At Tobermory we’re extremely proud of our unique signature serve, containing hibiscus leaves, blood orange and a sprig of thyme, perfectly mixed in a balloon glass with premium tonic. It is this type of attention to detail which the on-trade must sustain, expressively showcasing skills and knowledge to remind consumers of what they have been missing out on.”

Duncan Lloyd, marketing manager at McQueen Gin, agreed, saying operators and bartenders shouldn’t play it safe when it comes to flavours and pairings.

“Don’t be afraid to change your flavours and follow the trend – consumers are not just looking for a standard raspberry gin, they want something unique, and maybe trending away from sweet?” he said.

“The gin industry is maturing and moving away from bright neon colours; it is coming into its golden years and wants something that reflects where it is at now.”

While consumers may make less trips out in the trade initially, Neil Stewart, business development manager at Orkney Distilling, which produces Kirkjuvagr Orkney Gin, said they are likely to spend more on premium serves when they do.

“I found in the venue I managed during the last recession was where our regular customer base would maybe go out less, the spend was greater when they did – there was a willingness to try recommendations or premium products to get a drink they would really enjoy,” he said.

“It was the first time I noticed that customers were ultimately happy to pay a little more for a drink they would ultimately enjoy a lot more.”

Pamela McGovern, trade marketing executive at Eden Mill agreed, saying: “With many people still nervous to return as regularly as before, it will be a celebration when they do and we think customers will be more likely to choose a premium gin or a special cocktail – something they wouldn’t necessarily have or attempt to make on their own at home.”

Sarah Clark, senior trade marketing manager for Caorunn gin, advised operators and bartenders create “smaller consolidated menus of incredible cocktails and simple perfect serves” – featuring established brands.

“Consumers are potentially less likely to experiment with new brands and this is where trusted and well-known brands have the chance to perform,” she said.

“Caorunn has been a staple in the Scottish on-trade since its launch 11 years ago and we’re fortunate to have a loyal customer base that have continued to purchase via retail during lockdown so will no doubt seek the brand out when the on-trade reopens too.”

Online orders have driven sales of Kintyre Gin during lockdown, according to Niall Macalister Hall of producer Beinn an Tuirc Distillers, who said gin sales are higher than levels seen at Christmas.

“There is a growing trend encouraging people to ‘buy local’ and I think establishments in Scotland will find Scottish gins more popular than before due to this effect,” he said.

“Therefore, ensure you have a good core range of Scottish gins on the gantry or on the shelf.”

Social distancing in pubs and bars is also likely to have a bearing on the gins consumers order.

Rosie Fryer of Kopparberg Gin said: “As face to face service in bars will be limited, with table service and app ordering taking precedent as the on trade reopens, drinkers will have time to peruse the menu rather than panic ordering at the bar.

“Considering this we expect to see drinkers taking their time to pick out their favourite brands and drinks. Taking the above into account, it will be increasingly important for operators to stock the brands that drinkers want – imagine waiting to go to the pub for three months only to find out that they don’t have your favourite brand.”

Simple gin serves will also play an important role in post-lockdown trading, said Claire Layfield, UK brand director for Bombay Sapphire.

“With venues having to adopt new processes and logistics to adhere to the government guidance and consumers changing behaviours, there is an argument to rationalise the gin menu to focus on key serves that are tried and tested.

“If consumers aren’t able to stand in front of bar and pick from a plethora of gins on the back-bar or ask the bartender for recommendations, they need to be able to choose from a simple menu that’s easy to recognise from trusted brands.”

This message was echoed by global brand manager at Brockmans Gin, Laura Motson, who said operators should offer a “handful” of standout gins that can be delivered “safely and hygienically”.

Motson said: “The back bar needs to be simplified as bartenders will need to be able to offer quick, simple serves safely and hygienically.”

Online tastings have been really helpful for letting fans from all over the world experience our beautiful gin inspired by our idyllic island home. Participation in these events has been excellent, which will definitely have helped to further develop consumer knowledge.



– Amy Burns, global marketing manager, Tobermory Distillery.

Consumers have been more creative and experimental during lockdown. We have found that they have been more likely to try new gins, engaging in a taste journey as a way to fulfil their desire for a new experience. Pubs and bars should consider the fact that consumers potentially have been more experimental at home during lockdown with their mixers and serves, so they should encourage their customers to try new flavour combinations and consider local and small craft mixers.



– Pamela McGovern, trade marketing executive, Eden Mill.

Thanks to these tastings and online events, knowledge of different brands, flavour profiles, ingredients and serves will have encouraged customers to branch out into new products they may not have been familiar with previously.



– John Grieveson, chief marketing officer, Loch Lomond Group.

Online gin tastings have shown the positive ‘can-do’ attitude and creative nature that exists across the gin category.


– Neil Stewart, business development manager, Orkney Distilling.