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Back in the day, the availability of cocktails out of home was very much limited to eponymous bars where your drinks were served by expert mixologists with a flair for spinning and twirling bottles as they created their offer. Those days are long gone as the popularity of cocktails continues its meteoric rise throughout the on trade. Phillip Montgomery, CGA, gives us an overview of the category whose ascendancy appears unstoppable.

Serving Funkin cocktailWhether fruity, fizzy, bitter or boozy, it is fair to say that one drinks category remains on the rise and is a key consideration for any outlet’s offer. Cocktails continue to gain importance within the on-trade drinks market with value growth of +9.5% over the last 12 months and this trend shows no sign of slowing.

Cocktails have become a must stock for many outlets as they are an important driver of the wider Spirits category performance, which currently sits at +6.9% in value terms, meaning that cocktails are gaining share of the wider category.

1 in every 14 measures of spirits served in bars, pubs, clubs and restaurants is in a cocktail. Source: CGA Mixed Drinks Report Q1 2019

The growth of the category has been fuelled by the growth of availability. Today, the bar market is almost saturated, with more than 75% offering a cocktail menu. Increasingly, pubs and restaurants are also starting to explore the trend but how much of a viable option this is for such outlets is going to depend very much on how much their licensees commit.

Draught and pre-batched solutions

For pubs and restaurants, offering cocktails can be difficult, with bartender skill, speed of serve and perceived quality all presenting challenges. While these issues can of course also be evident in bars, they are amplified in pubs and restaurants. Draught and pre-batched cocktails provide a viable solution here; we have started to see these being offered more widely across the market in recent years.

There are a variety of solutions on the market now from major spirits suppliers, smaller independents and companies specialising specifically in dispense. These range from kegs to bag-in-box solutions for draught and a wide variety of pre-batched offerings.

There is huge potential for draught and pre-batched solutions to continue to drive growth in the sector as currently less than a quarter of cocktail drinkers have seen them when out in trade. So, availability is holding the trend back to a certain extent. However, when these solutions are offered they achieve a high conversion rate with 63% of those who have seen them, having tried one. Trial is massively important, as 83% who try are likely to purchase again, more than double that of the average cocktail drinker.

Considering cocktails

Cocktail on barCocktails continue to be a potential opportunity for licensees in the on trade but, as ever, pursuing this offer should be weighed up against your current outlet and drinks offer. The category represents an excellent way to drive consumers into your outlet and get them spending more on great drinks experiences. However, if cocktails do not work for you, based on logistics or outlet fit, leveraging spirits in the more traditional Spirit Mixer way should be the approach.

Founded in 1985, CGA is one of the leading data and research consultancies for the out-of-home food and drinks market.

Trends in the cocktail sector

“The latest market data tells us that over a quarter of consumers state they drink more cocktails now and with a higher frequency than six months ago,” says Simon Weston, Director, Pontoon Cocktails, whose products include 500ml packs of frozen ready-made cocktails that can be stored frozen for up to 12 months and have a five-day shelf life once thawed.

Weston’s insight into the category leads him to believe that the following trends are driving the cocktail sector right now:

  • Batching is everywhere now. It makes sense for operators to batch high-volume serves for speed and constancy. Bars are running more and more like kitchens – with careful preparation taking place ahead of service – and that includes batching.
  • Low & No products both in terms of sugar and alcohol. As consumers make more informed choices about what they eat and drink, ‘Low & No’ serves are becoming more commonplace. The industry is championing these lighter, brighter serves by including creative non-alcoholic cocktails, and crisp and delicious low ABV serves such as vermouth and soda, and white port & tonic.
  • Sustainability – from scrapping straws to up-cycling food waste, bars are trying to do their part. Pontoon is proud to be a zero-to-landfill site. We carefully manage all waste – glass is crushed and colour sorted for use in glass production, and food waste is turned into biofuel.
  • New ingredients and flavour combinations. I think we will continue to see more cross over from the kitchen to the bar with ingredients such as vinegars, vegetables and even mushrooms entering the drinks lexicon. The industry will also continue to borrow functional ingredients from health and wellness movements – expect more turmeric in cocktails, and look out for nootropic ingredients – which enhance cognitive thinking – and CBD.

