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Top 10 cocktail trends for 2016

Recent data released by Finest Call Premium Cocktail Mixes and its UK distributor Cellar Trends show the cocktail boom is set to continue into 2016 and beyond, with a number of key imbiber insights set to propel the market.

Cocktails on table
Cocktails are set to continue their upward momentum into 2016 – but what’s driving the trend?

Finest Call and Cellar Trends predict that the cocktail market will account for 10% of all spirits sales by 2020. One fifth of all on-trade accounts now serve cocktails, said Katy Carter, Cellar Trends’ research and brand manager, a figure reckoned to be growing by 2% year on year.

But as interest in creative serves filters down from high-end accounts to mainstream bars, how can businesses tap into the continued upward momentum? Where do future opportunities lie, and is there scope for growth against a backdrop of growing at home consumption?

Finest Call and Cellar Trends certainly think so, as their data presented at a recent Trends Forum shows.

Click through the following pages to discover their take on the 2016 trends.

What do you think? What opportunities do you think exist for the cocktail community? Let us know in the comments below.


10. The cocktail consumer

18 to 35-year-olds are currently the core cocktail consuming segment – but this is set to evolve.”There isn’t a steep drop off after 35, and we’re seeing more and more people [from this older demographic] drinking cocktails,”said Carter.

Consumption is being driven largely by special occasions and high tempo nights, with theatre crucial. “Theatre remains very, very strong with cocktails ordered. Great looking drinks sell best – although speed is important in high-volume accounts.”

Disco cocktails

9. Classics and “disco” serves set to lead

More than 60% of UK consumers say they have a favourite cocktail. While Mojitos still lead the charge as the UK’s favourite  – 32% of consumers questioned ranked it highest – the classics are making a comeback. According to the CGA Mixed Drinks Report Q3 2015, this is evident in the last three cocktails respondents said they drank – in order: Mojito, Martini, Manhattan, Cosmopolitan, and Old Fashioned had been ordered the most.

In addition, and somewhat surprisingly, Carter reckons those brightly coloured, fun, retro serves are also set to make a big return. “They are fun, funky, but they still have to have high quality ingredients,” she said. 

Flavoured spirits

8. Flavour is most important

Flavours and the overall taste of a drink are the top factors for consumers when ordering a cocktail, Carter said. The base spirit ranked next, followed by the quality of the ingredients, and then bartender recommendations.


7. Consumer knowledge – and a demand for consistency – is increasing

87% of people think its important for cocktails to be served in a consistent way, Carter explained. This could be a concern for busy, high volume bars – and it also creates a challenge for accounts as they try to bridge the gap between how a consumer might experience a Martini at a high-end bar, compared to mainstream venues. Pre-mixed serves could help with this, said Carter.

The interest in masterclasses mean that consumers increasingly know what to expect when they order – something for bartenders to be aware of.


6. Beyond the bars

One of the biggest opportunities for cocktail ingredient and spirits brands is to look beyond the bar. Currently, just 32% of hotels serve cocktails, which presents a major opportunity. Restaurants too, said Carter: “We predict restaurants will become more important for cocktail consumers… Many more restaurants should be serving cocktails.” Only 26% of food pubs serve cocktails, she added, which is very low compared to bars, where 76% offer cocktails. “People want a multi-functional experience when they go out,” she explained – i.e. food and drinks.


5. At-home cocktails 

According to Mintel, the pre-mixed cocktail market in the UK is now worth £50 million, and the analyst forecasts it will grow 10-fold by 2018. “In the off-trade we believe it is worth around £23 million now,” said Carter, a figure she reached by taking Tesco data and weighting it based on market share. She believes pre-mixed cocktails in the on-trade will grow at the same rate.


4. Regional-inspired serves

“Unusual spirits”will benefit from the cocktail uptick, said Carter, who cited Cachaça, mezcal and pisco as spirits set for a surge in 2016. This taps into a secondary trend: interest in regional-inspired serves. Think Latin flavours, British classics, Asia-inspired menus, and a real opportunities for restaurants to pair cocktails with cuisine.


3. Molecular mixology filtering down

A significant trend at high-end accounts already, expect to see gels, foams, powders, atomisers, smoked cocktails and the like crop up at more mainstream bars. While the execution will feel different – consumers in a volume location won’t wait for the intricate styles served elsewhere – get set for increasingly intriguing cocktails to infiltrate more everyday menus.


2. Health concerns

Low-calorie and alcohol-free cocktails are set to become more popular in 2016, forecasted Carter. Many high-end accounts are now using innovative ingredient formulations to serve no-alcohol cocktails as part of a regular menu, she said. According to her data, 25% of cocktail drinkers said they would always pick a low calorie cocktail if it was an option, she added.

The Winston Expensive Cocktail

1. Premiumisation reigns supreme

Premium spirits, and consumer interest in them, are one of the biggest forces driving the cocktail market, said Carter. Over the past five years, premium spirits saw a significant uptick (all figures IWSR) with Tequilas in that price bracket seeing sales increase 197%, brandy by 160%, Japanese spirits by 113%, vodka 107%, and Bourbon 101%. “We expect to see the more unusual spirits also performing strongly… Tequila is a very buoyant market. On the back of that we expect to see sales of all cocktail ingredients increasing.” Base spirit sales will of course benefit, but so too will syrups and bitters, premixed and at-home serves, she forecasted. Beyond base spirits, premiusation will occur across the cocktail menu through use of vegetables, shrubs, dried and smoked fruits, and foraged ingredients, with many of these made at one.”It’s already happening but we predict it will become greater,” Carter added.


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