Christmas, they say, is a traditional time for families and friends to eat, drink and be merry. You may well have helped yourself to a hot toddy after a brisk bank holiday walk, left a tot out for Santa on his rounds or even 'fed' the Christmas pud with half a bottle. Whisky may well have featured as a pre-dinner snifter or in a Bourbon spiked hot chocolate before bed or a post-lunch Irish Coffee. But surely that's not it for this enduring spirit?
Whisky is a complex drink category with a product for all types of drinker. We examine whether whisky has broken through the cliché that it is just a spirit for the colder months and also how the potential for growth at other times of the year can be untapped in the cocktail market.
CGA OPMS QTR data in 2018 showed that whisky was responsible for over 17% of spirit sales in the on-trade in the UK. Market value is growing slowly at 1% to £1.1bn, but the volume sales don’t match that growth, with almost half a million fewer bottles sold the previous year. It’s not such bad news though. Like all other spirit categories, the premium brands - where taste, authenticity and better quality are appreciated - are on the up. However, it’s not the just aged products or single malts that you’d normally associate with the winter warmer that are outperforming the standard ranges.
This growth in value is being influenced by consumers’ desire for more quality, experience and variety. They want to discover new brands and outlets are responding accordingly, thus making whisky more accessible. Imports from Canada and Japan, in particular, have contributed to growth in this area. Furthermore, UK cocktail drinkers typically drink American (12.4%) and Irish (12.5%) whiskies when out and about compared to around 11% who drink malt according to the CGA in 2017.
This origin for this surge in interest in quality and cocktails is also backed up by the World Class Bartender of the Year in 2017, where over half the twelve signature-serve cocktails were whisky based. This impact at a high level is now making its mark in the mainstream.
Understanding how customers choose whisky can help bar runners boost sales all year round. Drinkers currently prefer a premium serve and can be guided by type and flavour – sweet, fruity, spicy and smoky. By making these flavour profiles clear, customers can be shown how versatile the drink is. Focus can move away from the rather fuddy-duddy image of the drink on to a more dynamic cocktail driven or post meal menu.
Jameson, the popular Irish whiskey has launched a couple of new products worth considering for drinks pairing. Their Jameson Caskmates range have been finished in IPA and Stout barrels and produce interesting taste combinations of hops and fruit in the Caskmates IPA and cocoa and butterscotch with the Caskmates Stout. Intended as a chaser or partner for the pint, these innovations could easily lend themselves to an all year-round cocktail menu.
Why not try some of these beauties?
Autumn: The Classic Old Fashioned
Made with a twist using Jameson Caskmates IPA.
- 50ML Caskmates IPA
- 2 Sugar Cubes
- 2 Dash Angostura Bitters
- 2 Dash Orange Bitters
- Ruby Grapefruit Twist Garnish
- Add 2 sugar cubes to a rocks glass
- Add 2 dashes of Angostura Bitters
- Add 2 dashes of Orange Bitters
- Add 50ml of Caskmates IPA
- Add 4 cubes of ice and stir continuously
- Garnish with a Grapefruit Twist
Winter: Ginger Beer
Ginger and chilli offsets the chocolatey notes of Caskmates Stout for this Christmas cocktail.
- 50ml Jameson Caskmates Stout Edition
- 25ml fresh lemon
- 15ml Ginger Liqueur
- 20ml Coriander Seed Syrup
- 10ml egg white
- 2 dashes of Celery Bitters
- 4 drops of Cardamom Bitters
- 5 drops of Chilli Tincture
- A splash of soda
Shake together ingredients, then strain into an ice-filled highball and top with a splash of soda.
This IPA-topped brew is easily made and served with lashings of ice, while a pinch of Cajun seasoning and apricot liqueur provide depth.
- 25ml Monkey Shoulder
- 20ml lemon juice
- 10ml apricot liqueur
- 10ml sugar syrup
- Pinch of Cajun seasoning
- IPA to top
Add all ingredients except the IPA into shaker and strain into a tall glass over cubed ice. Top with IPA and garnish with a sprig of mint and Cajun spice powder.
Summer: Mint Julep
This classic cocktail was created in the southern United States during the 18th century and is still a favourite today.
- 7.5 ml Simple syrup
- 8 Mint leaves
- 60 ml Jack Daniels
- Garnish: Bitters & Mint sprig
Lightly muddle the mint and syrup. Add the bourbon and pack tightly with crushed ice. Stir until the cup is frosted on the outside. Top with more crushed ice to form an ice dome and garnish with a mint sprig and few optional drops of bitters.