What are the top tipples taking the industry by storm?

From new and old cocktail creations to botanical beers, can anything pop the gin bubble which we have seen sweep the market over the past few years? Over 1.5m more UK adults are drinking gin than 4 years ago according to Kantar Worldpanel, however, new trends such as low and non-alcoholic beers, and classic and contemporary cocktails are helping the gin craze to challenge the way consumers drink in the UK.

We chat to some of The Restaurant Show’s exhibitors and experts in this field to get some insights into current and future trends and what’s next for the sector.

Classic vs original

When it comes to cocktails, The Old Fashioned cocktail is the most popular cocktail ordered worldwide, with 64% of Whisky drinkers stating that the flavour and taste are the most important factors in a Whisky, according to exhibitor Nevilles.. They claim that the UK on-trade has 387 Whisky brands, which is 4 times more than the average category brand count.

Like gin, Whisky has definitely made a comeback in recent years, knocking ‘Mother’s Ruin’ off its post. The once masculine dram on ice has had a makeover and is finding itself served in cocktails, tasting menus and even vending machines.

Exhibitor Nevilles (stand UL30) talks about where Whisky can add value to the casual dining scene:

“Whisky is making a breakthrough in the casual dining scene and can add great value to a restaurant. From reinventing the cocktail menu, adding it to dishes or pairing different whiskies with menus. With diners increasingly wanting a hang-out to casually drink and eat, providing the latest trend will bring vogue diners to your door.“

Dunnet Bay Distillers on stand UG60 agrees that the better understanding of classic cocktails such as The Old Fashioned is helping consumers to appreciate their taste. Neil Stewart comments:

“There is definitely a greater knowledge, understanding and ultimately appreciation of both traditional classic cocktails (negroni, manhattan, old fashioned etc) and new original creations that focus on showing of the spirit or liqueur being used. 

We are edging away from the 90’s style “lots of juice to hide the booze” sort of garish cocktails and have embraced prohibition inspired creations. This is a great time for enthused, inspired bar tenders really pushing the boundaries with homemade ingredients to add a new twist on an old classic as well as creating something original and unique.”

Boozy Botanicals

While everyone has heard and seen more and more botanicals beverages hit the market, there is little definition of what that means and what it adds to our drinks. Most botanicals are well known herbs, fruits and flowers and are used to add a functional benefit such as guarana for energy and camomile to soothe. They are also used to add interest and flavour, for example, juniper in gin.

This year, a whole new class of botanical infusions has been pioneered in beer, with the launch of binary botanical ale. binary uses organic hop leaves as its natural botanical ingredient – allowing it to stay true to the traditional ingredients used in beers; grains, water, hops and yeast but adding enormous interest and range to the beer category by delivering a tangy, prosecco like rather than bitter taste. This, in addition to its lower carbonation and promotion of the lower calorie and alcohol propositions inherent in beer, makes binary botanical ale an innovation to watch.

Danielle Bekker from binary botanical ale producer, Good Living Brew Co (stand UP68) speaks about how the botanical ale has created more variety for the consumer:

“It extends beers range and applicability to the meal occasion – surprising many beer rejecters because of its unusual flavour and appealing to their desire for a healthier alternative to wine and spirits. Lower in calories and alcohol than wine, and brewed for food, binary botanical ale is going to lead a revolution in beer growth by adding new users to the category.”

Another of our exhibitors, JARR, (Stand: UH61A) is also challenging the market with its botanical cocktail mixers. In addition to being a great alternative to sugary soft drinks, JARR has proven itself a delicious cocktail mixer. Already featured in high end bars such as Soho House, where it is available as both a mixer and alternative to alcohol, JARR is also a finalist in the alcohol category in the Young British Food and Drink Awards due to its versatility and excellent pairing with spirits. Made with a blend of organic oolong and green tea, it is a popular alternative for the health-conscious and discerning consumer.

Reduced alcohol options

Keeping with the theme of the health-conscious consumer, we take a look at reduced alcohol and alcohol-free options and whether there is a market out there for this type of consumer. In more recent years there has been a noticeable awareness of a low-alcohol culture among younger drinkers and with Kantar Worldpanel Alcovision suggesting that 20m adults in the UK saying they are happy to consider low/no alcohol products, there is still plenty of scope for growth of this trend.

Younger people in particular are not only choosing to drink less but to drink better, as well as being more aware of the health impacts of consuming too much alcohol. However, Neil Stewart from Dunnet Bay Distillers, says that there needs to be more knowledge and awareness in the industry for the trend to truly take off:

“There has been a huge increase in what has become available over the last couple of years in the ‘alcohol free’ sector, however, more awareness and knowledge of products probably has to be created in the sector for those on the frontline.”

The Restaurant Show will see many exhibitors lining up their range of low and non-alcohol drinks including Mr Fitz Aqua Spritz, by Brewfitt Limited on stand UJ71 who has been taking inspiration from the gin craze and boosting their non-alcoholic offering by over 20 new flavours.

Lo Bro Drinks who will be exhibiting on stand US75 is also catering for the health-conscious consumer by providing probiotic beverages with living organisms. Their range will be on display at the show and is low in sugar, organic, vegan and on top of all of that, gluten free.