The Evolution of House Spirits

The Evolution of House Spirits

LWC Drinks

Traditionally, bars stocked at least one well-known brand of gin, rum, whisky, vodka and so on, the easy reach optic for customers who ordered generically - the house pour. However, the current movement amongst establishments that attract knowledgeable drinkers or wish to project a cool image is to choose premium or super-premium spirit brands to stock their back bar.

The desire amongst customers for quality has upped the competition for the house pour slot for each genre and the odds of being served Smirnoff, Bacardi or Gordon’s are shortening. It could be said that these "premium" brands are edging towards standard status with 2017 PRUK data showing a rise in sales of premium spirits of 2.5% and a fall in standard spirit sales of 1%. [1]

By 2020 it's likely that premium spirits sales will considerably outweigh those of the standard brands familiar to drinkers for decades and with the natural increase in customer knowledge, premiums like Sipsmith or Slingsby might even become the first call for some customers. We may even end up being more likely to hear customers making a specific order like "Slingsby Rhubarb Gin & Fever Tree Ginger Ale", rather than just "Gin and Tonic."

So, if a decline in standard spirits sales is to continue, as these statistics suggest, what is the future for the house pour?

Firstly, the brands we have grown to expect to see have started to up their game. Possibly in an attempt to maintain their status, Gordon’s have fired up a summer advertising campaign and re-invigorated their range a couple of years ago with a re-designed bottle and some flavoured gins. They’ve even re-packaged their London Dry Gin in a clear “Export” branded bottle to add enigmatic qualities to a brand which has clearly been knocked by the craft gin boom.

Bacardi have really had a huge attempt at maintaining their position. Their standard or carta range now has four flavours – Blanca, Oro, Negra and Spiced. A flavoured range of ginger and raspberry. Three Premium labels and a limited-edition Heritage label.

One of the brands which has been making substantial in-roads into the gin market are operating in quite the opposite way. Maybe realising that fashions come and go; Johnny Neill, the brains behind the premium Whitley Neill spirits label, has re-branded and expanded the family heritage inspired J.J Whitley label, providing an entry level London Dry Gin, a Potato Vodka and four flavoured gins – violet, pink cherry, elderflower and rhubarb. The price point is aimed at the house pour market, offers variety and is packaged in ornate bottles. They may well leap off the bar!

Whatever the future holds for the house pour market, it’s likely that it will be super competitive for years to come. Venues have more choice than ever before. Customers have more product knowledge and demand quality and variety. We can expect to see that reflected in what’s stocked on the optics.



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