And yet there’s still something terrifyingly “Del Boy” about the idea. Over-complicate it and the results could be tacky and expensive. But keep it simple, using ingredients and equipment you already have, and you can at least double the margin you’d usually get for a spirit-and-mixer serve.
If you’re not yet a believer, a report by CGA Strategy Research shows that cocktail culture has now gone mainstream. In a survey of 1,600 bars, pubs and restaurants, cocktails were served in 19 per cent of them and rising. Those that did sold 36 per cent more spirits and liqueurs. More than 50 per cent of customers pay between £5 and £7 per cocktail, while nearly 20 per cent pay £7 or more.
Peter Thornton, of wines, spirits and champagne distributor Cellar Trends, says: “The report reveals enormous potential and at last the pub trade is beginning to wake up to it. The research shows that the number of pubs and bars selling cocktails rose 16 per cent in the last year.
"Twenty-two per cent sell more cocktails than a year ago. But most bars are missing out because
the majority do not have a cocktail serve.”
Managed pub and bar operator TCG now sees cocktails as essential. “We see well-made cocktails as a key USP for the on-trade, simply because consumers don’t keep a fully stocked bar at home, and don’t necessarily have the skills to consistently deliver a good cocktail,” says Nick Francis, commercial director. “However, the worst thing that any pub or bar can do is serve a badly made cocktail.”
For those pushed for time there are ready-made cocktail brands like Funkin and Finest Call, to which you only need add the spirit.
But other cocktails can be deceptively simple. James Coston from juice brand Frobishers says: “I’ve noticed lately that mixers such as cranberry juice and lemonade seem to be making way for “fresher” flavours such as apple juice and ginger ale.” The addition of just one ingredient such as fruit juice to a spirit and carbonated mixer is all you need to liven up a drink, so try it.
How to get started with cocktails
Ian McLaren, head of product training and mixology, Bacardi Brown-Forman Brands
“Cocktails needn’t be massively complicated. You can build most cocktails, so you don’t need to have shakers. You can use the measures you’d have behind any bar. There’s nothing to fear. It’s just about getting the right offer.
You don’t have to have lots of fancy ingredients to make something feel special, different and interesting.
For example, to make a Royal Sapphire, you just use Bombay Sapphire, cranberry juice and lemonade, with a slice of lemon. It’s a beautiful dusky pink colour and as a summery, refreshing cocktail it’s really easy and cost-effective to make. These are ingredients you’re likely to have anyway.
You can have a top-quality base ingredient, but use cost-effective modifying ingredients to make it into a great drink. Sometimes just changing the glass can be interesting. Put 75ml of Martini Rosato in a wine glass filled with ice, top with prosecco and a mint sprig and you have an unusual drink that people are interested in.
They don’t cost much more to make than a standard spirit and mixer, but people will pay a lot more for them –no more than double the price is a good rule of thumb.
People go wrong by trying to do too much too soon. If this is your first time, don’t have more than five or six on your cocktail list. Use the glasses and ingredients you have already. And don’t add drinks that aren’t suitable for a pub.
There are also a lot of luxury mixers out there at the moment, so you could create a “posh” long-mixed-drink list. Use a luxury gin and tonic or premium whisky, like Gentleman Jack, and Coke. Serve them in great glassware.”
London bar chain Drake & Morgan has launched two beer cocktails for the summer. Priced at £5.95, the beer cocktails include One for the Road, which is a mix of Peroni Nastro Azzuro, Tanqueray gin, cranberry bitters, fresh lemon and Greek basil leaves. The Dark & Pour Me mixes Beck’s Vier with Kraken Spiced rum, spicy ginger syrup and fresh lime juice, all shaken with Angostura bitters