Demand for long drinks and cocktails has been gradually growing over the past few years, as consumers become more adventurous and pubs and bars expand their offerings.
The approach of a summer season sandwiched between two major sporting events – last year’s World Cup and next year’s Olympics – means the on-trade market will not be dominated in quite the same way by beer, which traditionally lends itself well to sports.
The result? An even greater opportunity to expand spirit sales, especially long drinks and cocktails that are particularly appealing during the summer months.
Revival of classic cocktails
Top of mind this summer will be a return to classic cocktails, which may be given a modern twist. On the whole, both operators and drinks suppliers agree that variations on classic cocktails are slated to be big this year.
“We’ll see more twists on absolute classics,” says Thomas Aske of mixologists Fluid Movement.
“Cocktails are expected to be big in summer 2011, especially retro cocktails with customers willing to pay more than average for a good one,” adds Leanne Jarrett from the purchasing consortium Beacon.
“Cocktail sales will no doubt soar, and I’ve noticed a bit of a ‘80s revival’, with people favouring classics such as the Tequila Sunrise, French Martini of course Daiquiris,” said Jaf Siddiqi from the Brazilian steakhouse Viva Brazil.
Paul Brammer, beverage director from ETM Group also predicts a resurgence of “Italian-style bitter aperitifs” this summer as they are “flavoursome” and “thirst quenching”.
Leading summer spirits
Key spirits for the summer months will continue to be the white spirits that lend themselves well to mixing, such as gin, vodka and Bacardi.
However, the lighter styles of whisky are also on the radar for many operators, as well as punch, golden rum and non-cream liqueurs such as amaretto and triple secs.
Vinopolis’ Tom Forrest, says: “We are already seeing strong market trends for the summer. Vodka seems to be plateauing at the moment but the big mover this year is gin which is making a huge comeback.
“Bars should be focusing on gin-based cocktails as well as lighter styles of whisky. If you’re keen on supporting UK producers, try and source an English gin. Tequila is also still holding its own in the marketplace as it has done for the last few years and will continue to be a drink of choice for many this summer.”
Cocktails – an expanded reach
Evolving consumer tastes and the changing dynamics of the on-trade market have resulted in the appearance of cocktails on high-street pub menus.
Venues that may previously have not been more adventurous than gin & tonics or rum & cokes are now branching out into a range of simple cocktails that appeal to the mass market, explained the drinks supplier First Drinks.
“People’s tastes are changing, becoming much more experimental. But the on-trade market is also changing. Many pubs are closing, but those that are surviving are becoming more chameleon-like to expand the range of their offerings,” said Roy Summers, head of category management at First Drinks.
“Now we’re seeing a lot more cocktails in high-street pubs, even if they’re simple. Sweet cocktails are popular, as well as the classics, like Cosmopolitans or Manhattans.”
Mixology and theatre
Moving away from the high street, it is in the higher-end establishments where the real cocktail innovation is occurring. Mixology is increasingly being viewed as a career choice by many bar staff, who are showing a growing degree of sophistication in their exploration of new cocktails.
Coupled with this are the cocktail theatrics, which increase the appeal of the category.
For example, Fluid Movement, the team of mixologists behind Purl in Marylebone, say the success of the venue’s signature serve is largely down to the visual effect it creates.
Mr. Hyde’s Fixer Upper, made with a premium rum and a home-made cola cordial, is served in a wax-sealed potion bottle amidst a fog of dry ice. Customers are invited to break the seal and the drink is poured over hand-cracked rock ice in a metal chalice.
“We go through 12-14 bottles of luxury rum per week,” said Thomas Aske, co-founder of Fluid Movement. “The volume is driven through the theatre attached to the serve; although it’s a great drink, it’s mainly the visual effect that gets people interested.”
Next week, BigHospitality will be exploring wine trends set to take off this summer.