For decades, vodka has been the number one top selling spirit, dominating the sector. Long established brands like Smirnoff and Absolut have been joined in recent times by newer names such as Ketel One and Cîroc, offering both additional choice and new and exciting flavour combinations and tastes. However, it’s not just vodka that’s been undergoing something of a renaissance. Demand for gin has rocketed in recent years, and as consumers become more interested in the heritage, botanicals and origin of the gin they are drinking, the number of boutique distilleries springing up across the country has increased significantly, offering consumers a wider variety of flavours and more choice of this 400-year-old spirit.
Here’s Take Stock’s checklist to make sure you’re making the most of the opportunity.
Customers like to see familiar brands, but they like to indulge and experiment too. Have a core range of proven best sellers, supported by premium options, ensuring the opportunity to up-sell in your outlet. So, support your standard Tanqueray with a Tanqueray 10, and your Beefeater with a Beefeater 24. And look out for what’s happening near you. If there’s a craft gin producer nearby, engage and support them by adding them to your offering.
Get your range right
If you’re serious about gin then you need to familiarise yourself with the main types and trends in order to offer your customers choice and diversity in this increasingly popular category. It’s also important to ensure that your staff are trained and enthusiastic on the different styles of this complex spirit.
There are eight main gin styles:
Distilled to at least 70% ABV with minimal sugar and no flavours or colourings added after distillation, London Dry is classically juniper flavoured with hints of citrus. Bombay Sapphire, Tanqueray, Beefeater and Gordon’s are all London Dry.
Perfect serve? A straight Martini, with a simple garnish.
While London Dry can be produced anywhere, Plymouth gin has to be distilled in Plymouth. A little sweeter than London Dry and, thanks to inclusion of root ingredients, an earthier, less juniper taste, Coates & Co’s Plymouth Gin is the perfect example – distilled in the UK’s oldest working distillery.
Perfect serve? Gin & tonic, or, with Angostura bitters, a Pink Gin.
Similar in taste to London Dry, thanks to a 57% alcohol content, this makes it perfect for aromatic, flavour-full cocktails! Coates & Co make a Navy strength gin, as do Sipsmith and Tarquin’s. Hayman’s have been supplying their Royal Dock gin to the Navy since 1863!
Perfect serve? A Negroni – the classic combination of one part gin, one part rosso vermouth and one part Campari, served with an orange peel garnish.
Where it all started, Dutch gin or ‘Jenever’ comes in two forms – Jonge (young) or Oude (old) – both bearing more than a passing taste similarity to blended Scotch whisky. Jonge has a neutral taste like vodka, with, thanks to the production process, slight tones of juniper and malt. Oude has a much richer, smoother and aromatic taste, with heavier malt overtones. Bols Barrel Aged is a great example, as are Ketel One Originale Graanjenever and award winning Citadelle Reserve.
Perfect serve? Oude’s maltiness makes it perfect for an original take on an ‘Old Fashioned’ – a 60s classic that’s in demand thanks to Don Draper and Mad Men. Put a sugar cube into an old fashioned glass. Saturate with Angostura bitters. Add a dash of water and then crush. Swirl the glass, add ice and pour in your Oude (or whisky of choice). Serve with a cherry and swizzling stick.
Somewhere between London Dry and the more whisky-toned Jenever, Old Tom’s flavours can vary considerably, depending upon the mash. The name references 18th century bars that dispensed their illicit brew through a sign on their outside wall that featured a black tomcat. Drinkers would feed coins into a slot, with the barman within pouring the gin directly into the mouth of the drinker through a lead spout. Revived from obscurity by the desire of cocktail creators for something different, top brands include Ransom for the US and Tanqueray Old Tom.
Perfect serve? A Tom Collins – One part sugar syrup, two parts freshly-squeezed lemon juice and three parts Old Tom, stirred together in a highball glass, ice added and topped up with soda water.
