A very different year for cocktails

Lockdown may have affected which serves customers opt for this autumn

COMPLEX cocktails are likely to be the order of the day in the coming months as customers look for more complicated serves after months of having to make-do in their homes.

While autumn traditionally signals a switch to darker spirits and richer flavours, drinking simple cocktails at home during lockdown might  have changed consumer tastes this year, and drinks companies reckon that people could be in a more experimental mood when out in the on-trade.

Metinee Kongsrivilai, UK brand ambassador at Bacardi, said that as the colder months approach “we expect people to be looking for a different drinking experience to what they had at home”.

“Bars should be mindful to keep their offerings diverse,” said Kongsrivilai.

“It’s worth noting that as consumers have been experimenting with cocktails at home, many will have a new appreciation for the skills of a top class bartender.

We expect people to be looking for a different drinking experience to what they had at home.

“We think bars will see a spike in sales of more complex cocktails as consumers look to enjoy drinks they might not have been able to recreate at home so easily, like an Old Fashioned or a Piña Colada.”

Teddy Joseph, whisky specialist at Edrington-Beam Suntory UK, said he thinks cocktail drinkers will be opting for a mixture of classic serves and newer creations this autumn.

“In my opinion, we’ll still see a lot of consumers opt for the classics – think Old Fashioned and the Espresso Martini – as they’re classics for a reason,” he said.

“That said, during lockdown a lot of bartenders took the opportunity to advance their skill set, namely through virtual masterclasses.

“We’re likely to see this fresh perspective and passion translate once experts return to the on-trade as bartenders may experiment through new blends, serves, or menu themes which I believe will cause consumers to be more experimental.

“Of course, the current climate may mean that these skills are implemented gradually as things slowly but surely progress to a new normal.

“Venues may reopen with shorter and more limited menus focusing on well-loved classic serves to ensure their consumers receive all the things they love and have missed.”

Ben Stewart, director of UK and European sales at Wemyss Family Spirits, agreed.

Going to the pub is no longer a ‘given’. People realise how lucky they are to go out again.

He said that the general shift to online during the lockdown “has introduced a lot of people to new drinks and brands and will certainly encourage them to seek these out when they get back out to their favourite bars and restaurants”.

“This experimentation is an opportunity to deliver premium serves to an engaged audience,” said Stewart.

The lockdown may have had other effects on customer cocktail choices as well.

While certain tastes tend to change with the seasons, Chiara Kelly, head of marketing at Eden Mill, said this year could be different.

“Customers may seek their fill of summery drinks this autumn due to the delayed start of their summer [because of] COVID,” she said.

“With some customers trying to make up for lost time within their favourite summer on-trade venues, we may see the summer drinks trends of fun, fruity drinks continuing into the autumn months.”

Whatever the choices of serve, drinks companies reckon that the coming months are likely to see a healthy demand for cocktails.

Jim Ewen, co-founder of Dark Matter Distillers, said: “For those who choose to venture out to socialise with friends and family, after so much time in isolation and being in the home these past few months, social outings will become by their nature micro-celebrations, so naturally those are the occasions that tend to inspire a round or two of cocktails.”

And Brockmans brand manager, Laura Motson, said uncertainty over future lockdowns could also encourage customers to make the most of every visit.

“Of course, we don’t yet know whether there will be another spike in the virus and so another lockdown may occur,” said Motson.

“Whilst people can go to venues, they want to enjoy a treat to make it worthwhile.

“Going to the pub or bar is no longer a ‘given’ – people realise how fortunate they are to be able to go out again and there is nothing more celebratory than a cocktail.

“When people feel they deserve a treat, a cocktail is often the drink of choice.”