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Spirits and Cocktails

While alcohol consumption in general is in long-term decline, with volumes down 19% since 2004, all is not lost for the on trade as increasingly discerning consumers choose to treat themselves with higher value premium spirits and experiences

In its recently released annual Market Report, William Grant & Sons UK summarises the secrets to a licensee’s success as being able to offer authenticity, immersive experiences and instagrammable serves.

Key findings from the report include:

  • In both the on trade and the off trade, spirits is the second largest sector seeing value growth
  • Premium spirits are growing at +19.7% in value sales, well ahead of mainstream, which is up +6.3%
  • Premium spirits are worth £1.1bn, up +18.6% year on year, and equating to 39% of total spirits growth
  • Key spirit categories are vodka (32.4%), liqueurs & specialities (23.1%), gin (9.9%) and blended whisky (6.8%). Together, these categories account for 70% of sales
  • Despite the resurgence of vodka over the last year, smaller niche categories such as gin, spiced rum and tequila are growing at the fastest rate
  • Cocktails are becoming more prevalent within the pubs arena with a quarter of pubs now serving cocktails, compared to one in five a year ago.

Craft Spirits

While craft beer has already taken the world by storm, today there is a new drink taking a shot at global popularity – craft spirits. Recent research from Mintel reveals that spirits positioned as “craft” have so far accounted for one in seven (15%) new global spirit launches to date in 2016, up from just one in 20 (5%) in 2011.

Jonny Forsyth, Global Drinks Analyst at Mintel, says: “Craft spirit launches are growing at a rapid pace and will continue to rise in more mature markets as consumers continually seek out ‘special’ offerings. Despite being a relatively small sector of the market, craft spirits are growing in response to the huge consumerled demand for more authentic, more distinctive, more local, less processed and more interesting spirit brands.”

When it comes to the ‘craftiest’ spirit, currently whisky reigns supreme, accounting for 43% of global craft spirit launches in 2015, up from 37% in 2011. However, gin is hot on its heels, accounting for 23% of global craft spirit launches in 2015, up from 9% in 2011.

Cocktails are continueing their meteoric riseCocktails

“Cocktails are continuing their meteoric rise in the GB on trade as this provision is now present in a quarter of all on trade outlets and grows sales by 15% vs. last year,” says Phillip Montgomery, CGA Strategy. “This momentum is also set to continue – the CGA On Trade Business Leaders Report highlights that cocktails and skinny cocktails are ‘hot tips for 2016’.

“The importance of cocktails in a summer drinks offer is clear as 94% of consumers say they drink cocktails at this time of year with fruity and refreshing offerings gaining most traction. To maximise revenue from this offer, licensees need to provide a cocktail range that accommodates a multitude of summer-themed cocktail options.

“While the tendency is to focus on mainstream staples such as Woo Woo and Mojito, the provision of premium cocktails may also be an option for some as our research shows that 39% of cocktail drinkers would be likely to purchase a premium cocktail in the future. Moreover, premium cocktails provide licensees with the opportunity to drive margin by incorporating an outlet’s premium spirits range.”

A Winning Mixx

Following extensive research, Maxxium UK has developed ‘A Winning Mixx’ to unlock the full potential of spirits. “We have identified an incremental £942 million sales growth opportunity achievable by 2020 (£585 million for the on trade), an increase of 10% to the category which is currently worth £9.3 billion,” says Mark Riley, Maxxium UK’s Managing Director.

The research identified barriers to purchase such as taste, strength, poor knowledge on making drinks and issues with trial, all of which Maxxium believes can be removed, in order to substantially increase sales.

The six growth drivers that will generate the extra value are:

  1. Discovery - Recruiting non-spirits drinkers to the category
  2. Adventure - Encouraging confident drinkers to trade up and all spirits drinkers to broaden their repertoire
  3. Refreshment - Rightsizing spirits’ share of occasions where refreshment is the motivation
  4. Sharing - Use spirits to unite small groups and bring large groups closer together, rightsizing spirits’ share of occasions where socialising is the motivation
  5. Perfect Experience - Ensuring every serve is perfect
  6. Positive Spirits - Educating and building the understanding of spirits

Ciroc cocktail glassVodka

Category insight

William Grant & Sons’ 2016 Market Report gives us the following insight into the Vodka category:

