A look at...cocktail trends

26/05/2015 - 14:04
Putting cocktails under the spotlight for a snapshot of current trends and how operators can benefit from them. Sheila Eggleston reports.

Cocktails are big business and particularly appealing to younger people, for whom the flavours, serves and the theatre of making them are a draw. It may be perceived as a ‘girl thing’, but men will admit they enjoy cocktails just as much, especially now that serves come in more macho styles such as half pint mugs rather than dainty glasses.

CGA Strategy’s Mixed Drinks Report 2014 for the on-trade reveals that the split between female and male drinkers is fairly even at 54% and 46% respectively. The report also shows that among 18-35 year olds, cocktails are becoming a drink of choice, with consumers drinking them all night rather than just at the start.

Women are first to be targeted with the Drinki app, however, which offers them a free cocktail every day of the year via Facebook and enables them to interact with different bars. The app was launched in London but is available in other cities.

It also helps drive footfall in the bars that have signed up to the deal. For example, bars such as Buddha Bar, JuJu, Lola Lo and Holborn Grind are happy to offer complimentary cocktails in this way if it drives business, explains the company.

An app for men though is on its way; called Drinko, it is planned to go live later this year. “The decision to launch Drinki initially was simply a case of ‘ladies first’, and, in phasing the launch of both apps, we can be far more targeted in everything we do, which benefits our users,” says the company.

Jam jars, milk bottles and rum tins are a novel way of serving cocktails and is currently being used by managed pub and bar operator TCG, which, combined with seasonal menus, help jazz up its cocktail offering. Its latest ‘Bloomin’ Delicious’ spring menu of fruity flavours complements its core range in selected venues and is printed on strawberry scented card to enhance the seasonal feel. Bespoke drinks include: Spicy Mango Spritz, Strawberry Fields, Rhubarbella, and Pear and Vanilla Spritz.

But major drinks companies and brands are looking to capitalise on the cocktail boom as well. In February, cocktail pioneer Funkin was acquired by AG Barr, the Scottish manufacturer of Irn-Bru, Rubicon, Rockstar and Strathmore water.

Other brands keen to extend further into the market include Jägermeister’s German digestif, while Coca-Cola is keen to make Appletiser a more accepted cocktail mixer; and soon you will be able to get cocktails in chains such as Pizza Hut, which has just undergone a multi-million pound makeover that includes the installation of cocktail bars with special menus to attract a younger audience.

Adult soft drink suppliers such as Belvoir Fruit Farm and Bottlegreen believe elderflower-based drinks are set for for growth as they are becoming more popular in cocktail making.
Belvoir says its elderflower cordial is a bestseller, partly driven by the popularity of summery cocktails such as the Twinkle and the Hugo, while Bottlegreen is now offering cocktail suggestions using its elderflower-based tonic waters in its Tonic Cocktail Bible.

Ready to drink cocktails such as canned and frozen pre-packaged cocktails is another growing sector, as they help ease the problem with untrained bar staff.

New to the market are “original recipe” ready to drink versions produced by London-based King Bloom Cocktails. These offer drinkers a formula of just adding ice and shaking to make them simply and quickly.

Served in stylish jars, variants include: Ladybird, a blend of vodka, raspberry and kiwi; Tea Party, a mix of gin and peach with a hint of green tea; and Blizzard, a mix of vodka, white cranberry and hint cinnamon.

For teetotallers, there is more demand for  interesting mixes, which operators can capitalise on. Steve Carter, sales and marketing director for Frobishers, believes non-alcoholic cocktails is a profitable growth area, and easy mocktails made with Frobisher juices are part of its ‘Unusual Suspects’ campaign to help pubs and restaurants think more imaginatively about soft drinks and achieve greater sales and profits.

“Mocktails can command a higher price point than a single serving of premium juice,” he explains. “We recommend selling them for a minimum of £3 each which, with the addition of a few low cost ingredients and garnishes, could elevate the gross profit by up to 40% per drink. To support the campaign, we created branded recipe cards for operators to keep behind the bar, along with menus for tables and front of bar.”

However, there is nothing like the theatre that mixologists can present, which they can’t do without their shiny shakers, stirrers and mixers. Barware specialist Artis says that copper currently is “bang on trend”, and has included in its 2015 range copper-plated bar accessories consisting of a two-part shaker, a Japanese style jigger, bar spoon and bar strainer to make a bigger front of house impact.

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