The credit for creation of this category goes to Tanqueray, who in 2000 launched a gin that focused less on the juniper and more on the citrus and other botanicals within the brew. Aimed at capturing the attention of drinkers who were fast falling in love with flavoured vodkas are Tanqueray Ten and Hendrick’s, New Western gins that demonstrate all that the category offers drinkers.
Perfect serve? James Bond’s favourite in Casino Royale – The Vesper. One part Lillet Blanc or Cocchi Americano, two parts vodka and six parts gin, shaken with ice and served in a champagne goblet with a lemon twist.
Produced from a grape-based spirit as opposed to grain, the taste is typically rounder and floral. Visitors to the bars of Menorca will have seen one of the best-known grape gin examples – Xoriguer, produced in Mahon, Spain. Another name to look out for is G’Vine, a luxury gin that’s distilled in France and infused with vine flowers.
Perfect serve? An Aviation – two parts gin, one part lemon juice, two dashes of Maraschino. Shake with ice, strain into a cocktail glass and serve with a cherry.
Mainly based on London Dry, the taste of each flavoured gin depends entirely upon what’s been added to the base. Sloe gin is the most common of the flavoured gins, but there’s absolutely nothing to stop you from creating your own, house style flavoured gin! For fruit gins, it’s a simple case of adding your preferred fresh fruit to gin – peach, raspberry and blackcurrants being top contenders – and letting the mixture infuse for a week or more. Once you’ve got the colour and taste you’re looking for, simply strain out the fruit, bottle and serve. And don’t be shy. Gin infused with Earl Grey tea is a great taste. Just put three or four tea bags into a bottle and leave for an hour or so. It’s as simple as that!
Perfect serve? If you’ve been creative – serve by itself.
Quality spirits deserve quality presentation. It is vital therefore that you have:
• The correct glassware – so large balloon and highball glasses, as well as heavy bottomed tumblers are essential.
• High quality ice – drinkers like to hear the clink of fresh ice cubes. They don’t appreciate half melted offerings that dilute both the taste and drinking pleasure!
• Garnishes – lemon, lime and orange zest are must haves, but don’t forget mint and cucumber too.
The profit potential of a gin and mixer is greater than most draught sales – so drive your sales with:
• A ‘Gin Corner’ – dedicated to displaying your range of gins and high quality mixers
• Signage promoting regular guest gins and special offers
• A ‘Gin List’ – telling customers about where each gin has come from, its type, strength and tasting
characteristics, supported by a gin cocktail list – split by type
• Signature serves and suggested mixer or cocktail use
• ‘Gin Flights’ – to enable customers to sample a range of gin type
And make sure all of your front of house staff know what gins you have on offer, taste characteristics and perfect serves.
Spread the word!
Spirits sales continue to grow, fuelled by brand innovation that taps directly into consumer demand for exciting, premium drinking experiences. Customers are loving the availability of premium and flavoured vodkas and that trend shows no sign of slowing down. But watch out for what’s happening in the world of gin – sales are catching up fast. Spread the word that you’ve got a special gin experience available and get everyone’s spirits lifted!
The days of hosing draught tonic onto a gin are long gone, as will be your customers if you don’t take real care and attention with the range of mixers you have available. The taste of individual gins is driven by the botanicals added during the distillation process. Every gin has juniper – that’s what differentiates it from otherwise identically produced vodka – plus typically three or four others. Others have many more – a gin like Blackwoods for example boasting Shetland botanicals angelica, sea pink, marsh marigold and meadowsweet, as well as the more usual coriander, citrus peel, cinnamon, liquorice and nutmeg. Recognising this, brands like Britvic, Schweppes and Fever-Tree offer mixers that are designed to complement the botanicals within different gins. Think tonics with added zest or elderflower as examples, as well as dry ginger ales and bitter lemons. Make sure you have a range on display – and have gin and mixer recommendations on your ‘gin list’ too!