  1. Vodka is the largest spirits category with 32.4% value share
  2. Non-flavoured vodka accounts for the majority of vodka’s value sales and has contributed over £99m of actual value growth over the last year
  3. Flavoured vodka accounts for 5.8% of all vodka’s value sales
  4. 53% of consumers drink vodka with cola, 36% with lemonade and 29% with juice.
  5. The largest outlets, in value sales terms are circuit bars (27.2%), drink-led pubs (16.0%) and café bars (11.8%)

“As a category vodka is still hugely popular, currently driven by the super-premium sector which is in steady growth, up 14.8% by volume and 19.5% by value over the last year,” says Nick Temperley, Head of Diageo Reserve GB. “Brands such as Cîroc are leading this, with a huge focus on investment and innovation to deliver products and variants we know consumers search out in the on-trade. The five-time distilled vodka is out-performing the wider category and currently in 62.3% and 64.3% growth by volume and value respectively.

“Consumers are constantly looking for new and exciting styles and flavours to experiment with when they go out. The recently launched Cîroc Pink Grapefruit variant plays perfectly into the opportunity, lending its flavour well to both simple long drinks and cocktails.”

Ciroc Sea BreezeCîroc Sea Breeze

  • 50ml Cîroc Pink Grapefruit
  • 120ml cranberry juice
  • 10ml lime juice

Method: build & stir Glass: highball / rocks Garnish: lime wedge Ice: cubed

Ciroc TropicCîroc Tropic

  • 50ml Cîroc Pink Grapefruit
  • 60ml fresh pineapple juice
  • 60ml fresh white grapefruit juice
  • 5ml fresh lime juice

Method: shake & strain Glass: highball / rocks Garnish: pineapple leaf & lime wheel Ice: cubed

Rum Cocktail glass with strawsRum

Category insight

William Grant & Sons’ 2016 Market Report gives us the following insight into the Rum category:

  1. White rum accounts for the majority of rum value sales with 35.3%
  2. Golden rum is the fastest growing rum sub-category up +27.5%, and accounting for 37% of actual value sales growth
  3. Flavoured/spiced rum accounts for 32.9% of value sales
  4. Over 38% of all cocktail serves include rum

The Pina Colada is the UK’s 2nd most frequently drunk cocktail, according to the recent report from CGA Strategy. The following recipe for Koko Kolada was created by Rum Ambassador Ian Burrell.

“This cream-free version of the Pina Colada is a fantastically simple way to get a taste of the tropics,” comments Nick Williamson, Campari UK Marketing Director. “It is also sure to appeal to the growing number of consumers looking for ‘skinny’ options in their drinking repertoire.”

Koko Kanu PinnacoladaKoko Kolada

  • 50ml Koko Kanu
  • 50ml pineapple juice

Method: Shake ingredients over ice, strain into a chilled coupe glass and garnish with a sprinkle of nutmeg.


Category insight

William Grant & Sons’ 2016 Market Report gives us the following insight into the Gin category:

  1. Gin is the fourth largest category, accounting for 9.9% of spirit value sales
  2. Gin has seen 93 new brands listed over the last two years
  3. London accounts for a third of all gin sales

Nicholas Cook, the Director General of The Gin Guild, comments: “While craft brands are remarkably buoyant both in the on-and off-trade, the mainstream brands have also worked hard to build interest.

Dr Anna Brock“Cocktails, particularly gin cocktails, starting with the Martini and including classics such as the gimlet, the gin and French, the gin and it, the gin fizz, and the Singapore sling, not to mention the slow comfortable screw and of course that classic the Negroni are now to be seen in many more hostelries than just the classic cutting edge London and major metropolitan venues.”

Dr Anne Brock (pictured), Director of The Gin Guild, and Master Distiller at Bermondsey Distillery, believes that an increasingly sophisticated consumer, with a passion for provenance of ingredients, is contrib-uting to a rise in demand for ‘small batch’ gins.

“There is a huge consumer interest in gin at the moment because so many different flavour profiles can be and are being created,” says Anne. “It’s one of the beautiful things about the category. There is no limit on the number and type of botanicals that can be used in the production of gin, so long as the predominant flavour is juniper.”

The following classic cocktail is refreshing and fruity – ideal for summer sipping. Thanks to London’s recently opened pizza restaurant and bar – Heist Bank in Paddington – for serving up this particular recipe.


