London Cocktail Week is fast approaching, taking place between the 12th-22nd October, giving us the perfect excuse to dive into cocktail culture in the UK and determine which liquor concoctions are the nation’s favourite. We’ll also offer up some tips to bars, restaurants and clubs on how to maximise their cocktail sales during this busy period and beyond.
A brief history of cocktails
Spirit-based alcoholic beverages have actually been around since the 1800s, although they’ve seen a lot of changes since then. While they’re mostly associated with the roaring 20s in America, cocktails were initially inspired by British punches that contained a mix of spirits, fruit juices and spices – served in big bowls, much like they are today.
But the concept of the cocktail wasn’t really defined until 1800s when it officially made its way into New York newspapers, described as “a stimulating liquor composed of any kind of sugar, water and bitters”. Then, as travel increased, new flavours entered the alcohol scene, with innovative new ingredients including citrus fruits and European liquor. But what really took things to the next level was the introduction of ice, keeping these new cocktail blends cool and revolutionising the drinks market.
Of course, prohibition state-side put a slight damper on the popularity of cocktails for a brief period, however it did push the best mixologists to explore abroad, spreading the trend. Fortunately, cocktails became all the rage once again in the 1950s when anybody who’s anybody was seen with a Manhattans or a Martini in hand. Today, they’re a global staple on the beverage market with every bar and restaurant offering up their own versions and specialty cocktail bars in all the trendiest places.
The most popular cocktail in the UK
Cocktails are a big deal, especially in a nation like the UK where people love their booze and 48% of adults drink at least once a week. While you may think of beer and wine as being consumers’ top choices, cocktails run very close in popularity among several demographics.
But what’s the nation’s favourite cocktail? Well, according to Statista, when it comes to pre-mixed cocktails, the classic gin and tonic is the number one choice for UK consumers. But that’s RTD (ready to drink), straight off the shelf and trends seem to differ when it comes to bar orders (as we’ll get into below).
Cocktail preferences by gender
In bars and restaurants, men and women tend to opt for very different flavour palettes. According to a study in 2017, Whiskey Sours are men’s favourite, with 76% of respondents choosing that as their cocktail of choice, while 65% of women favoured Margaritas. This corroborates research by MGN Events which analysed UK search results and found the margarita to be the nation’s most popular, with numerous searches including ‘Margarita recipe’, ‘How to make a Margarita’ and ‘Margarita ingredients’. This was closely followed by the Pornstar Martini and the Mojito.
Which UK city drinks the most cocktails?
An independent study by Hayes and Jarvis revealed the Scottish capital of Edinburgh is the UK city with the highest consumption of cocktails, followed by Belfast, Bristol and London.
Which age group drinks the most cocktails?
Data from the Statista Global Consumer Survey shows punters aged between 21 and 39 cite cocktails and long drinks as their beverage of choice. Respondents over the age of 40, meanwhile, largely preferred beer and wine.
How can bars, pubs and restaurants maximise cocktail sales during London Cocktail Week and beyond
Making the most of London Cocktail Week will mean being on your customer-service A game, providing a variety of tasty cocktails and getting word out there about your offerings.
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Below are some top tips for maximising on cocktail sales during the event.
Conducting market research will help ensure you know what customers want from cocktails – whether they typically opt for the classics or are open to new concoctions.
You also want to get word out that you’re marking the cocktail season by sending out marketing emails, posting on social media and/or distributing flyers and putting up posters in your bar or restaurant.
Keep on top of flavour trends
According to a study run by Simpsons Beverages, a variety of new cocktail trends are appearing in 2023, including the use of orchard and stoned fruits in cocktails – especially UK-grown apples and peaches. Berries and aromatics are also on their way in, as are sweet and sour combos. To keep your cocktail menu interesting and attract those looking for something different, consider incorporating new cocktail inventions inspired by these new flavour trends.
Opt for natural, seasonal ingredients
Simpsons Beverages also found that customers showed a strong preference for local, seasonal ingredients. This means using local distilleries and seasonal fruit. Additionally, they found all-natural ingredients tended to signal to customers that a product was premium, healthier and even more sustainable – making it extra attractive.
Choose ethical sources
According to a Mintel report, 82% of people prefer to spend their money on goods with ethical certifications, even when they’re on a tight budget. Using fairtrade coffee for espresso martinis as well as organic, locally grown fruit and veg can make a big difference as customers recognise your commitment to sustainable sourcing.
The UK is a nation that certainly appreciates its cocktails. As a hospitality business, you can optimise sales by keeping your cocktail fresh and exciting with new, locally sourced ingredients.
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