This category celebrates bars/pubs with an excellent and profitable spirits offer, that has helped drive business success in the past year.
Cheers Café Bar & Tavern, Fraserburgh
This north-east Scotland-based business features more than 900 spirits, including a strong range of local Scottish gins.
The introduction of new cocktail-making classes has proven a big hit with customers and is helping to generate strong publicity and marketing through social media. The classes are aimed at encouraging customers to try new drinks and, along with regular tasting events, is drawing people from a wide area.
This is a pub that puts real effort into marketing and has done great work on its drinks menus to keep customers informed and engaged. It’s Master of Whiskies menu is particularly impressive, giving detailed information for even the novice whisky fan to make an educated choice. A further whisky menu also gives great information and details on the bar’s impressive range of more than 300 whiskies.
Hermitage Rd, Hitchin, Hertfordshire
Innovation is one of the cornerstones of this operation, part of the Anglian Country Inns group of bars. A recent creation has seen the launch of Rummy Bears, which are essentially gummy bears soaked in Havana Club seven-year-old rum, which according to the bar, went down a treat with the customers and helped generate an additional £3,000 over the bar in a year.
To boost the quieter evenings, Hermitage Rd launched a £5 cocktail menu for Sundays, to go alongside its regular Sunday music session. The menu consists of core cocktail classics, with new variants added on a regular basis, based on demand.
The bar prides itself on offering something different, eg, Apple & Raspberry Martini, produced using home-made cider syrup garnished with dehydrated apples and raspberries.
The Mad Hatter, Oxford
As the name would suggest, this speakeasy-style venue provides great entertainment. To gain entrance, guests must solve a riddle over an intercom for the rabbit hole to open, while the menu draws from names in the Wonderland books and is nestled in the pages of the books themselves.
The Oxford-based bar features at least 12 Drink Experience evenings a year, which involves a special menu around a certain theme or spirit – advertised in advance – to offer customers the opportunity to try something unusual that they haven’t experienced before.
Drinks are served in quirky styles, with a wide range of vessels, from teapots, giant teacups, inverted top hats, conical flasks to nude man/nude lady glasses, which provide great conversation starters and also help to drive the bar’s presence on social media channels, with customers snapping away.
Pleased to Meet You, Newcastle
A former finalist in the Great British Pub Awards Spirit category, general manager Tom Proud is hoping his Newcastle-based business can win this year.
This venue has invested in its operations and transformed its approach to selling spirits, redesigning its back bar and point-of-sale material, alongside a major overhaul of its drinks menu. That overhaul has seen the operation focus on offering experimental pours, detailing the various ingredients, botanicals, garnishes and giving the customer a unique experience when they choose what spirit they would like to drink, as a result creating a journey and experience for the customer.
The bar has also sought to make greater use of its outdoor space by serving hot drinks from the outside bar, including hot gin and tonics.
Macclesfield-based Rumba is a new entrant to the market but has already hit the ground running hard.
Quarterly rum tastings are a hit and feature regular appearances from brand ambassadors – the evening has proven so popular, it will become a monthly event. Another fun feature is the launch of an initiative called ‘Challenge the bar’, in which customers are actively encouraged to try new spirits and mixers.
This bar places theatre at its heart and seeks to ensure customers enjoy an experience to remember. Well-trained staff ensure service is delivered throughout as well as giving the pub a real sense of fun. A popular feature is ‘Spin the Wheel’, where customers pay £1 and can win a selection of prizes ranging from an £8.75 Zombie cocktail, a home-made chilli shot, a lime and soda or sweets.
7 Saints, Prestwick, South Ayrshire
Training is a key part of what makes this Scottish business a hit with customers. With more than 70 cocktails on the list, operator Nick Livingston works hard to ensure his team knows the menu inside and out and aims to ensure signature cocktails are all served in under one and a half minutes. Speed of service and educated, well-trained staff have proven to be a winning combination for this Prestwick bar.
Innovation and a sense of fun really help to set this business apart from the competition, with a huge range of home-made flavoured vodka shots and drinks served in imaginative ways, such as cocktails in popcorn boxes or toy bath tubs, and vodkas in shotgun cartridge shells. This sense of fun also pays off, as the pub is regularly broadcast across customers’ social media channels!
Tickets for the Great British Pub Awards can be bought by phoning 01293 846508. For more information about the event visit its dedicated website.