Getting into the Summer spirit

As the industry gets ready for summer time, we’ve assembled a team of experts to share a few predictions for the Flavoured Spirits category.

With pubs and restaurants getting their alfresco areas and beer gardens ready, the time has come to review your drinks offering to make sure they reflect the lively summer atmosphere. As you already know, redesigning your menu – whether you are putting it together from scratch, or just spicing up your current one – is vital to guarantee your consumers will return to enjoy what your venue has to offer.

A huge selling point over the warmer months has always been including flavoured spirits in your drinks selection, and this year is no different in that aspect. With this in mind, we have asked a few of our trusted industry experts to explain what it is, exactly, that makes flavoured spirits so popular and how they affect revenue. 

Stuart Fritz, Commercial Director at Union Distillers, says: “Flavoured spirit bases are a very useful tool in a bar’s arsenal.  They can transform classic drinks with an easy substitution and allow the menu to quickly adjust to seasonal changes.  For example, a Tom Collins Cocktail can have the gin substituted for Rhubarb Gin, and take on a new dimension – especially when it is paired with a suitable garnish.  

“This simple substitution can allow diverse menus to be created, whilst keeping the costs relatively low since you do not need to keep a large larder of fruit and condiments that may spoil if they are not used.”

Stuart adds that flavoured spirits have shown to be amazingly versatile for both experienced staff and the newest entries. He says:

“Staff who are relatively new to the trade and beginning their careers will be confident in offering the variations since a substitution of a spirit base is more straightforward than an entirely new cocktail.  For the more experienced bartenders, flavours allow the opportunity to really explore cocktail recipes and flavour concepts to much greater levels – which is sure to please customers.”

Union Distillers’ Two Birds Spirits was inspired by the rural landscape surrounding their artisan distillery in Market Harbourough, and the collection is not only very extensive, but also features many flavoured options you might want to get your hands on!

“I love putting a twist on great classics without having to change too much. Less is more.”

Stuart says: “The handcrafted collection originated with the award-winning Two Birds London Dry Gin and has evolved to include flavoured gins and vodkas such as its popular Watermelon Gin and Passion Fruit Vodka, as well as a spiced rum and an espresso. Its small batch spirits will take you on a journey of quintessential British flavours and botanicals, and surprise you with its contemporary creations.”

The preference for summer cocktails usually features lighter and brighter creations that are perfect for the hot weather, as the mix of alcohol and heat is always a dangerous territory. Flavoured spirits often allow you to fulfil the need for beverages with a lower ABV, and also stimulate the curiosity of your consumers.

Calum Robb, Account Manager at Spirit Cartel for the North, says: “Flavours often bring accessibility to menus and add new dimensions to classic cocktails, making them more approachable. Consumers often find flavours on menus interesting and it allows them an entry point to new or more challenging drinks.”

The flavoured spirits market is still evolving, and some innovations are coming to light which show it is not a matter of making a drink fruity and sugary any more, but rather add complexity to the already progressive cocktail scene of the last couple of years. For instance, Gergő Murath, Four Roses Bourbon Brand Ambassador for the UK, comments: “Pineapple will continue going strong this spring and summer as it is always going to be an all-time favourite, alongside floral flavours like rose and violet. I am also anticipating a rise in complex, spiced and perfumed flavours, like vetiver or neroli.”

As much as some bartenders are still unsure about the quality of some flavoured spirits and worry about how that could affect the taste they want for their cocktails, most of them have started to see the benefits too. Bristol Syrup’s Brand Ambassador for the North East and small business owner, Tom Proud, explains: “The whole category is interesting, as it enables the less experienced bartenders to create quality tasting drinks using less ingredients, and less faff than some others. For example, a Coconut Espresso Martini that I created a few years ago for a volume bar with a ‘twofer’ offer on all day every day, so needed to be quick. This simply used 1800 Coconut tequila with Kahlua, Mozart and fresh espresso – fast and tasty.”

Using flavoured spirits can also depend on the circumstances, in the sense that sometimes it’s more about who you are making that serve for rather than how. A lot of bartenders prefer making their own concoctions – Tom is one of them, but he also recognises the necessity to adapt according to the situation. He says: “Personally, I am more likely to use modifiers in most cocktails, as opposed to using flavoured spirits, although there are some that do work really well when mixing up a new drink. 

