Gin report

What’s next for gin?

By Nicholas Robinson

- Last updated on GMT

How gin can boost your sales
How gin can boost your sales

Related tags Gin

Gin has long discarded its negative early image and is regarded as a sophisticated drink with wide appeal and at the top of the list of many discerning drinkers’ bar calls. But what’s next now the liquor has made it so high? Nicholas Robinson investigates

Brits can’t get enough of gin and it’s hard to blame them. It’s become one of the most exciting spirits of late, bolstered by its ability to take on so many flavours, its versatility in mixed drinks and how locally it can be made, which has helped broaden its appeal to so many consumers. Those in the city of Edinburgh, for instance, drink more gin per head of the population that any other UK city — a trend fuelled by a demand for Scottish-made spirits, according to Edinburgh Gin.

Locality could also be an area for pubs to explore in more depth, if they want to cater for drinkers looking for a tipple with that extra little something.

Gin writer and educator David T Smith says: “Just in the same way that pubs serve locally-grown food from butchers and grocers, then selling gin from local distillers can have the same caché and certainly a lot of these gins that use some terroir are embracing flavours that locals will know.”

Terroir, which is usually associated with wine, is a simple concept in gin as it’s often difficult to source every ingredient locally. However, using one or even two botanicals grown nearby can help add extra appeal.

“Potentially, this is the future of gin,” Smith adds. “Distillers are looking for a point of difference and I think we will see terroir employed in more gins.”

Hepple Gin from the Moorland Spirits Company, which is part-owned by celebrity chef Valentine Warner, contains botanicals and juniper from the Hepple estate in Northumberland, where the gin is distilled.

Using terroir in the production of gins is likely to give consumers more of a reason to visit a site where the gin is stocked, according to Smith, who has built his career on the back of gin’s continued rise over the years.

There are more than 240 gin distilleries in the UK, with more launching year-on-year than ever before. In 2015 sales of gin broke all records and topped £900m – with on-trade sales taking a large chunk of that total.

Shop sales of the juniper-based spirit reached over £400m in 2015 (up 10% on the previous year) and out-of-home sales hit £500m (up 20% on 2014), according to the Wine & Spirit Trade Association (WSTA).

In the WSTA’s quarterly market report for the end of 2015, sales of gin in the on- and off-trade are predicted to break the £1bn mark for the first time this year and are expected to reach £1.3bn by 2020.

Who is driving the gin trend?

So who is driving this trend? Well, it’s not the older generation, according to research firm Mintel, which reveals that 42% of Britons aged 18–34 drank gin in the past 12 months, compared with 27% of over 45s – so it’s a trendy spirit. Premium gin is helping that trend, which is made by craft distillers and also the large spirits companies that usually have a premium offering.

Chris Wisson, drinks analyst at Mintel, says: “One of gin’s sobriquets is ‘mother’s ruin’ and the drink still has certain associations with older drinkers, contributing to it being likely to be seen as an older person’s drink and the least likely as a young person’s drink.

“However, our research indicates that gin is in fact now most likely to be drunk by younger consumers, suggesting that it has a chance to forge a dynamic image and move into even more innovative areas.”

The facts figures and trends, although useful to know, won’t help you sell more gin, though. What you need to know is what to stock and why.

Molson Coors spirits trading manager David Stirling points to stocking mainstream gins as a must when setting up a gin offer. Mainstream and premium gins are in strong growth, he points out. “Specifically, standard gin is growing at 5%, while premium gin is driving the category at an impressive 32%.”

He adds: “Ultimately, it all depends on outlet type but, as a general rule, it’s important to ensure a solid range of mainstream gins – ideally one or two – as these are the main volume drivers and cover the core offering.”

Yet, providing a premium alternative is becoming increasingly important and is a necessary upsell tool for bar staff.

Mixing a cocktail:

King of Soho Evening Thyme:

  • 50ml King of Soho Gin
  • 10ml Volare Triple Sec
  • 10ml Antica Formula
  • 2 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters
  • 1 dash Regans’ Orange Bitters

Stir with thyme sprig. Garnish with lemon zest and thyme

“We’ve found consumers often come into the gin category through a more mainstream brand, such as Gordons, but look to experiment with new ones, which often sit within the premium sector.”

It’s not just the brands you stock, as Smith pointed out earlier, there’s a rising demand from customers – as their understanding of flavours expands – for new tastes.