Top 10 mainstream cocktails in Great Britain 2019


  1. Pornstar Martini
  2. Mojito
  3. Long Island Iced Tea
  4. Sex on the Beach
  5. Strawberry Daiquiri
  6. Woo woo
  7. Espresso Martini
  8. Martini
  9. Pina Colada
  10. Collins

Source: CGA Mixed Drinks Report 2019

  • Cocktails are worth over £587 million to the UK on trade. Champagne is worth £361 million
  • Over 1 in 3 outlets (42,000) now sell cocktails. This is 2600 more than last year
  • 9 million consumers drink cocktails out of home, more than drink gin
  • The average amount people will pay for a cocktail is £6.77, this is roughly £2 more than a spirit and mixer
  • Vodka is the most popular spirit in cocktails, 59% of mainstream cocktails contain Vodka

Source: CGA Mixed Drinks Report Q1 2019

Pornstar Martini – UK’s #1 cocktail

Pouring Pornstar MartiniCreated in 2002 by acclaimed mixologist Douglas Ankrah, the first ever Pornstar Martini was made with FunkinPRO Passion Fruit Purée.

Sales of Pornstar Martini in the on trade have risen 2% over the past 12 months with the drink now accounting for 15.3% of cocktails sold. Sales of the Mojito, which had previously held the top slot, are down 1.2% on last year and now account for 12.4% of mainstream sales*.

* Source: CGA’s Mixed Drinks Report Q1 2019

Let’s Get Tropical

Let’s Get TropicalWhile all it takes is a quick internet search to find cocktail recipes, we doubt any of them will be delivered with the charm, tips and interesting facts that are found in Georgi Radev’s Let’s Get Tropical. A steal at just £9.99, the book is packed with recipes, both old and new, classic and with a Radev twist.

If you want to meet the man himself, pop along to Laki Kane – Radev’s popular cocktail and rum bar in Islington, London.

Pass the Port

“Port is traditionally made in the Douro region of Portugal, famed for its Mediterranean climate so, if you think about it, drinking Port as a refreshing summer drink makes perfect sense,” says Mark Roberts, Lanchester Wines.

“The traditional way to serve Port as an aperitif is to pour equal parts white Port and tonic or soda water (or lemonade for a modern twist) into a cocktail glass and garnish with a slice of citrus – lemon, lime or orange are all good.

Not only is ‘Port & mixer’ a great alternative to gin & tonic, but margins are attractive with a ‘house’ bottle of Port available at around half the price of ‘house’ gin.


Aperol was created in 1919. It gets its name from ‘Apéro’ – an abbreviation of ‘aperitif’ coined by the French.


Mocktails“Drinking habits are changing, inspired by an increasing desire from consumers to be more health conscious,” says Andrew Turner, Director of Wine for Halewood Wine & Spirits, which manufactures Eisberg Alcohol Free Wine. “As a result, the alcohol-free sector continues to grow across the UK, with an increase in demand for alcohol-free drinks aimed at adults who want alternatives to sugary fruit juices, stand-alone tonics and sparkling water.” With as many as one in five people turning away from alcohol, adult soft drinks such as Eisberg non-alcohol wine, are increasingly in demand when creating mocktails and alcohol-free sangria.

With as many as one in five people turning away from alcohol, adult soft drinks such as Eisberg non-alcohol wine, are increasingly in demand when creating mocktails and alcohol-free sangria.

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Back in the day, the availability of cocktails out of home was very much limited to eponymous bars where your drinks were served by expert mixologists with a flair for spinning and twirling bottles as they created their offer. Read more >

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