With our STIR IT UP cocktail competition returning for 2019, we catch up with Ian Daws, Matthew Clark Spirit Development Specialist to chat all things cocktails and insider tips on entering the competition.
Tell us, what is your cocktail agenda?
It’s really driving home the message that cocktails done right command a higher price tag and therefore higher margin and more profit. We know that the cocktail drinkers spend on average £28 more out of home than non-cocktail drinkers and it becomes really interesting when we start to look at moving general spirits consumers from mixer serve to higher margin cocktail serve.
So, how would an outlet make a start into the cocktail scene?
Thanks to the gin boom, consumers are becoming incredibly spirit savvy which drives opportunity for premiumisation. However, consumers also tend to stick with what they know so offering a simple gin cocktail, fizzy or seasonal serve can be the first step to tempt consumers. Training staff is critical too as the added theatre of a cocktail serve creates an experience that can’t be replicated at home, bringing people back to your outlet.
Matthew Clark has relaunched its own cocktail competition STIR IT UP for a second year, is this a sign of the cocktail category growth?
Yes definitely, the cocktail market is worth half a billion pounds in the UK and 1 in 3 outlets have them available now. It isn’t slowing either, 15,000 more outlets stock cocktail than did three years ago. The amazing competition entries we received last year showed us our customers are part of this growth and we’re very excited to be able to support them and showcase their talent in our own event.
Video: STIR IT UP 2018
The STIR IT UP theme this year is ‘Discovery’ where the judges will be looking for innovative serves and futuristic smash-ups of a classic, what would be your advice for customers who want to enter?
I’d say it’s actually a lot simpler than it sounds to make a great tasting cocktail. There’s no need for mad skills and rocket ships. Innovation can be done just by thinking about combining new flavours. Last year’s winner, Alex Mills from Lab 22, is a good example. His cocktail, the Lowland Highball showed us that whisky can really surprise you and become a perfect summer serve when balanced with peach and thyme.
It’s the same principle with classic cocktails from one era becoming new classics today. Take the Negroni for example. Legend has it that Count Camillo Negroni used to drink Americanos (also called the Milano-Turin if memory serves me correctly) which is a shot of Campari and a shot of sweet vermouth topped with soda water. The Count didn’t think the drink was strong enough so asked the bartender in Florence to make it boozier. They simply removed the soda water and added a shot of gin… the Negroni was born.
There are countless other fascinating twists on classics. If you take the White Lady – Gin, Cointreau and Lemon Juice (The Savoy Cocktail Book, 1930). Swap the Cointreau for Peach Liqueur and add some egg white and you have a Perfect Lady (Café Royale, 1937). Another way of looking at it would be to swap the Gin for Tequila and the lemon for lime and you have the Margarita (Bottom’s Up, 1962). If you look even further back then the White Lady is just a twist on the Side Car – Cognac, Cointreau, and Lemon (Cocktails – How To Mix Them, 1922). I could go on but the more I think of it the more and more it applies so I’ll stop there on this one.
But, this is really what we’re hoping to see at this year’s STIR IT UP competition, bartenders who know their classics and show their talent and creativity by adding their own twist.
Any insider tips you could give to someone stuck for inspiration?
Look at what’s going on in the industry. We hear a lot about sustainability, reducing plastic, many top cocktail bars are finding ways to use the pulp, leaves or even roots. There’s also a major focus on health with more and more people moderating their alcohol intake meaning low and no alcohol cocktails and shim serves, where sherry, vermouth or a liqueur is used instead of a full-strength spirit, are quite hot right now. Enough said, I wouldn’t want to give everything away!
The STIR IT UP competition is open to all Matthew Clark customer over the age of 18. Head to www.matthewclark.co.uk/stiritup to submit your entry. The competition closes on the 14th February.