How to refresh your summer drinks menu
With temperatures heating up, it's time to switch focus from lattes to lemonade. John Porter explains the latest trends in cold drinks
Whether or not summer 2019 sees a repeat of the long, hot spell that drove out-of-home drinks sales in 2018, operators will be looking carefully at the weather forecast as they plan for the months ahead.
Summer drinks lists also need to factor in changing trends. Balanced against the continued sales growth of alcoholic beverages, such as gin, cocktails, craft beer and sparkling wine, is the increased demand for no- and low-alcohol choices. Bridging these trends is continued product innovation in soft drinks and mixers.
Increased use of social media means serves also need to look as good as they taste - research by soft drinks and mixer supplier Franklin & Sons found that 29% of consumers want their cocktail to look 'Instaworthy'.
There's clearly plenty to think about, and highlighting the potential for operators that get the offer right, research for flavour specialist Monin, published in its Summer 2019 Drinks Trend Report, shows that:
•38% of consumers are more likely to go for drinks in the summer.
•One in five go out for a summer tipple three or more times a week during the summer.
•Eighteen- to 24-year-olds are most likely to have staying power, with 47% staying three hours or more in a venue.
•Monin's forecast for the most popular fruit flavours for summer drinks are strawberry, lemon, pineapple, passion fruit and mango.
"Refreshment is a key priority during the summer, as people look to enjoy long drinks served over ice," says Amy Burgess, senior trade communications manager at Coca-Cola European Partners. "It's worth keeping stocks high during this time, with as wide a choice of products as possible, taking into account a range of different sectors, variants and pack formats to appeal to every consumer taste.
"Premium and artisan options are helping to drive the growth of soft drinks, as people are increasingly looking for something special that they can't get at home when visiting a pub, bar or restaurant. The rising popularity of premium and super-premium spirits has also influenced the soft drinks market. As a result, more consumers are looking for high-quality mixers to pair with their favourite spirits."
Adrian Troy, marketing director at Barr Soft Drinks, says: "Understanding your customer base and tailoring your soft drinks offering accordingly is key when it comes to driving sales. Consumers are willing to pay more for a premium offering, so a good choice of interesting flavours is essential. This is where premium soft drinks really come into their own, particularly among those who are looking for a non-alcoholic alternative.
"Outlets can ensure that they are making soft drinks feel special by considering the format and paying care and attention to the serve and presentation." Troy advises that carbonated soft drinks should be served poured over a glass filled with ice, while bottled water should be chilled and served with a slice of lemon or lime.
With consumers no longer seeing soft drinks as a substitute choice, Jessica Waller, head of brand at Martin Frobisher's, expects a varied non-alcoholic offering to be a key feature on drinks menus this summer as consumers look for refreshing, thirst-quenching options.
"Consumers who aren't drinking want to feel that a non-alcoholic drink is grown up, and not a soft option at all," she says. "Too often the question, 'what soft drinks do you have?' is met with an uninspiring response. Sophisticated flavours and creative flavour pairings go over and above lemonade, cola and sparkling water. This not only gives caterers an edge, but doesn't make consumers feel that they are missing out if they are not drinking."
Waller suggests creating a soft drink specials board, to "complement a summer menu with fresh flavours and innovative combinations that reflect the meals on offer." Pubs and bars need to deliver the same excitement with their choice of non-alcoholic cocktails as they do with their core cocktail list, insists entrepreneur Peter Spanton, a former restaurateur who launched his own range of premium mixers in 2012.
He says: "The boom in cocktail sales shows how much customers love the theatre of having a great drink mixed for them by a skilled bartender, and it's essential that customers who choose not to drink don't feel that they're getting second best.
"The demographics show that consumers are drinking less, and so expect to be offered premium, genuinely grown-up, non-alcoholic serves. The market for mocktails is only going to increase, and pubs and bars that aren't meeting that demand will simply see customers vote with their feet."
Mix and match
The next step is combining this new generation of soft drinks with spirits, whether in a standard spirit-and-mixer serve or within a cocktail. Jason Sennitt, who heads up the premium Merchant's Heart range of mixers - or 'spirit enhancers' as they like to be called - believes that "consumers have become increasingly demanding when it comes to their choice of spirit, and we're now seeing their attention turn to the other key part of the equation - the mixer. This represents a great opportunity to upsell during the summer season, so venues need to have a premium mixer range to match their spirit range.
"Discerning drinkers are increasingly looking for mixers that complement and accentuate a spirit's taste, rather than masking it. Aside from G&Ts, when looking at the spirits category more broadly it's hard to miss the low-alcohol movement. Consumers aren't willing to compromise on their experience though, so we're seeing the on-trade really starting to embrace this movement and rise to the challenge."
