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Christmas Cheer

Published on Oct 5 2012 11:42 AM in Drinks

Christmas Cheer

Seasonality is one of nature’s great varietal ingredients to the hospitality industry. As dealt with in another part of this issue, seasonal choices greatly affect the ingredients used on a menu of a restaurant or hotel, and similarly, bar managers and publicans throughout the land can point to their annual takings and see sharp rises and falls for certain types drinks, depending on the time of year. Hospitality Ireland reports.

Whereas during the summer you might see an abundance of sunny cocktails such as Sex on the Beach or Mojitos shifting out the door in great numbers as customers seek some solace in a cold enjoyable drink to cool down their body temperature, winter brings along its own quirky choices, hot whiskeys, port and mulled wine suddenly being ordered from all demographics of punter as heat smell, nostalgia and general enthusiasm push our tastes to different extremes.

With these seasonal tastes, it is clear to notice the efforts made by publicans and hoteliers to promote the fact that they are aware of what the customer wants. A lot of Irish pub-goers know what they like, they will have rather solid parameters of what they order – there will always be the stout drinkers, the whiskey drinkers and the lager drinkers. However, over the festive period, the demographic of pub-goer dramatically changes. More women go to bars, be they with their other half or with their groups of friends. As relations return from abroad to spend Christmas at home, large swathes of families descend on a bar for those once-off magical occasions. These are the extra numbers, and these are the people most receptive to the shift in promotion and offering in a bar. If you see a group of ten people drop in to a bar, the odds are a couple will look for something festive, something seasonal. And, once they sit down with their mulled wine, or hot whiskey, that can have a ripple effect on the group.

However, its not just the stereotypical Christmas drinks which can prove popular. At this time of year, people are clearly willing to shop around and try new things. Maybe promote different vodka flavours, push the cranberry juice mix, push you whiskey sours. What’s great about those things is the theatre behind making the drink can, again, catch the eye of groups of people more likely to stay and spend that little extra – and, importantly, tell their friends.

New mixtures and different flavours can use the holidays as a springboard for popularity. Take the new Southern Comfort Cherry drink. It is the exciting new flavour extension from Southern Comfort. It celebrates the brand's unique expertise in blending whiskey, fruit and spice flavours. Aimed at a later night occasion, Southern Comfort Cherry lends itself to a richer more complex flavour. Best enjoyed with Cola, it creates a new way to drink an existing favourite flavour combination.

Beer gardens are an added cost in winter as the increased use of those outdoor heaters affects the bottom line, but the festive atmosphere enjoyed by groups of people huddled close together is difficult to replicate any other time of the year. Why not put a pot of mulled wine on the heat, in full view, and smell, of everyone, see who bites? Increased signage for your freshly made Christmas offering – especially with that fruity, warm aroma drifting up and down the bar – has as clear an effect as any marketing tool in the industry. Between the sweet options, the fruity options and the classic hot drinks of all flavours, there’s almost an endless variety of ways to keep up with the current trends and enjoy a new drink, or an old favourite with a new twist when out celebrating this Christmas season. So stock up on cloves, put up your signage, and give the customers what they want.

Mulled Wine Recipe:

Prep Time: 5 minutesCook Time: 25 minutesTotal Time: 30 minutesIngredients: - Four bottles of red wine (suggestions: Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Merlot) - Four peeled and sliced oranges (keep peel to add zest to taste into cooking pot) - 1 cup of brandy - 35-40 cloves - 1 cup honey or sugar - 10 cinnamon sticks - 4 tsp fresh or 8 tsp ground ginger (allspice can be substituted) - Typically serves up to 25 customersPreparation:To make a great batch of mulled wine, combine all ingredients in either a large pot or a slow cooker. Gently warm the ingredients on low to medium heat (avoid boiling), for 20-25 minutes. Stir occasionally to make sure that the honey or sugar has completely dissolved. When the wine is steaming and the ingredients have been well blended it is ready to serve.

