Spring into action on cocktail menus

Simple serves with lighter flavours tipped to be winners this season

THIS is likely to be an important spring season for the Scottish hospitality industry, as the sector looks to claw back some of the lost revenue of the last two years, and getting the drinks menu just right is likely to be a big difference maker.

In terms of spirits sales, cocktails continue to be a popular proposition for many on-trade customers and drinks companies predicted that, in keeping with the season, lighter, fruitier serves are likely to be the call of the day.

“Typically 46% of consumers say it is worth paying more for quality drinks in the on-trade,” said Lauren Priestly of Diageo.

“The cocktail category offers a wealth of opportunity for operators to not only unlock sales, but also to create great experiences for people.

“If operators are able to get the quality, service and choices correct, they will unlock a fantastic profit opportunity.”

Priestly reckoned gin will continue to feature heavily in bar calls in the coming months, citing CGA figures which stated 42% of on-trade consumers opt for gin-based cocktails when spending time in venues.

“In order to capitalise on this, pubs and bars should consider providing a fully rounded, quality gin offering to drive sales,” she said.

Simplicity and quality were said to be two of the more important aspects of any spring serves.

A spokeswoman for French liqueur brand Giffard said bars “should serve something that is both simple and delicious at the same time”.

“Accessibility is key and will help to satisfy a larger number of consumers,” she said.

“In order to do this, we suggest playing with famous popular serves.”

That chimed with comments from Rosie Milne, business development manager at Eden Mill, who said she expected “classic cocktails with a twist” to prove popular with pub and bar customers during the spring.

“This spring we can expect to see people going back to drinks that they know and love – with a bit of an edge,” said Milne.

“When people first came out of lockdown, they wanted to explore drinks that they couldn’t have at home, whereas now I think fruity gins and fruity cocktails are on the up and will continue to be a popular trend this coming season.”

The pre-food, aperitivo occasion was identified by Alex Carlton, co-founder of alcohol-free spirit brand Strykk, as another potential growth area for cocktails.

He said aperitivo serves are “going to gain momentum this year”.

“Bars can also look at using seasonal ingredients, garnishes and flavours, representing the transition to longer, warmer, brighter days, and pitcher serves can play a big role as they are great for sharing, encouraging groups to visit and socialise together,” said Carlton.

For those venues serving food during the day, spritz serves can be a lower-ABV alternative option for customers, according to Giffard.

The Giffard spokeswoman said these serves are “incredibly versatile with the potential to be served during brunch, an early spring afternoon or as an aperitif before dinner, as well as a great accompaniment to a meal”.

“The Spritz is extremely easy and quick to prepare, a characteristic that bartenders love,” she said.

The way seasonal drinks are presented on a menu can also make a big difference in helping to drive sales, reckoned Milne at Eden Mill.

“I think the key is for bars to put the ingredients that people recognise at the front of the menu, such as passionfruit, so that if you’re not an experienced cocktail drinker you can pair up a flavour profile with a cocktail that you like,” she said. “A key component would also be having bar staff trained up to talk about the drinks they have and to describe them well when it comes to taste.”

And venues shouldn’t neglect their social media channels when they have their spring menus in place, said Carlton at Strykk.

“Social media is a great way to communicate with customers,” he said, advising licensees to use geo-targeting on posts, which he said “is critical to ensure you engage with potential customers within easy reach of your venue”.