Mixability focus: Cold temperature, cool serve?

Related tags Drinks Soft drinks Alcoholic beverage Mixed drinks

I mean, it's just bloody frozen water after all. How the hell did we end up here? It will remain one of the great mysteries of my professional life...

I mean, it's just bloody frozen water after all. How the hell did we end up here? It will remain one of the great mysteries of my professional life that ice cubes have become as big a part of the news in on-trade drinks retail as anything else in the last five years.

From the enormous growth of Magners to the many drinks brands across the industry following suit - so much news and marketing has been about the addition of ice to alcoholic beverages.

Even soft drinks, always the preserve of the ice cube, have got in on the act, introducing perfect serve initiatives, pushing for more ice to be served in the glass.

Cool customers

The recent buzz for ice undoubtedly started in Ireland with drinks company C&C and its cider brand Bulmers. Rather than some masterstroke of marketing guile, Maurice Breen, marketing director at C&C, says, the idea to add ice to the cider came from consumers.

"This cider had to be chilled and there wasn't enough decent refrigeration," he says. "So around the 1980s consumers started to pour it over ice to cool it down. "We then saw what was happening and realised that it was something that worked. The flavour was retained thanks to the high fresh juice content in the product. So we then got behind the serve and pushed it to the front of our communication to drinkers."

And when Bulmers was rolled out into the UK as Magners, pubs began to see that this new drink was gaining traction in the market, so more and more pubcos started to invest in ice making machines. And the rest is history…

But what does adding ice do for the brand? How has something that just used to cool a product down become vital in the days of better refrigeration and cooling systems? Maurice says there are several reasons: "It provides a big point of difference over other long alcoholic drinks. But I think it is also because ice helps present cider in an attractive way. People like their beer to have a head on it - well, ice has almost become the equivalent of that for cider."

Maurice believes this premium look is one of the reasons other drinks brands have chased after the over-ice serve - and there are many of them. Gallo rosé wine, Fuller's Organic Honeydew beer, Piper-Heidsieck champagne… the list is growing.

Recently Harveys sherry has pushed the over ice serve very hard - although rather than trying to introduce anything new, this is an attempt to show UK drinkers the authentic way of drinking the fortified wine.

In soft drinks, the big two brand owners Britvic and Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE) have introduced perfect serve programmes, part of which focuses on the importance of a large serve of ice.

Britvic has focused on this theme through its 'Clink, Clunk, Zing' programme - of which 'Clunk' is the part where you add a big wedge of ice!

CCE has similar direction in its perfect serve programme, according to marketing manager Pete Johnson.

"Using more ice in the glass will not dilute the drink, but actually keep it chilled for longer and make it a better experience for the customer," he says. "Taking pride in the presentation of drinks encourages customers to return, and ensuring that mixed drinks are properly chilled and professionally presented can help your outlet stand out from others in your area." Keeping it cold

Ice has gone hand in hand with spirits ever since some bright spark thought about adding tonic water to gin. But much as Maurice suggested Irish consumers were doing with Bulmers in Ireland in the 1980s, drinkers of spirits and mixers simply added to ice to cool the drink down rather than for any aesthetic reason.

This has now all changed with the industry's investment in better refrigeration and better ice machines. Like both Britvic and CCE, drinks companies want to see their brands mixed with soft drinks into a glass filled at least three-quarters full with ice.

Diageo's Every Serve Perfect programme has pushed this hard over the last few years and now other brand owners are picking up on it.

Beam Global UK Marketing Controller Jeanette Edwards says when it comes to spirits and mixers a lot of bartenders are not seeing ice as a crucial part of the mix."Many bartenders are still not making the most of this category by ensuring they serve the drinks in the best possible way and ice plays a crucial role in this. Filling the glass with ice can really improve a mixed drink," she says.

"As producers of the number one cognac in the UK, we are keen to build upon the trend towards using cognac in long drinks and we always recommend filling the glass with ice in order to maximise on the flavour when mixing with a range of soft drinks including ginger ale, Coke and sparkling apple juice."

Premium serve

Lee Willett, brand manager for Sauza tequila says that ice is absolutely central to creating a premium serve for mixed drinks in pubs and bars - even for more speciality spirits such as tequila.

"Ice plays an incredibly important role in the tequila category. Beam Global UK last summer teamed up with the Pitcher & Piano pub chain to promote its authentic tequila brand, Sauza, as a long drink," he says.

"All 26 Pitcher & Piano pubs featured a Sauza tequila cocktail on their drinks lists, which aimed to encourage customers to broaden the drinking occasions for tequila, a spirit traditionally consumed as a shot. We will be building on this initiative this year, as long drinks are where the future of the tequila market lies. More and more bartenders are recognising it as the ideal cocktail ingredient, and ice is therefore an essential part of this." 

As well as increasingly using it in mixed drinks, consumers are looking to trade up in pubs and drink premium spirits - the kind of drinks that would not be mixed. So we are talking single malt whiskies, golden rums and as Lee confirms, 100 per cent agave tequilas.

"While our long drinks initiative is ongoing, we have also noticed a new trend for drinking the older, more rested 100 per cent agave tequilas over ice - in a whisky tumbler," he says. "This also encourages drinkers to sip and savour tequila and enjoy the upper marques of the Sauza range."

Related topics Beer Wine Spirits & Cocktails Cider

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