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Spirits are perennial favourites in the winter months, especially at Christmas, but which should you stock and how can you use them? Rosie Davenport...

Spirits are perennial favourites in the winter months, especially at Christmas, but which should you stock and how can you use them? Rosie Davenport has the low-down on this season's trends

Encouraging your customers to try things is an important part of up-selling during busy trading times. To help get those creative juices flowing and hopefully inspire pubs to use familiar brands in new ways we've put together a run down of the trends you need to consider when putting the finishing touches to your range of festive tipples.


Indulgent treats are top of the agenda at Christmas and, with so many customers visiting pubs to celebrate the season, cocktails and extra-special drinks that offer an alternative to the usual will be big cash generators.

When it comes to cocktails, it's important to focus on the skill levels of staff. Offering complicated drinks isn't really practical when the bar's heaving. Instead go for basic mixes familiar to drinkers, such as Long Island Teas and things that are simply poured into the glass over ice.

Thinking along those lines, bellinis are easy to prepare and also offer good margins. Traditionally they're made with Champagne but cava or Italian fizz prosecco work just as well. Buy in a couple of fruit purees, which come in everything from raspberry to mango, put a serving in a flute glass and top up with your choice of sparkling wine.

If you're intending to offer a few different cocktails, then it's best to print-up a menu giving the options by tastes, like tangy or creamy, rather than ingredients, which is how most drinkers will want to order.

If time is an issue, Maxxium UK believes it has found the perfect solution, in the form of a free-standing cocktail dispenser. Standing one-metre tall, the Sourz Tower enables staff to blend spirits from the Sourz range with mixers to create a long cocktail that can be dispensed from a tap directly into a glass. Holding up to two litres of liquid and the equivalent of a further half litre of ice cubes, the company emphasises that each cocktail glass filled with the liquid should contain less than a shot of alcohol.

Liqueurs and speciality brands

Baileys is one of the season's biggest success stories, with sales increasing by 57% in December more than any other brand, according to AC Nielsen. Although attempts to turn the brand into a truly year-round favourite have stalled since RTD extension Baileys Glide was scrapped, licensees shouldn't underestimate its power at Christmas. Diageo says the easiest way to get more from Baileys is to move it to optic and serve it in a 50ml measure, over ice, which in some cases has helped sales jump by 20%. The company is also promising to inject some fresh interest in the brand by giving it a 'new direction next month in time for Christmas. A new marketing campaign is also in the pipeline.

Just as Baileys is trying to break into the summer market, Pimm's is trying to prove it can remain on drinkers' radar when the sun goes down. Diageo's launch of brandy-based Pimm's Winter last year came on the back of a summer of promotions for the parent brand. But this year it is set to be an even stronger contender after Pimm's turned in an enviable performance this year, boosted by a raft of promotions and advertising. Link-ups with the big pub retailers over July and August means the brand already has high visibility, so switching drinkers to the winter version shouldn't be too difficult. To help things along, Diageo is throwing £2m into advertising to support Pimm's Winter. In pubs the focus should be either on serving Pimm's Winter warm, as you would with mulled wine, or serving it mixed with apple juice and ginger ale.


With Courvoisier, the market-leading Cognac, getting a £2.5m round of advertising in the run up to Christmas, the category looks set for a busy period. The key theme here is merchandising, which needs to talk up how consumers should drink the spirit and drive awareness. Again the brand has got this area covered with 4,000 branded kits going into pubs. The kits feature branded optics, ice buckets, drinks mats and tent cards for pub tables. Serving Courvoisier over ice is one option, known as a Courvoisier Rocks, but pubs can also offer it mixed with ginger ale or bitter lemon to make either a Courvoisier Ginger or Courvoisier Citron.


Christmas wouldn't really be very festive without a few drams served around a crackling log fire. October's normally the month when the big guns roll out their marketing campaigns and this year shouldn't be any different. Mixability is one of the trends all suppliers are pushing as the search continues to recruit new, younger consumers into the category. And if you thought whisky drinking was just for men, think again. According to Glenfiddich, it is attracting women to the brand faster than the malt category as a whole. Between 2003 and 2004 the total number of women drinking malt whisky increased from 1,817,000 to 1,853,000 (+2%).

Related topics Spirits & Cocktails

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