Cocktails have always had the ability to transport people to another time and another place, whether it’s heading to the tropics with a Pina Colada, or 1920s London with a Martini and so with travel looking like it has been impacted for some time, cocktails are a great means of consumer escapism.

‘Escape’ was the theme for one of the opening sessions at Tales of the Cocktail which kicked off virtually this week. Bacardi’s Global Advocacy Director Jacob Briars hosted the session, ‘The Drinks Trends of the Year’ to talk about what’s happening in bars around the world.

Jacob opened by saying that ability of cocktails to transport people to different places is a really important tool as bars start the rebuilding process as we come out of the pandemic.

“Why I think those connections that cocktails have to a time of a place is so powerful and has such a strong ability to be leveraged is that the past 10 or 20 years has been a period of extremely easy travel and also cheap travel. So when we have wanted to go somewhere, it has been very easy to up sticks and go there.

“But we now live in a world with a lot of travel restrictions, a lot of borders are closed and people can’t travel freely, but they have been building up a lot of disposable income.”

Jacob highlighted that while this was not the case for the majority of people working in hospitality, for around 40 to 50 per cent of the population there were increased savings and pent up desires to travel, so how can bars take advantage of this?

He added: “There is an incredibly strong association between bars and travel. Cocktails have always been, to some extent, a kind of escapist opportunity. The ability to go into a bar, order a cocktail with ingredients from all over the world and have someone bring it to you is in itself a kind of luxury and a kind of escape from the grind of the day to day.

“Bars can offer consumers completely new experiences and that is a very powerful way that bars can tap into this trend and this need for escape.”

Jacob was joined by Karina Abramova, Global Director, Cultural Insights & Trends, Bacardi who told TOTC that Bacardi has carried a variety of research over the last 18 months and found three key drivers to this escapist behaviour.

She said: “Number one is travel bans. The moment something is not allowed, we really want it. Considering we live in a society that is used to deals with budget flights and AirBnBs available anywhere in the world this is a tough pill to swallow.

“The second trend that is driving these behaviours and activities is boredom. As humans we have a very natural yearning for discovery, and more so as we live in a very excitement-driven society. What we found is that 20 per cent of people said that during lockdown they had tried a drink they would never normally have tried. This is very exciting because it shows people are looking for new experiences, new brands and new drinks.

“If you throw in the disposable income that hasn’t been spent on travel, we actually have a lot of adults who are willing to pay well to avoid boredom. That takes me to the third driver and that is all about the yearning for new experiences.

“Once people had evaluated their life, stock up on premium food and drinks they started learning a lot of skills. They told us they have started making more cocktails at home now, and one-third plan to drink more premium spirits in the coming months. But let us not forget that about one-third of adults are also embracing no and low-ABV cocktails now as well.”

Karina added: “This means that consumers are looking for drinks all along the ABV platform, so if you can offer cocktails from zero up to 50 per cent ABV, you are going to have consumers dotted all along the line.”

With the trend of taking time to learn more skills, Karina said this means people will be coming into bars, post-lockdown with more knowledge and understanding, so offering them something that they are not able to create at home, and offering something new and different will help bars be more successful.

This massive desire to travel which can’t be met at the moment, along with the need to alleviate boredom, and a yearning to try new things are huge consumer trends right now, and so if bars are able to meet these consumer needs that is a really powerful engine for growth.

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Andy Young

Andy joined Intermedia as Editor of TheShout in 2015, writing news on a daily basis and also writing features for National Liquor News. Now Managing Editor of both TheShout and Bars and Clubs.

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