  • 40ml gin
  • 20ml lemon juice
  • 5ml sugar syrup
  • 15ml blackberry liqueur (float)

Method: Stir in a rocks glass with crushed ice and pour liqueur over. Garnish with a flower.


Category insight

William Grant & Sons’ 2016 Market Report gives us the following insight into the Whisk(e)y category:

  1. The whisk(e)y category has seen 147 new brands launched within the UK on trade over the last two years
  2. Whisk(e)y is the third largest spirits category in the on trade
  3. London is the number one region, representing 28.7% of sales
  4. Consumers are willing to pay £6.08 for a single serve whisk(e)y - £1.20 more than what they are willing to pay for an average spirit serve


“It’s important for the trade to offer their customers versatile brands and flavours that work in a variety of servings and suit a range of tastes,” says Johna Penman, Marketing Controller at Midori. “Reports show that fruity flavours are among the most popular choices with 84% of customers making that their drink of choice, according to GCA Consumer Panel August 2015.

“Especially during the summer months, operators should tap into this trend by serving up a selection of fruit-based cocktails such as a Midori Ocean Breeze (25ml Midori, 25ml Raspberry Vodka, Pineapple juice and Cranberry Juice) or a Midori Junebug (30ml Midori, 15ml rum, 15ml banana liqueur, 60ml sweet and sour mix, 60ml pineapple juice).”

From the Japanese word meaning verdant, emerald green, Midori (made with Japanese melons and blended with aged cognac) was launched in Japan in 1971 after seven years of recipe testing

Wine-based cocktails

“There is a growing interest among consumers in wine-based cocktails, which can be used to add interest to a drinks offering while also boosting profits,” advises Amy Ledger, Marketing Manager, CWF (Continental Wine & Food Ltd). “We have recently introduced a collection of fruity new variants to our Silver Bay Point range, adding an exciting new dimension to the burgeoning fruit-flavoured wine market.”

Silver Bay Point Fruit Flavours is a collection of natural fruit infused British Wines created with fruit cider drinkers, entry level wine consumers and Silver Bay Point’s current target audience in mind. The two varietals available are Silver Bay Point White with Mango and Peach natural fruit flavours and Silver Bay Point Rosé with Raspberry and Lemon natural fruit flavours. The ABV of each is 8% vol.

Silver Bay RaspberryRaspello

  • 80ml Silver Bay Point Raspberry and Lemon
  • 20ml Limoncello
  • 60ml Prosecco

Method: Simply mix ingredients then add 4 frozen raspberries, crushed ice and garnish with a sprig of fresh mint and lemon twirl.

Dirty Martini goes Brazilian

Dirty Martini – a collection of eight cocktail bars in London – likes to keep its cocktail offer as current as possible. This summer the menu reflects the upcoming Rio Olympic Games with a decidedly South American theme.

Tom Cole, Product and Innovation Manager at Dirty Martini comments: “Every year Dirty Martini launches two brand new cocktail menus, as well as an additional new menu of summer serves, available across the warmer months. This constant updating of the menu ensures that we can always offer the most exciting, innovative cocktails; made using on trend, seasonal ingredients.

“This summer we really wanted to experiment with new ingredients, glassware and the style of the serves. We also wanted to jump on the South American trend that is impacting the cocktail scene this year. Using only fresh ingredients, we have incorporated exotic flavours of South America such as papaya, acai berry, passion fruit and guava, to create a beautiful new menu capturing the flavour of summer.”

Batida cocktail‘Pash Me’ Batida

The new selection of serves includes the Rio inspired ‘Pash Me’ Batida, which champions Brazil’s native fruit – the Passion fruit

Glass: Hurricane


  • 40ml Boca Loca Cachaça
  • 20ml Passoa Passion Fruit Liqueur
  • 20ml Orgeat Syrup
  • 40ml almond milk
  • 30ml papaya juice
  • 10ml gomme syrup
  • ½ fresh passion fruit

Garnish: Banana leaf wrapped around centre of glass with mini clip & orchid flower.

Method: Squeeze ½ passion fruit into Boston Tin. Add remaining ingredients to tin. Add cubed ice. Shake and double strain into chilled glass over crushed ice. Garnish and serve.


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