Sennett adds: "Personally, I'd love to see long mixed drinks featuring sherry, sake or port, which offer all the style and flavour but around half the alcohol. A Jerez Fino sherry enhanced with Merchant's Heart Floral Aromatics tonic and orange zest is sublime!"
James Mowbray-Pratt, channels manager for restaurants and bars with Fever-Tree, suggests that alongside the ever-popular gin and tonic, this summer operators should be focusing on spritz serves to capitalise on the rise of interest in the 'aperitif occasion', including non-alcoholic spritzes.
He adds: "The creation of complicated cocktails can have an impact on service speed and this can consequently impact sales. We're advocates for simple mixability - delicious, long, mixed drinks that are just two or three ingredients.
"Our mixers have been developed to complement the flavour characteristics of premium spirits, meaning bartenders can make delicious, long, mixed drinks simply and quickly, using just a spirit, mixer and a garnish. This process in turn means greater consistency and higher quality delivery every time, ensuring that operators can create simple, speedy, yet delicious drinks during the busy summer months."
Adrian Taylor, head of on trade at Roust, distributor of Russian Standard and Å»ubrÁ³wka vodkas, says: "Consumers are definitely looking for lighter fruit-driven flavours and drinks with authenticity. The rise of infused spirits and craft fruit beers is highlighting this trend - consumers are looking for more than a bog-standard drink, especially those active on social media. They want a drinking experience that stands out from the crowd and has that Instagram-able appeal." As an example, Russian Standard's 'Mule Market', launched last year at Latitude Festival gives consumers the opportunity to create bespoke variations in a classic cocktail.
With a series of new rum brands having entered the market, Ellie Jones, marketing manager with spirits supplier Love Drinks, predicts a strong summer for sales, saying "discerning consumers are searching out different styles, origins, production methods and taste profiles, with brands such as El Dorado helping them to discover everything from superb aged sipping rums for the connoisseur to versatile yet sophisticated mixing rums for colourful cocktail and punch drinks."
Share and share alike
Nick Gillett, managing director of spirits specialist Mangrove UK, expects a focus on shared experiences, as well as a demand for more sustainable and ethical products to have an impact. "To capitalise on these trends, operators should be thinking shared serves, such as punches and pitchers, offering a refreshing, interactive and fun experience combined with a sense of togetherness as people look to build shared experiences over consumerism."
Mangrove's activity this summer includes cocktail machines serving frozen Margaritas and Caipirinhas made with its Velho Barreiro cachaÁ§a and lime, as well as cocktail menu development for Aluna coconut rum.
Wine has been having to work harder to fight its corner in this more diverse out-of-home drinks market, and suppliers urge operators to stay on top of trends. "Fruitier, more refreshing styles are very current, so fruit wines like Echo Falls Fruit Fusions, as well as other rosés and lighter white wines, are key for the on-trade to stock, especially in the run-up to the summer season when these varieties grow in popularity," says Andrew Nunney, category, shopper and insights director at Accolade Wines.
Kit Ellen, sales and marketing manager for the Hampshire-based Exton Park winery, suggests that "a by-the-glass listing is by far the most sensible way of introducing consumers to English wines, although these listings are, of course, highly competitive. By-the-glass allows customers to try out the wine without investing in a full bottle. This is working very well for our Exton Park Rosé NV at two-Michelin-starred restaurant L'Enclume [in Cumbria] and some of Simon Rogan's other restaurants."
Also proving popular are half bottles of Exton Park Brut Reserve NV, currently available at Oblix in the Shard. "Half bottles are a great way to get people to try English wine. Exton Park is one of only two or three English producers currently offering half bottles to the market," he adds.
Beer and cider also traditionally do well in summer, with Shane Fazackerley, category manager with wholesaler Thomas Ridley Foodservice, advising operators to emphasise provenance. "Tell a good story and customers will buy into it. Local beers, ciders or wines ensure that operators are supporting their community, as well as crafting a tale about a local producer who has created a special drink.
Thomas Ridley Foodservice has recently added to its range with St Peter's Without Gold from Suffolk-based St Peter's Brewery, an alcohol-free golden ale. "This beer will appeal to a nation of ale drinkers who love a good, full-bodied golden ale, as well as lager drinkers looking for a delicious alcohol-free beer," says Fazackerley.
The importance of the local perspective is also emphasised by Hogs Back Brewery, which has almost tripled the size of its hop garden on the brewery site at Manor Farm in Tongham, Surrey. Managing director Rupert Thompson says: "In the competitive cask ale market, every brewery has to find its own niche, and as a country, farm-based brewer, this is very much the right direction for us."
