Mix it up for success in the festive season

Cocktails and premium drinks help the consumer trade up for Christmas

Brockmans Fench
Cocktails are likely to be big sellers in the on-trade again this Christmas, say brand owners.

WHETHER it’s nights out with workmates or gatherings at home, people like something a bit special at Christmas and are willing to spend a little more to get it.

And that attitude is likely to have an impact on the spirits and cocktails customers purchase in the on-trade this festive season, reckon drinks firms.

Claire Murray, co-founder and director of Dunnet Bay Distillers, producer of Rock Rose Gin and Holy Grass Vodka, said customers will be willing to pay more if they are convinced of a product’s quality.

“Offer premium spirits and show their value by allowing customers to taste before they commit,” she said.

“Upsell by creating distinctive cocktails. If you are serving the classics, have the right garnish for a G&T and use lots of ice to chill the drink.

“It’s these touches that mean a more premium price will be viewed as acceptable.”

Rock Rose Blood Orange Gin Fizz
Cocktails are likely to be big sellers in the on-trade again this Christmas, say brand owners.

Murray said a range of choices is more important than a range of prices.

She said: “If you are short of space, when choosing gins and vodkas, list some high street brands then make the back-bar interesting with some appealing local and regional spirits.”
Star Pubs & Bars stressed the importance of getting the price right.

Spirits category buyer, Ben Ko-Nkengmo, said: “We recommend a five tier pricing structure for spirits. This serves several purposes. It gives clarity to customers and makes it easier for staff to be aware of all the pricing,

“It also provides a logical way to layout the back-bar and encourages customers to trade up.”

A review of the back-bar is high on the list of priorities for gin brand Brockmans too, as marketing controller Rob McArdle explained.

“It’s very important that venues review their back-bar and make sure they stock a range of premium and super-premium gins and other spirits,” he said.

“The evidence is that the gin boom continues so having a range of interesting gins is a must.

“Make sure you stock spirits that will lend themselves to serves that are simple to construct but deliver on taste and impact.”

He recommended that bar operators talk to brand ambassadors and sales teams for help to make the most of Christmas.

“Major brands spend a lot of time and thought creating cocktails that perfectly showcase the spirit so use our resources to help ease your path,” he said.

“Promotion is crucial. Cocktails are a perfect way to introduce people to more upscale drinks and well-informed bartenders can recommend drinks.”

Murray at Dunnet Bay said that drinks menus need to be appealing yet short.

She explained: “Ensure you offer a small number of well-constructed cocktails, that all the garnishes can be prepped in advance, and that ingredients are interesting but few to avoid lots of hassle for staff behind the bar. All these measures will boost speed and ease of serve, helping staff and keeping customers satisfied”.

And if a venue is stocking interesting spirits and other drinks and has created an attractive drinks menu, they shouldn’t keep it a secret.

Instead, said Murray, licensees should shout about it online and through local media.
“Work with the brands you are stocking to understand the botanicals and the best mixers for these drinks and get them to support you by mentioning them on your website, menus, and social media,” she said.

Edrington UK agreed that consumers tend to spend more and trade up during the festive period, so outlets can stock one or two premium versions of their core spirits for the occasion.

Teddy Joseph, whisky specialist at the company, said: “Given the cold weather, hot drinks will be a popular staple on drinks menus across Scotland.

“A great example of this is the Hot Toddy, made using ginger syrup and honey. Negronis will also remain a popular serve during the winter months.”

He continued: “A dedicated Christmas cocktail menu is a brilliant way of helping your customers get into the festive spirit, so ensuring your menu includes some well-loved serves with a twist will create that ‘wow’ moment.”

Joseph pointed out that consumers tend to be more open and interested in experimenting with mixers and garnishes around the festive season and said the addition of a luxury mixer or decorative garnish helps to “bring the on-trade experience” to gatherings.

Meanwhile, rum importer Skylark Spirits said it is vital this festive season that operators stick to classics and twists on them.

Director Indy Anand said: “This is to help expand the knowledge that consumers have gained over the past 18 months, during which they have made these classics at home.

“Elevate cocktails beyond their base form to really entice customers who may have heard of certain cocktails, but enjoy seeing how creative a menu can really be.”

Anand said that the diversity of rum is helping it lead the way with innovations, making it a sector the on-trade should focus on this Christmas.

“From unique combinations of fruit, spiced and flavoured products, to distilleries and rum production from across the globe, rum really is showing its true colours,” Anand said.

He added that there are “niche” customers who have spent the past year expanding their spirits knowledge and may want to try products neat, but the general spirits drinker will veer towards cocktails, where success will depend on “the recipes, the balance and most importantly, the quality of ingredients”.