Keeping up appearances

Factors such as glassware and garnish make a big difference.

A glass of Gin and Tonic is infused with ice, lemons and cinnamon

ONE of the true ‘must stocks’ of the past few years, gin is now just as likely to be seen on the back-bar of a community pub than the gantry of a city centre cocktail bar.

And the category shows no sign of slowing down as we enter what will be an important latter part of the year for the Scottish trade.

With venues once again able to welcome larger numbers of customers Dale McQueen, owner of McQueen Gin, encouraged bar and pub operators to “take a leap of faith and capitalise on consumers now wanting to try cutting-edge flavours as a diversion from their typical supermarket choices”.

“By offering new and exciting spirits or beers, the consumer will be tempted by the menu and be inclined to revisit or share their experiences online,” said McQueen.

With gin in such demand, it’s essential that operators highlight their range to customers, with drinks companies recommending ‘gin of the week’ promotions and incorporating gin serves on any autumn cocktail lists.

“Gin has become a year-round drink, and as people return to bars in a mood of celebration, we expect gin to be very popular,” said Claire Murray, co-founder of Dunnet Bay Distillers, producer of Rock Rose Gin.

“Cocktails, in particular, provide something special at a time when going to venues is still a novelty after the COVID restrictions of the past year.”

Serves won’t necessarily need to be complicated in order to sell in the coming months, reckoned brand owners, but they absolutely must be well presented.

“As consumers have not been able to visit bars and pubs in such a long time, we feel that it is now more important than ever to serve a well-presented tipple,” said Thomas Wilson, co-founder of Isle of Skye Distillers, producer of gin brand Misty Isle.

“People have missed the experience of going out for a drink and look forward to enjoying something different, that they would not drink or serve themselves at home.”

McQueen agreed. He said the bar and pub customer “needs to feel they are purchasing a drink that goes above and beyond their own efforts”.

“Presentation and timing is king,” he said.

“A luxurious looking gin serve will sell before it’s been tasted, particularly if it’s served in reasonable time.”

Glassware and garnishes are both key aspects of any perfect gin serve, said firms.

“People first ‘drink’ with their eyes, so from the bottle you take from the back-bar to the stemware and garnish, these elements all create an air of anticipation,” said Brockman’s marketing controller, Rob McArdle.

“Serving gin in a well-chilled copa glass with plenty of ice, for a G&T, makes for all the difference.

“Know your gins and ensure that you have different garnishes for each, to complement the botanicals which make each gin unique.”

That was reinforced by James Stocker, marketing director at Halewood Artisanal Spirits – the company behind Whitley Neill.

He said: “Garnishes are a great way of creating a bit of extra theatre and excitement without adding a huge amount of extra cost.

“More than ever consumers are looking for something that they wouldn’t be able to make at home, and again, garnishes are perfect for achieving this quite easily.”

And while it may seem obvious, operators should ensure they don’t ignore the basics.

Murray, at Dunnet Bay Distillers, said: “Turning to really basic guidance, make sure glasses are chilled and that there is plenty of ice.

“There is still a tendency in some venues to ignore these obvious needs. A little planning makes a big difference to the customer experience.”