Emphasising provenance is importer Euroboozer, which has teamed up with CzechTrade and Czech Tourism for the UK's inaugural Czech Beer Week, taking place from 17-23 June. A series of tastings, meet the brewer sessions, beer pairing nights, events and activations are taking place around the UK.
Meanwhile, with cider sales seeing 3.8% value growth last year, premiumisation remains an important aspect for the category, believes Alicia Petchey, insights manager at Thatchers Cider. With consumption well below that of wine, beer and spirits, she says: "Cider still has a clear opportunity to drive growth. As the category gains traction outside of its traditional South West heartland, we've seen people move towards different taste profiles for cider.
"Fruit ciders have helped fill this demand, but it's important to remember there's an important role for the taste diversity that apple ciders can deliver through innovative cidermaking, from dry through to sweet."
Just as the notoriously unpredictable summer weather can require packing everything from sun cream to an umbrella, operators hoping to appeal to ever-broader consumer tastes in drinks will need to be ready for all eventualities.
Accolade Wines (1) has launched the Foodies Range from the Hardys brand. Each of the three carefully selected wines comes with woodcut-style labels featuring an animal to indicate the best food pairing. The range includes a Shiraz that pairs with beef, a Chardonnay to go with chicken and a rosé to be served with fish.
Red Bull (2) has expanded its flavoured Editions range with the introduction of new Red Bull Coconut & Berry. Packaged in a 250ml white can, Coconut & Berry is available in both energy and sugar-free variants.
Mr Fitz Aqua Spritz (3) has expanded its range of premium soft drinks with the launch of lemon, yuzu and turmeric cordial. Served using filtered mains water though an unusual, branded dispense system, the new blend has been created to work as a sparkling or still long soft drink, and also works well as a mixer with a spirit, and in dessert, mocktail and cocktail recipes.
Copalli (4) is an organic, single-estate rum, sustainably produced at a new craft distillery in the Belizean rainforest. It comes in two varieties: a smooth white rum, and a rich, sweet, barrel-rested rum, aged in oak ex-bourbon barrels. The rums are being served in London venues including Quaglino's in St James's, the Gibson near Old Street and Laki Kane in Islington.
Mandarillo (5) is the newest addition to the Polar Monkeys craft beer range from Nordic brewer Theodor SchiÁ¸tz. At 4.2% ABV, Mandarillo is a session IPA with a distinctive, fruity flavour. Matched with light dishes, open sandwiches or delicate fresh fish, it's a great accompaniment to a summer menu.
Peter Spanton Drinks (6) is expanding with the launch of two new flavours: No 2 lemonade with Italian bitters and No 16 cream soda. As with the other varieties in the range, the drinks can be enjoyed alone, as a mixer with spirits, and in both alcoholic and non-alcoholic cocktails.
The Honest Lemonade (7) range from Coca-Cola European Partners includes pink lemonade and original lemonade variants. Made with 12% real fruit juice, the 300ml, glass bottled drink is inspired by homemade recipes and is free from artificial sweeteners and additives.
Barn Farm Drinks (8) has launched a clear version of its raspberry and apple juice, designed to be enjoyed as a mixer with spirits as well as a base for fruity summer cocktails. It joins the range of four cloudy juices grown at Barn Farm in Essex, produced on a sparkling wine press for a fresher and lighter juice.
Glassware specialist Artis (9) has made two of the best-selling lines from its Speakeasy cocktail collection available with black stems, giving the gin goblet
and coupe glasses an authentic, retro feel.
Summer drinks recipes
(Pictured from left)
A fresh, low-ABV cocktail created by Tim Batchelor, head bartender at the Pig hotel group, for the group's summer drinks menu, ideal for summer terrace drinking.
50ml rose vermouth
20ml rhubarb and ginger cordial
15ml cucumber shrub
Top up with Garden Herb soda, made with pineapple sage, purple basil and shiso. Serve in a tall glass and garnish with pineapple sage.
RedLeg caramelised daiquiri
A great summer drink made with the newly launched RedLeg caramelised pineapple rum, distributed by Hi-Spirits.
50ml RedLeg caramelised pineapple rum
35ml fresh lime juice
20ml sugar syrup
Pour the rum, fresh lime juice and sugar syrup into a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake well and strain into a coupe glass. Serve.
Picked from Eden
A highly Instagrammable cocktail from Franklin & Sons.
280ml cold water
50ml London dry gin
10ml lemon juice
Franklin & Sons Sicilian lemonade and English elderflower with crushed juniper
Mix all the ingredients in a tall glass and garnish with lemon zest.
Barn Farm Drinks
Barr Soft Drinks
Coca-Cola European Partners
Franklin & Sons
Hogs Back Brewery
Mr Fitz Aqua Spritz
Peter Spanton Drinks
Thomas Ridley Foodservice
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