Poachers Drinks: modern Irish mixers
With its seven-strong range of innovative mixers and tonics, fast-growing Irish brand Poachers Drinks taps into a family history in hospitality with a dynamic, creative approach to the sector.
The premium mixers market has seen explosive international growth in recent years – growth that is set to continue well into the next decade as customers are increasingly willing to experiment with taste, flavour and premium spirits.
Poachers Drinks, a natural drinks and mixers company, is servicing this market by celebrating Irish ingredients in its award‐winning range. Brendan Colbert, a former Deloitte consultant, and an International Business Masters graduate from UCD Smurfit School, is a founder and the managing director of the brand.
He comes from a family with a long history in the food and drinks industry, spanning eight generations. The family has been involved not only in primary production but also in creating an iconic Michelin Bib award‐winning culinary and drinks destination.
Colbert is continuing the family tradition in the drinks sector, having launched the Poachers brand in 2017.
“We launched the company to offer a uniquely Irish solution to complement the fast‐growing international spirits sector,” he says. “We have amazing produce in Ireland, and a fantastic history of spirits production. We wanted to evolve that history in creating a range of modern, dynamic drinks. It is a natural symmetry for us, and very much reflective of the way the customer is moving.
“People are simply more adventurous and demanding in their choice of drinks now. The last 18 months spent at home has accelerated that process of experimentation with new flavours and spirits.”
An appetite for new profiles in the market is being created. Poachers’ attention to vibrant fresh flavours has positioned the company very well in this context.
“For example, we make our ginger beer with Irish‐grown chilli – it pairs deliciously in a signature ‘Foghorn Ginger Spice’ with poitín and lime juice,” adds Colbert.
The Light tonic is made with Irish rosemary. Colbert suggests serving it in a ‘Thin Lizzy’ – a combination of Old Tom gin, fresh mint, lemon, topped with Poachers Light Tonic.
He says: “We want to lead the customer on an exciting adventure of taste and fun while experiencing our exceptional quality. Growing many of our own ingredients – rosemary, thyme, mint and apple – allows us to control that quality. Where we can’t grow it ourselves we source sustainably from the best producers available and the communities they support.”
The Poachers range is made up of seven products, including four premium tonic waters, a ginger ale, a ginger beer and an Irish soda water. The ginger ale uses Irish apple, and was made specifically to pair with high‐quality whiskey. It offers a very subtle flavour of warm spice and is low enough in sugar to be mixed with great whiskey or rum cocktails.
When it comes to creating new products, Poachers places the focus on simple, natural fresh flavours. “We start with two flavours and use that as a base for our mixer,” adds Colbert. “It’s always a case of fine tuning from that base.”
The range will be extended in 2022 with some exciting additions including a lemon soda with Irish mint and a natural malt cola.
Poachers has already won a host of impressive awards. The brand walked away with the top title of Taste Master in The Spirits Business’s inaugural Tonic and Mixer Masters blind‐tasting competition this year.
Poachers Wild Tonic with Irish Elderflower was described as “exceptional” by one of the judges, and took home the highest accolade, despite facing competition from 95 other products from around the world. As well as the ultimate prize, Poachers was awarded a further six medals in the competition, including four Golds.
Furthermore, each of the mixers is lower in sugar, containing between 4.3g and 7.2g.
Colbert notes: “There is too much sugar in the mixers market generally. We try to create a nice equilibrium. You of course need sugar as a flavour enhancer for the best cocktails – the secret is in getting the balance right. Our aim is to give the bartender a simple subtle complement to work with their drink. In doing so we want to help them create a unique flavour experience for their customer. One with a real story.”
He also believes there is a huge interest in the fast emerging low‐ and no‐alcohol sector. He adds: “Our entire range with its unique taste profiles caters very well for that demand, both as a mixer for some very exciting emerging spirits and also as a standalone drink.”
In January 2021, Poachers launched a dramatic new design for its range, led by brand director Terri Cooper. The modern Irish designs reflect the ingredients, quality and values of the brand. Colbert says: “We wanted to create a visual bridge between our customer and Poachers – to do something unique and different ‐ it’s a translation of who we are.”
Colbert cites continued premiumisation as the driving force for the mixer market going forward. He says: “There’s a continual change in the dynamic of the marketplace and a more educated customer willing to spend more on quality.”
Colbert adds: “We are hugely excited about next year. The opportunities presenting themselves for Poachers Drinks are opening up on a global scale.”
The brand is entering new markets in the US, Europe, Scandinavia, Russia and China. “Finding the right partners in new markets is a critical factor in our business,” he says. “You have to have a level of trust and commitment to build a partnership for the long term – we look at new markets that offer substantive potential with a 20‐year horizon.”
With its superb, committed young team – an intrinsic core part of the business – Colbert has big plans for Poachers in the year ahead. He says: “Retail is the next extension of the business for 2022. We have a high‐ quality proposition for the customer and some exciting announcements to make in the early part of next year.”