Add spirits into the mix

By Mike Berry

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Mixed drinks Cocktail Pma

"If you don't serve cocktails in your pub then you're missing a trick"
"If you don't serve cocktails in your pub then you're missing a trick"
There was a time, not too long ago, that the chances of getting a decent cocktail in a pub were about as likely as Nigel Farage buying a round of Czech lagers for bureaucrats at the European Commission.

And if you asked for a Mojito, White Russian or Old Fashioned anywhere but a late-night venue or dedicated cocktail bar then you would have been met with a blank look and, particularly if you are male, an air of suspicion.

But the picture is changing. As new research from on-trade specialists CGA Strategy shows, cocktails and the pubs and bars that serve them have been surging in popularity during the past few years. The Mixed Drinks Report​ found almost a quarter of the country’s on-trade venues now serve them, with sales up more than 10% in just two years.

Yes, cocktails are still drunk in the main by women, but the split with men is narrowing. And yes, the uplift in sales is being driven predominantly by young adults in the 18 to 35 demographic, but cocktails are being increasingly seen as a drink for all on-trade occasions and being consumed throughout the night, rather than just at the start.


It’s against this backdrop that the Publican’s Morning Advertiser​ (PMA) partnered with Diageo on its Spirits Revolution initiative, which has been featuring in the magazine throughout this year. We recognise that this so-called ‘cocktail craze’ is not just a bandwagon to be jumped on, but a genuine opportunity for mainstream pubs to drive footfall and increase spend per head — a winning combination for licensees.

As a whole, the spirits category is worth c£4.3bn to pubs and if we can encourage more people to choose more spirits on more occasions, there a potential extra £660m of value to be unlocked. A survey of PMA​ readers at the start of the year found six in 10 don’t sell cocktails, but that there existed a thirst for ideas for mixed drinks that are simple to make and serve.

High margins

If you don’t serve cocktails in your pub then you’re missing a trick. They offer higher margins for your business than other drinks categories, and drawing up a cocktail list shouldn’t require a lot of effort and investment. Introducing or improving your cocktail offer doesn’t mean setting up special bar stations, buying muddlers or shakers or introducing an extensive range of glassware.

We’re not advocating that every pub become masters of mixology; you will know what’s right for your customer base.

All this is easier said than done, of course. But by introducing the same retailing knowhow to mixed drinks that you apply to premium or craft beers — or even your range of coffees — then no sooner than you can say Caipirinha, you’ve opened up a profitable new revenue stream.

Spirits Summit


If you’re keen to explore the on-trade spirits opportunity then the Spirits Summit is for you. Taking place on 21 October in Shoreditch, London, the day features exclusive research and insight and a line-up of top speakers. Visit the Spirits Summit website for all the details​.

Related topics Spirits & Cocktails

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