Make it traditional with a festive twist

Drinks firms suggest creating favourite Christmas cocktails with a difference

REVELLERS often look for something to help their festive celebrations feel particularly special, but there can be a balance to strike between what’s new and what’s familiar.

That was the shared opinion of drinks companies, who recommended offering a selection of Christmas drinks that provide a twist on the traditional.

Johna Penman, UK trade and marketing director at Ian Macleod Distillers, said: “Adding an element of discovery with new serves is a must at this time of year when guests are looking to treat themselves.”

Joanna Kennedy, marketing manager at Bleeding Heart Rum, agreed that dedicated festive drinks are the way to go.

She said: “It is an excellent time to experiment with new spirits, and twists on the classics.”

Kennedy said classic cocktails have made a comeback in 2022 and she expects to see festive twists on the favourites such as Spiced Negronis and Caramel Old Fashioneds.

And Bleeding Heart is promoting its festive-themed Don Papa Rumpapapumpum, a recipe that includes cream, nutmeg and eggnog.

At Mangrove UK, the word of the season is ‘spritz’.

Managing director, Nick Gillett, suggested: “If bartenders are creative with spicy, winter flavours they will have consumers enjoying some unusual spritzes.”

The team behind the potato vodka brand Edwards 1902 is anticipating that quality will be key in this year’s seasonal trends.

Matthew Hamilton of Edwards 1902 said: “One thing that we’ve learned over the last couple of years, and one trend which doesn’t look like it is changing anytime soon, is the reawakened consumer desire for quality and provenance.

“People have never cared so much about what they’re drinking and where it has come from.”

Hamilton also thinks the cost of living crisis will affect people’s festive party spending.

He said: “If there is one thing for certain, it is that people will still want to socialise and still want to enjoy a drink. I would say make sure that everything on your bar is working hard for you.

“Consumers will be thinking now more than ever about what they are spending their money on, and quality and provenance will be at the front of their thoughts.”

That was echoed by James Nichols, commercial controller at Vimto Out of Home.

He said: “As the rising cost of living starts to bite, it’s no surprise that consumers have reduced the frequency with which they eat and drink out, with the younger demographic being greatest affected.

“However, previous economic downturns have shown us that while customers are likely to go out less, they are also likely to spend more when they do, meaning that premium, trusted brands will be a popular choice for many.

“The demand for premium products has increased post-pandemic, with 23% of consumers stating that high-quality drinks in licensed venues would appeal more to them than before COVID and so despite the bleak economic outlook operators should still be making these a key part of their offer.”

Gillett at Mangrove advised early planning.

“Be well prepared,” he said. “Having had two COVID Christmases everyone’s ready to celebrate this year. So be bold and you’re sure to have a well-spirited and successful festive season.

“It is worth planning your offerings early on, create your cocktail menus as soon as possible and stock up early to ensure a successful season.”

December is always a big month for Jägermeister, according to the team behind the brand.

Head of brand and trade marketing, Jonny Dennys said the shot occasion is as popular as ever and the run up to Christmas is the brand’s peak sales period.

Looking ahead, Dennys said: “This festive season, indulgent flavours like chocolate and caramel are a popular addition to alcoholic drinks.

“Consumers may be feeling nostalgic so looking for those classic wintery cocktails with a bit of a twist.

“Operators should think outside of the box and incorporate traditional Christmas flavours where possible. Garnish and glassware are great ways for a cocktail to stand out and create those Instagrammable moments.

“Our Rudi’s Hot Chocolate for example could feature a miniature gingerbread man.”

Drivers and other party-goers looking to limit their alcohol may well be looking for soft drink options and, again, quality was said to be an important factor.

Amy Burgess, senior trade communications manager at Coca-Cola Europacific Partners, told SLTN: “Consumers are looking for more premium options to enjoy, with 60% of consumers looking to treat themselves when they go out to eat and drink.

“As a result, adult soft drinks are a key driver of growth as consumers look for more indulgent drinks choices.”

Burgess said that in a recent survey, 44% of respondents said high quality drinks are important to them when they’re visiting a licensed venue and the same number said well-known brands were also key.

Obviously, a significant share of festive soft drinks sales will also come in the form of mixers and Nichols at Vimto Out of Home stressed the importance of speed of service during the busy trading period.

“Having versatile and popular mixers such as Old Jamaica and tonic available on post mix will help staff serve customers more quickly and reduce waiting times,” he said.

“A wide choice of brands on post mix will also free up more fridge space for other more expensive options, encouraging customers to trade-up and boost sales.”