Cocktails at home this Christmas? – Analysis

The world of at-home drinking has become more sophisticated, driven by locked-down consumers in improved home surroundings. But Lucy Britner asks, will it continue?

From minor home improvements to building a bar in the garden, the pandemic has seen people up and down the country getting to grips with DIY, calling in the builders or moving somewhere new. Our time in lockdown, uncertainty around foreign travel and shiny new home improvements have spelled big business for at-home drinking – and it doesn’t look set to stop.

According to Ernst & Young’s Future Consumer Index, 36% of UK consumers plan to do more entertaining in the home than before the pandemic.

As well as an increase in home cocktail kits and virtual masterclasses, the demand for DIY cocktails is driving flavoured spirits growth.

Pernod Ricard UK managing director David Haworth says at-home cocktail making has driven market share for several brands, with Malibu up 27%, Kahlúa up 47% and Absolut up 66% in results for the year to June.

“At-home cocktail consumption arguably grew more rapidly than any of us thought,” he says. “People have premiumised – and when they have traded up, they don’t necessarily want to go back.”

As well as spending money on home improvements, Haworth notes that some have moved out of city centres.

“One of the things they are going to do is still have people round at weekends,” he says, “and one of the things people have learned throughout lockdown is to make cocktails. People enjoy doing it.”

Haworth says brands such as Absolut and Malibu will continue to benefit – largely in drinks such as the Espresso Martini and the Piña Colada – and he also highlights the launch of Jameson Orange, which has listings in Booker and Tesco.

“It’s semi-targeted as a cocktail based on the Old Fashioned with orange,” he says of the new Jameson flavour. “Brands such as Havana Club Spiced have also gotten off to a cracking start, not forgetting gin cocktails. We’re really focused on making sure we continue to see that trend grow. We’re a key part of it. Flavoured spirits generally are doing well.

“Retailers are seeing that there is an opportunity to move into this area of flavoured, which means it’s easy to make cocktails at home. So, when you see product launches with flavours, they are designed to make [cocktails] more accessible for people.”

Cocktail Kits

Haworth also highlights the rise of cocktail kits, including the company’s own offering, which recently launched in Waitrose.

The Waitrose cocktail experience is part of the supermarket’s Wine Tasting at Home initiative. The tasting boxes, which include ingredients and the kit to make three cocktails, carry an rrp of £35 per person. The activation also includes an option to have a Waitrose drinks expert share their knowledge, either in person or virtually.

Available from the Wine Tasting at Home website, the box features an Espresso Martini, a Fresh Gimlet using Plymouth gin, and an Amalfy Sunset Spritz with Malfy Gin Rosa. Garnishes include coffee beans, dehydrated strawberries and oranges, and the kit features a shaker, strainer and glasses.

The launch follows both the in-person tasting programme and cocktail gift boxes and combines both these elements in a new format.

Andrew Riding, Waitrose drinks experience manager, says the company has adapted its wine and cocktail services over the past 18 months to include virtual events, which he says have proved incredibly popular.

“Now we’re able to host in people’s homes again, this new cocktail box is the perfect option for those looking to learn more about mixology, either in person or online,” Riding says.

Campari has also turned its attention to cocktail kits, with the launch of the Aperol Spritz Kit to the convenience channel this September. The kit, which marks the first UK NPD for the Aperol brand, features a 35cl bottle of Aperol and a 37.5cl Cinzano Prosecco DOC and launched with an rrp of £16. Each kit contains ingredients for four or five cocktails.

Sandra Brunet, marketing director, Campari Group UK, says that while the Aperol Spritz Kit carries a relatively low price point, it has been shown to “help drive up the average basket spend of convenience shoppers”.

Campari suggests merchandising the Aperol Spritz Kit alongside a selection of cicchetti – Venetian-style light bites such as olives, cured hams and cheese.

Brewing up success

Elsewhere, cold-brew coffee liqueur brand Mr Black saw an instant increase in sales when it launched an Espresso Martini Kit on its direct-to-consumer website in summer 2020, with sales of £22,000 in the UK alone.

Beyond flavoured spirits, innovations in more highly regulated categories are also driving at-home cocktail making.

Jean-Etienne Gourgues, the new chief executive of Chivas Brothers, says Glenlivet Caribbean Reserve rum finish Scotch , for example, is a way into cocktails. “Having Caribbean Reserve is an easy way to bring cocktail culture home,” he says. “You can mix it with just soda water, tonic or ginger to get an interesting taste. It’s prepared, in a sense.”

The Ernst & Young data suggests that, as well as a willingness to entertain at home, 23% of consumers will pay a premium for luxury food and drink items – up from 17% in June 2020. Not only that, but UK consumers will also prioritise brand (28%) over product availability (24%) in alcoholic beverages. According to E&Y, this contrasts with other categories such as fresh food, where consumers will prioritise availability (27%) over brand (12%).

As we head into Christmas, providing consumers with convenient ways to make cocktails at home will drive flavoured spirits sales as well as cocktail kits. And the call for convenience also means we can expect online masterclasses to stick around for a while longer. 

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