Michael LynchWhen you take account of the success of both Michel Lynch and Guigals from the Côtes du Rhône, it is understandable that Michael Barry, of Barry & Fitzwilliam, claims to have one of the most successful French wines on the market. “The Gabriel Meffre range, which includes La Châsse du Pape, adds to our armoury of French wines, and will be heavily promoted this year. Faiveley burgundy wines, Jolivet Loire wines and Preiss-Zimmer Alsace wines, complete what is now among the most outstanding portfolios of French wine on the market.” However, it is not just standard wine with which you can attract customers to spend that little bit extra. How about champagne? “We have champagnes to bring to the party,” explains Michael. “Starting with Pol Roger, which has a ‘to die for’ rosé. Charles Heidsieck is carefully blended and cellared, and gives a general impression of a vivacious, well-balanced wine.” According to the company, all those who regard champagne as something more than a universal symbol of celebration will appreciate the elegance of the Charles Heidsieck style – the consistent quality of its wine and the distinctive harmonies this creates when served with fine food. Champagne and cocktails are never far apart. Charles and Piper Heidsieck both partner well with a dash of Cointreau or kirsch for a delicious change. Both Charles and Piper Heidsieck have won numerous awards, here and abroad, with Charles being the premium champagne from the Heidsieck house. The company also produces the fashionable and contemporary Piper Heidsieck Grande Marque Champagne.

JagermeisterMixologists are experimenting with more and more interesting spirits and liquors nowadays. One of the most popular spirits in Ireland at the moment is Jägermeister, which has seen its stock rise considerably in recent years. According to Nielsen figures, it has recently entered the top ten spirits sold in Ireland within the on-trade. Jägermeister is a huge seller in the shooter market, particularly among trendsetters, and is growing internationally. It is half-bitter German schnapps with a unique blend of 56 herbs and spices. Its popularity amongst the younger demographic has seen it included in most bars around the country. Michael Barry says, “It is ideally served chilled. Sales are up again this year, which is an excellent performance.” As Ireland’s suppliers of Jägermeister, Barry & Fitzwilliam is now Ireland’s largest independent premium drinks distributor. Representing an exceptional portfolio of international brands, the company carries over 120 premium wines, spirits and beer brands. Operating from extensive warehousing and administration facilities based in Cork and Dublin, Barry & Fitzwilliam has a direct route to market and is committed to effective nationwide distribution with a distinct emphasis on customer care. Employing 80 people in warehousing, sales and administration, the company competes effectively with larger international organisations by having a committed attitude to brand-building, a direct route to market and a strong sales focus. The company has over 3,000 direct accounts nationwide and believes that a direct route to market is paramount to the success of the brands it represents. With over 25 years of experience, its sales team has been instrumental in making the brands that Barry & Fitzwilliam deal with into the successes they are today.

Corona LightApart from the popular Jägermeister, Michael also notes two of his company’s more exciting spirits at the moment, Tia Maria and Disaronno. “Liqueurs are among the most versatile products on the drinks market, and with the growth of the cocktail culture and the popularity of flavoured drinks, liqueurs have had sustained growth in this most vibrant of categories. Tia Maria is a hugely popular coffee liqueur worldwide, particularly in its mixability in cocktails, with coffee, in desserts, or mixed with milk and ice as a luxurious long drink. It will be heavily backed by a TV and press campaign. Disaronno is a ‘cool’ brand. With its distinctive square-glass decanter and smooth almond flavour, it has a secret recipe, which is said to include the pure essence of 17 selected herbs and fruits with an infusion of apricot kernel oil. It is a very ‘hot brand’ internationally, and we are hoping to emulate that here. This is another brand which will be supported by a TV campaign.” Also, Barry and Fitzwilliam supply a range of popular World Beers."Global Beer Bands have seen an increase in interest.  We have taken on a range of World Beers including the Wells & Young portfolio, the most popular of which is Banana Bread Beer, Waggle Dance and Bombardier  and Coopers from Australia which has gained a very loyal following in the last few years. Also, Corona Light has been an instant hit with the calorie conscious consumer since it’s launch in February. In Weight Watchers parlance it only has 3 pro points by comparison to 4 pro points for most other light beers and ciders.  In layman’s language it has only 99 calories per 35.5cl bottle."

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