These days, consumers are very much interested in the process and lore of spirits. A good story, whether conveyed via social media, on the packaging, with retail hand-selling, in advertising or from brand ambassadors, helps sell bottles.
“Consumers are interested in small-batch, craft gins that have a real person behind them and unique flavor profiles,” says Dina Clark, director at Terlato Artisan Spirits. The real person, in this case, is founder Mark Dawkins. The story is that he created Langley’s No. 8 Gin with a very specific ABV (41.2%) and a collection of eight botanicals—all top secret.
“There are so many stories associated with all of our gin brands, and Millennials love that aspect,” Falkoff says. “Plymouth has it in spades.” Dating back to 1793, Plymouth is produced in the old Black Friars Monastery. Legend has it that the Pilgrims stayed there before their historic voyage to the New World. The monk pictured on the bottle is a nod to that tradition. “We say, when the monk’s feet get dry, it’s time to buy a new bottle,” Falkoff quips.
Try this at Home
How are producers ensuring that consumers who enjoy a great gin cocktail at a bar can make an equally great drink at home? Brand ambassadors, reps, websites and social media can convey recipes—but which kinds?
“You want to position yourself with recipes that are on trend or timeless, and taste good without too many challenges or obstacles,” says Howard at Bombay. Obstacles can be using ingredients that are only regional or seasonal, or incorporating polarizing flavors and elaborate ingredients consumers have to make for themselves. The classic gin drinks, Howard points out, are simple recipes with just a few ingredients—the Collins, Martini, Rickey and Mule. “They check all the boxes: accessible and minimal ingredients, taste great, tell a story and highlight qualities of the base spirit.” Keeping these tenets in mind will lead to recipes easy to make at home.
One example of a recipe that fits is the Langley’s G&B, which is a variation of the venerable G&T, adding fresh grapefruit wedges and a sprig of fresh basil to the basic formula. “When we offer creative recipes to on-premise accounts, we try to make them consumer-friendly so they can be replicated at home,” Clark says.
Pernod Ricard features a different drink recipe for each of its gin brands. For Beefeater, the focus is on the iconic Gin & Tonic, because the gin’s flavor is so juniper-forward. The twist? Lemon instead of traditional lime. “A lot of Millennials are entering the gin category with Seagram’s,” Falkoff says. That brand uses a Plus-One strategy; Seagram’s plus one simple mixer equals a fabulous cocktail, she says. Reputedly, Plymouth was the gin called for in the Marguerite, the precursor to the Martini (which is a promoted recipe), along with other simple-to-make cocktails like the Pink Gin.
Tools for the Trade
Pernod Ricard disseminates these and other gin recipes in-store, as well as other merchandising materials. More education on the topic of gin is available through the websites and social media. “Gins are really different from one another,” Falkoff notes. “Our portfolio is a good example of that.”
“The retailer has the best story-telling prop at their fingertips—the bottle,” Howard says. Bombay Sapphire includes geographical origins of the botanicals and deets on Bombay’s vapor distillation process.
Bulldog provides full support for retailers through POS and merchandising as well as on-site staff trainings and incentives programs, Birkitt says. The brand also employs dedicated local brand specialists who generate buzz and produce local events and curated experiences designed to drive consumers to retail partners for purchase.
House Spirits conducts cocktail classes at its tasting room in Portland. The company is also building another tasting and educational center at the PDX airport. And reps travel the country conducting seminars. Times are changing. “The old notion of a traditional gin drinker is of the past,” Mooney adds. “New consumers are discovering the gin category.” BD
Thomas Henry Strenk is a Brooklyn-based freelance writer with over 20 years experience covering the beverage and restaurant industries. In his small apartment-turned-alchemist-den, he homebrews beer kombucha, and concocts his own bitters and infusions.