“There’s a strong emphasis on the provenance and origin of liquids and the botanicals used to make them,” says a spokesperson for Halewood International, which has Whitley Neill and JJ Whitley in its portfolio. The new JJ Whitley range has two flavour combinations — a London dry gin and an elderflower gin.

‘One-trend gin flavours’

“On-trend flavours, such as elderflower, are becoming increasingly popular with consumers, especially as we enter the warmer months and are ideally suited as a base for summer-themed cocktails.”

Showcasing a gin menu that’s varied with flavours and different genres of gin will provide customers with an added experience, the spokesperson says. “Operators should educate and inform customers of their gin selection in order to drive sales.

“Tasting notes and menus pose as an effective method of communicating their offering or promoting a ‘Gin of the Month’ as customers are always willing to trade-up and try something new and on-trend.”

That said, the perfect gin offer isn’t built around the alcohol only. Customers may be getting savvy with the spirit itself, but they are also looking for an experience with theatre and for their drink to offer something extra special to the last drop. This is where glassware, mixers and garnishes come in to play.

Let’s start with the mixers. As demand for gin grows, the regular G&T – although one of the most popular drinks in UK bars – is no longer enough for some customers, according to Global Brands marketing director Simon Green, who looks after premium soft drink brand Franklin & Sons.

Maximising your sales:

  • When selling gin, a few basic principles apply that can be also be used across the wider spirits category:
  • Double bank your fastest sellers
  • Display your premium gins in line with your mainstream option so consumers can easily spot premium alternatives
  • Ensure spirits are stocked near mixers and quality queues such as fruit, etc...

Source: Molson Coors spirits trading manager David Stirling

“Consumers are naturally becoming more conscious over their choice of mixer,” he explains. “Cocktail culture is growing year-on-year and, on average, outlets that serve cocktails sell 36% more spirits than ones that don’t. As the category is growing rapidly, operators should look to stock only the best mixers to pair with their premium spirits.”

Now for the drinking vessel. According to glass and tableware stockist Henry Stephenson, copper is this summer’s essential material for ‘forward-thinking’ bars tapping into the industrial chic trend.

Metal vessels may not suit every pub, however, so managing director Henry Stephenson says: “Balloon-shaped glasses offer the perfect serve for gin-based cocktails. The slender stem keeps warm hands at a comfortable distance, whilst the large bowl and tapered rim channel the drink’s botanical aromas to the nose. The capacious bowl also leaves room for garnishes and large, slow-melting ice cubes that keep the cocktail cooler for longer.”

Using the right glass adds an extra dimension to the serve, says a spokesperson from glassware provider Artis. For example, balloon glasses allow for a fuller appreciation of the flavours and aromas of any drink.

From spirit to glass, there’s a lot to know about and there is even more going on in terms of innovation within the category. But, most importantly, customer demand for gin is there. All of the way from Edinburgh to Dorset, gin drinkers are rising in numbers. And there’s no better time to test how in demand gin is in your pub than on World Gin Day this 11 June. Don’t forget to hashtag: #WorldGinDay #Gin.

Getting your offer right:

Starting out:

  • Stock three mainstream brands, such as:
    • Gordon's
    • Beefeater
    • Tanqueray
    • Select another that consumers see as more premium, like Hendricks.
  • If there’s a local distillery near your pub, then stock a bottle or two to talk to your customers about and to use as an upsell.
  • Stock basic mixers – a mainstream tonic, lemonade and soda – and add some premium mixers to upsell.
  • Ensure you have fresh garnishes, but stick to three while you’re starting out. Lemon and lime are your standard go-to, but you can garnish with cucumber in the summer (especially with Hendricks) or orange if you choose a gin that’s heavier on orange.
  • Ensure you always have a lot of ice. Glasses should be filled to the top with ice before constructing most drinks (depending on the drink)

Building your offer:

  • Keep your basics from above, but build on it with less-known gins, such as:
    • Hepple
    • Edinburgh Gin
    • Jinzu
    • Liverpool Gin
    • McQueen
  • If gin is particularly popular in your pub, then shop around local distillers, ask experts and see what your competitors and mainstream bars have on offer.
  • Finally, make sure your staff are knowledgeable about the gins on offer, that they know which gin goes with what mixer and garnish and how they can upsell.


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