“Moreover, if I’m working for a client that does things differently, then it’s all about the venue, demographic and skill of the staff in question – and sometimes the pouring deals already in place. Obviously I might be slightly biased too as I work for a cocktail syrup company!”

Head Bartender at The Aubrey, Andrea Paleari, has also embraced the flavoured spirits category, even though he does love making his own infusions. Andrea says: “Flavoured spirits can contribute a lot in the creation of a bar menu, especially for venues that experience a great flow of guests –  these venues often don’t have much time to experiment and prep.

“I’m a huge fan of science, technology and modern techniques. My style is heavily influenced from chefs and for that reason I’m trying to perfect my home made preparations, but often I’ve used flavoured spirits when I can’t source particular ingredients or can’t achieve certain results.”

“Flavours allow the opportunity to really explore cocktail recipes and flavour concepts to much greater levels.”

On the other hand, there a few bartenders that have discovered a great asset in flavoured spirits. From taste, to quality, to easing the staff’s workload, Bar Manager at DNA Cocktail Room, Alfonso Monaco, absolutely loves them!

Alfonso says: “Flavoured spirits are almost an indispensable part of the bar. I think they give added value to the bar in order to always mix something different, but without exaggerating.

“We often use flavoured spirits here at DNA – I love putting a twist on great classics without having to change too much. Less is more!”

Alfonso then goes on to predict what’s to expect this spring and summer: “Fresh, light and fragrant drinks are always a preference in the warmer months; however, in the new era of bartending, trends seem to go beyond the usual tropical fruits, perhaps experimenting with new flavours given by seasonal botanicals, spices, and flowers – so I expect to see a lot of that.”

Seb Heeley, Master Distiller and Co-Founder of The Spirit of Manchester Distillery, also sees a rising interest in trying new flavours, and believes a lot of consumers will be focused on that. Seb says: “We’ve already seen an increase in how people like to experiment with drinks, and there has been so much released in flavoured spirits in the past couple of years. While I don’t think popular flavours like strawberry, raspberry and rhubarb are going anywhere, I do think the more unusual ones will break through. This is one of the reasons we’ve decided to play with Tonka rather than vanilla in our vodka.”

There is also a huge responsibility placed on the industry’s shoulders, as consumers want to experience what they have been missing out on over the past couple of years and long for the days out in the sun with a cocktail in their hands. 

Bernard d’Offay, Co-Founder of Takamaka, explains: “As the summer gets going, long refreshing drinks are what it’s all about, especially as the world really starts to open up. Even back home, guests are going to be looking for a taste of the tropics – banana, coconut, pineapple – that transport them to those far-flung destinations they’ve been dreaming about for the last two years. Overall, not sure it matters which flavoured spirit is your tipple of choice as long as it’s drunk in the sun!”

Effectively, the overall summer feel, with the related refreshing serves, will be a huge asset to your business in terms of revenue, which is ultimately what venues need to keep the crowd coming.

Johnny Dennys, Head of Brand and Trade Marketing, Mast-Jägermeister UK, says: “With the weather getting warmer and the days longer, we can expect consumers to visit the on-trade earlier and stay out longer meaning there are more opportunities to drive incremental shot sales. We saw last year how consumers embraced the increasing number of outside venues and we expect this to continue throughout 2022, especially with the return of tourism to the UK.”

Moreover, some experts remind us that it is important to consider the whole of your audience, including those who jumped on the Low & No trend, or simply prefer steering away from alcohol. 

Luckily, Strykk has the matter on hand! Elegantly Spirited CEO and Co-Founder of Strykk, Alex Carlton, says: “Given the growing interest in moderation, it’s important for bars to offer non-alc cocktails, but consumers shouldn’t have to compromise or miss out on their favourite serves. By using Strykk spirits, it’s easy to create non-alc versions of these great serves simply by swapping in Strykk’s Not Vanilla Vodka. This allows consumers to enjoy the same cocktails, but without the alcohol.”

Summer is always a very exciting time – as soon as the sun is out, the industry and its consumers start longing for thirst-quenching serves. This year seems to be a little different, though. The excitement is still there, but the general atmosphere indicates a growth in interest on the consumers’ part. They look for a more refined taste, and to satisfy this newly-found wish, businesses have to take care of correctly introducing flavoured spirits onto their menu. 

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