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SB Voices: The power of claiming the classic cocktail

As Patrón Tequila is revealed as the Supreme Brand Champion 2017, Annie Hayes recapitulates the importance of spirits brands owning their category’s most conspicuous cocktail serves.

Patrón Tequila owned the Margarita with its global cocktail competition

On Tuesday, it was announced that Patrón Tequila had clinched the accolade of Supreme Brand Champion 2017, thanks to its consistent year-on-year volume increases, conscientious international expansion, and an extensive consumer education mission.

“Communicating the authenticity” of the brand, according to Lee Applbaum, chief marketing officer at Patrón Spirits International, has been “a really important part” of its growth – and one of the main ways Patrón sought to do this was through its Margarita of the Year competition, which first launched three years ago.

The premise is so simple – an international search to discover the most striking “local interpretations” of the classic Tequila-based cocktail, with the sole purpose of making the brand synonymous with the drink – yet the reaction to the competition “exceeded expectations”, according to Applbaum.

“The Margarita is one of the world’s most important cocktails, important in terms of volume, and certainly in terms of its recognition, and it is certainly one of the most important Tequila-based cocktails,” he told SB. “And yet it is one that we took for granted for many years, and we didn’t really embrace it.”

Patrón is not alone – Campari, for one, has only in recent years clocked on to the credibility that championing a hyper-specific cocktail brings. In November last year, the brand sought to remind consumers that “there is no Negroni without Campari” with the release of a bottled Negroni. Almost 100 years old, the drink was first created in Florence by Count Camillo Negroni, and has enjoyed a resurgence driven by interest in bitter drinks.

Surprisingly, despite the serve’s dependence on Campari as an ingredient, 2017 marked the first time the brand partnered with Negroni Week. As with Patrón, the collaboration revealed that owning the cocktail is only possible through a strong connection with bartenders. “A successful ‘themed week’ campaign can only be possible when there is genuine support from the trade,” Pietro Mattioni, managing director Campari UK told SB earlier this year.

And the list continues. From Bacardí’s work with the Cuba Libre to Stolichnaya vodka’s focus on the Moscow Mule, there’s clearly value in taking a road well-travelled. While pushing the boundaries of the bartending is integral to the future of the global drinks industry, sometimes brands stand to benefit from cherishing the cocktails that built their category.

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