Cocktail guide: Shake-up your combos

By Nigel Huddleston

- Last updated on GMT

Cocktail guide: Shake-up your combos

Related tags Pernod ricard Cocktail

PMA discovers how to upgrade your spirit-mixer offer so it gives more flavour and appeal.

Upgrading your basic spirit-mixer combinations is a great way to boost profits and might not be as complicated as you would imagine. A classic serve can be made more interesting with little effort.

Diageo’s suggested perfect serve for Smirnoff — with apple juice, lemonade and a wedge of lime — can be given a makeover with a simple sprinkle of cinnamon. Holding a lighter or blowtorch underneath as the cinnamon falls releases its distinctive aroma and creates sparks to add extra theatre. Pimm’s can be turned into a celebratory drink by replacing the lemonade mixer with Prosecco, Champagne or other sparkling wine.

Step-up cocktail kit for pubs

You don’t have to invest in specialist kit. You can get started with some measures, a long bar spoon and a bar tidy for straws and napkins. But if you want to push it further, here’s the basic starter pack:
■ A shaker: the two-piece Boston shaker has a glass section that can be used for stirring, cutting out the need for a separate mixing glasses. It also means customers can see their drink coming together. The French shaker is also a two-piece, both sections made of metal. The three-piece Cobbler has a lid with holes which cuts out the need for a separate strainer.
■ A strainer: these come in various shapes and sizes but the best all-rounder is a Hawthorn, which has a disc which sits over the top of the shaker and a spring round the edge through which the drink is filtered.
■ A jigger: many pubs have replaced the optic with a standard single or double measuring cup for spirit-mixer drinks, but if you’re getting into more complicated cocktails, a jigger with graded measurements for precise measuring may come in handy.
■ Barspoon: like a teaspoon with a long, thin handle, for stirring drinks.
■ Muddlers: a pestle with
an extended handle used
for crushing fruit, herbs and spices and the base of a drink.
A key piece of proper
Mojito-making kit.

A straightforward gin and tonic can be made more interesting with a splash of elderflower cordial, or a rum and ginger beer with a dash of fresh lime juice and a wedge garnish. When you’ve mastered those, it’s only another short step to making some of the world’s favourite cocktails. Replace the apple juice in the Smirnoff mix above with cranberry, add one third of a measure of Cointreau and some fresh lime juice and you’ve made a Cosmopolitan.

Substitute the Cosmo’s cranberry and vodka with tequila and a salt rim and you’re in Margarita territory. Taking the trouble to go the extra mile is good for business. CGA figures show that, on average, outlets that serve cocktails sell 36% more spirits than ones that don’t.

Group occasions

The case for pitchers and other shared serves is compelling too. Kantar Worldpanel Alcovision research shows that 77% of spirits consumption occasions involve groups, against just 69% for all types of alcohol. Some 55% of spirits occasions are motivated by “having a laugh”, “feeling part of a group” or “bonding with others”. CGA says that pitcher serves sell 22% more during bank holidays than at other times (see box on left).

CGA research shows that the Mojito is the most popular mixed drink among regular cocktail drinkers, with the Piña Colada their second choice. For infrequent cocktail drinkers, the roles of the two drinks are reversed. A date for the diary is Friday 10 July, because it’s National Piña Colada Day, when Pernod Ricard UK will be heavily promoting the cocktail made with Malibu. It’s also aiming for Havana Club to take ownership of the Mojito, with a certification programme, which will allow venues to display a plaque on their wall advertising their prowess at making the cocktail.

The programme features branded Mojito tin serving vessels and bartender training, including visits from international brand ambassador Meimi Sanchez around creating the perfect Mojito serve. But you don’t have to wait for Sanchez to call because brand supplier Pernod Ricard UK has provided a recipe for an authentic Cuban Mojito. Clear communication And if you can do a Mojito, you’re only a short distance from being able to mix a Daiquiri, another classic drink that’s seen a surge in popularity.

An authentic Cuban Mojito


  • 2 teaspoons of sugar
  • Juice of half a lime
  • 2 mint sprigs
  • 4.5cl Havana club Añejo 3 Anos
  • 9cl sparkling water
  • Four ice cubes


  • Mix the sugar and lime juice
  • Add the mint and muddle
  • Add the ice, pour over the rum and top with water
  • Leaving out the mint and water from the Mojito gives you the authentic basic Daiquiri but it can be customised in countless ways, one of the most popular of which is achieved by whizzing up in a blender with some strawberries.

Having decided how you’re going to make your spirits special, you need to inspire your customers to buy them through drink displays on menus and blackboards. This should include clear communication of the finished drink price.

Pitcher perfection

Diageo offers this six–point guide to creating the perfect pitcher:

  • Make sure glasses are clean and keep them in the fridge to get a frost effect
  • Pitchers need to have plenty of ice to make sure each person’s drink is cold
  • Harvest your ice on quiet days and keep plenty in the freezer for busier days
  • Always use fresh garnishes, storing fruit in a cool, dry place during the day and refrigerating uncut fruit overnight
  • Dispose of unused cut fruit at the end of the day
  • Use quirky vessels such as jam jars to enhance the drinking experience

Related topics Spirits & Cocktails

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