Ice-cool way to sell vodka

05 October, 2007

Q I have started selling vodka straight from the fridge, and with quite an effect on sales. I am now tempted to go a stage further and merchandise some bottles in the ice cream freezer. But a customer tells me this increases the alcohol content of the spirit. Surely that can't be possible?

A Vodka, to many palates, does its job much better when it's cold. Although chilling drinks usually has the effect of blunting the flavour of beer or wine, vodka doesn't have much of a taste to start with and the lower temperature brings out some enjoyable texture.

Vodka will happily tolerate being kept in the freezer, with no risk of cracked or exploding bottles. It will also remain at the alcoholic strength at which it left the distillery.

There is one way of increasing the strength of vodka, apparently well known in regions where duty is high and vodka tends to be sold at lower strength than the 40 per cent abv styles we are familiar with in the UK. The vodka is poured into a bowl and placed in the freezer until its temperature goes below 0 degrees centigrade. If ice cubes are then placed in the liquid, the water content of the vodka will crystallise around the ice, raising the strength of the spirit. It's not necessarily something you should recommend to your customers.

Q I have made a good contact in France and plan to bring over a few hundred cases of wine for sale in my shop. Is it true that I need an import ­licence?

A No. An import licence is only required if you are importing more than 3,000 litres of wine from a country outside of the European Union. These are issue d by the Rural Payments Agency.

If you are importing wine from within the EU, you will, however, need to talk to Revenue & Customs about obtaining an Administrative Accompanying Document.

Hopefully it goes without saying that you will require a licence to actually sell your wine.

Q My RTD sales have fallen through the floor. Is it time to give up on them altogether?

A Some retailers have taken the view that RTDs are more trouble than they're worth, though this has generally been a response to shoplifting or under-age drinking concerns rather than a complete collapse in sales.

RTDs do get quite a negative press, but the market has not collapsed. Sales in the off-trade are worth a respectable £221 million, according to the latest Nielsen statistics, making the category twice as big as imported whiskey, almost £100 million bigger than malts and comfortably ahead of sherry, port and dark rum put together.

Having said that, most retailers have rationalised their range to a few well-supported brands. The sector's annual decline is currently running at 9 per cent, so new launches would be brave indeed.

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