The UK cocktail culture is booming, according to industry experts, and a wider range of on-trade outlets than ever are upping their game with exotic mixed drinks. The challenge for retailers is to replicate this in the off-trade, according to Hi-Spirits managing director Dan Bolton.

He says: “The key is making it simple for customers. Alongside a core spirits range of gin, vodka, bourbon and rum – white, dark and spiced – flavoured liqueurs, vermouths, ice, citrus fruit, mint, juices and purées are all part of the cocktail sales mix and should be well displayed and cross-sold.”

He also suggests retailers promote simpler serves with a premium feel, such as Southern Comfort, lemonade and fresh lime, or a Tuscan Mule, using Tuaca, ginger beer and lime.

For those retailers who want to drive sales of spirits, promoting cocktail serves can be the perfect way to add some excitement to this section of the store.

Halewood Wines & Spirits says in a statement that “consumers tend to drink with their eyes and cocktails are extremely visual, so using eye-catching POS to grab attention, create cut-through and heighten the shopping experience will inspire and potentially encourage customers to trade up”.

It adds: “We continue to see greater demand for premium spirits as consumers turn away from the mass market in search of high- quality alternatives.

“We are definitely seeing a change in the way consumers are viewing spirits and cocktails, by interacting more with bartenders, becoming more educated and sharing ideas.”

Halewood recently brought out a nettle variant as part of its JJ Whitley range, which it says is “ideal as a base for summer-themed cocktails”.

In the on-trade it is the classics which are enjoying a revival, according to Craig Chapman, marketing manager for the Luxardo range at Cellar Trends.

He says: “Negronis and Spritzes are easy to try making at home. For wine drinkers a simple Spritz can be enlivened with a measure of Luxardo Bitter Bianco or Limoncello. They are easy to make as a single serve or in a pitcher for a group.”

While spirits producers are working hard to spill some of the on-trade cocktail energy into the off-trade, others are looking at alternative solutions.

Funkin, the cocktail ingredient specialist, introduced a range of premium cocktail shakers to the off-trade in May this year, a concept it says is perfect for the convenience channel. The trio of drinks, which are all packaged in Funkin cocktail shakers, are Skinny Mojito, Passion Fruit Martini and Strawberry Daiquiri. Consumers just have to add alcohol, shake and pour. Funkin is investing £500,000 this year in supporting the product, which had exclusive listings in Tesco for the first six months. Impulse retailers are set to take it on soon.

Andrew King, Funkin chief executive, says: “Cocktails at home massively under-index as they take a bit of craft and effort, but with our Shaker pack we have the mix of ingredients at a perfect balance and we are also including all the equipment a consumer needs. The category is more established in the States but really we are creating a category that doesn’t exist in the UK at the moment, so we are doing a lot of sampling and advertising to build that awareness.”

King promises there will be new products added to the range by the end of this year.

“Cocktails are all about choice so we started with three of the UK on-trade’s top four cocktails and we have a couple of new ones planned, which we will introduce soon.”


Being able to drink a classic cocktail without going to the effort of following a complicated recipe is becoming increasingly easy for consumers drinking at home.

Pernod Ricard UK recently entered the ready-to-drink market with the canned Absolut Mixt in two flavours. The producer says it is “delighted” with how well Jameson has performed within this market with its Jameson, Ginger & Lime.

Meanwhile, Hi-Spirits says it has put increased promotional focus on Southern Comfort since it took over distribution of the brand last year. This summer it has focused on the Southern Comfort Lemonade & Lime 25cl can, via its Canpaign, a tongue-in-cheek response to the general election using posters, online ads and a sampling tour.

The company also has Tails, which it describes as a “high-quality pre-mixed cocktail range of a similar quality to premium on-trade cocktails”.

The range has strong appeal in the big-night-in market, according to Hi-Spirits managing director Dan Bolton, and its 50cl bottles, which are currently available in Tesco, are proving popular as a sharing option.

Bolton says: “Pre-mixed cocktails are a very occasion-driven purchase. Warm weather, festivals and outdoor events, the barbecue and party season will all drive sales, and retailers need to be ready with well-displayed stock when sales are expected to be high.”

It’s been an active start to the year in pre-mixed. Other newcomers have included the Crooked Beverage Co from Global Brands, a range of “craft alcoholic sodas”. These come in three variants: Dayglo Skies (raspberry & lime); Midnight Stage (blood orange

& passion fruit) and Mother Moon (pomegranate & peach).

Three Mahiki cocktails were launched in June by Cellar Trends.

The single-serve 25cl cans come in flavours from the menu at London’s Mahiki club. All three feature Mahiki Coconut Rum liqueur, which was launched earlier this year. And, in May, Happy Down was introduced to the off- trade by Morrisons.

The Tipple Brands-owned range comprises three sparkling cocktails in cans: Lychee & Guava; Chilli, Lemon & Cucumber infused with Mint; and Raspberry & Pomegranate infused with Basil. The alcoholic component of each is fortified wine and they are 4% abv.