Article written by Claire Hibbit.

At the height of pandemic restrictions, Australians had no choice but to turn to their own kitchens to satisfy their cocktail needs, leading to a surge of interest in at-home mixology.

Once considered unapproachable or complicated, brands have embraced and simplified the cocktail process, offering consumers premiumisation and convenience all in one.

Quality over quantity

Whether the consumer is a cocktail expert or someone curious to try something unexpected, there is now strong demand for hassle-free, bar-quality cocktail solutions that empower them to enjoy cocktails at home, any time.

“The bottled cocktail category is now well established thanks to the pandemic,” explains Maurice Melis, CEO of Global Endeavours Australia (GEA), which introduced the Batched Premium Cocktails range locally last year.

“Consumers are seeking bar quality cocktails at home, that offer ease of preparation, allow them to indulge in the occasion, curate their bar, and demonstrate their interest and knowledge in cocktails.”

Vicki Lyon, Cocktail Creator at Sophisticated Cocktail Co, says there has been a surge of pre-batched, ready to serve cocktails entering the market over the last 12-24 months.

“Cocktail bars have launched their own range, large brands have entered the space trying to capture some of the growing market, and a lot of independents are looking to bring better products within consumers reach,” Lyon said.

According to Brendan Moynihan, Marketing Director at Starward, the premium ready to serve category is experiencing strong double-digit growth year on year, largely driven by premium innovation and locally produced products.

In fact, Starward’s bottled cocktail range, which includes (New) Old Fashioned, Coffee Old Fashioned, and the Whisky Negroni, grew 10 times faster than the premium ready to serve category growth rate.

“Now, more than ever, consumers are looking to purchase delicious, cocktail-bar quality drinks that are conveniently packed to be enjoyed at home,” says Moynihan.

From easy mixers or ready to pour cocktails, producers have introduced both premium and price pointed options in a variety of formats to cater to all types of home bartender.

“Bottled cocktail concepts offer an increased array of choice for consumers. From larger 500-700ml glass bottles to small single shot glass bottles and 150-250ml craft slim line cans,” says Melis.

Lyon believes consumers are seeking quality over quantity when it comes to cocktails at home, but larger formats are also gaining traction as consumers still want more value for money.

“They would rather have one or two good quality drinks than low alcohol sugary versions of old. Consumers have become savvy and have access to far better choices so taste and quality are driving purchasing decisions,” Lyon said.

Convenience is another driver, as is sustainability. Sophisticated Cocktail Co sought to create an environmentally responsible product for these consumers, packaging its cocktails in AstraPouch stand up pouches, made using recycled materials with an 80 per cent lower carbon footprint than their glass bottle equivalent.

“Sustainability and eco-conscious consumers are looking for ways they can reduce waste and look for packaging solutions that make their choices more conscious,” Lyon said.

New twists on old favourites

Despite restrictions easing across most of the country, many customers still enjoy at-home socialising and dining experiences, but often shy away from cocktails.

A study* commissioned by Southtrade International found 60 per cent of consumers enjoy cocktails at home, however, many won’t make them because they are too much hassle (64 per cent) or because of lack of confidence (25 per cent). Despite this, 46 per cent of consumers that currently make cocktails at home found a pre-batched solution to be ‘appealing’.

Moynihan says the strongest performing cocktails typically tend to be the classics that consumers are most familiar with.

“Each year, Drinks International ask their top 100 global bars to rank their best-selling classic cocktails. In 2022, the Negroni and Old Fashioned cocktails were ranked number one and two. Our bottled cocktails range puts a fun twist on these classics, and as a result,
all three are growing dynamically,” he said.

Starward’s range also continues to make an impact on the world stage, taking out a range of awards at the World Premix Awards in London.

According to Jarrad Bell, Co-founder of cocktail mixer brand, Mr. Consistent, there are three main considerations that influence a consumer’s decision-making process: quality and taste, price point, and convenience. He says the price point of the bottled cocktail
market has definitely increased, but it’s due to brands committing to more quality ingredients.

“Using fruit from a farm versus concentrate or flavours is mainly the cause, it’s all been great timing with the target audience wanting to be more conscious of what they are actually drinking and being okay parting with slightly more dollars for a better experience,” Bell said.

Mr. Consistent uses fruit from a local Queensland farm for its range of cocktails which includes Margarita, Cosmopolitan, Sours, Espresso Martini, and more, as well as a canned seltzer cocktail mixer range.

“Trust comes from the brand. If you do the classics really well, they’ll trust your originals,” Bell said.

Meanwhile, Batched Premium Cocktails has a 725ml bottled range, with four traditional cocktail flavours that create theatre and engagement simply by ‘shaking and pouring’, which Melis says it “is generating huge excitement with consumers.”

While Sophisticated Cocktail Co has witnessed a major resurgence of the Pornstar Martini, Margarita remains the top seller. In fact, its latest release is a Margarita made in collaboration with Sydney-based cocktail bar, Corretto Dee Why, which Lyon describes as a “Tommy’s Margarita infused with strawberry gum and pandan leaves.”

“People are in love with the drink and premium tequilas, it’s the new gin!”

Read the rest of this feature, including tips on increasing trial of these products, in the August issue of National Liquor News.

The Shout Team

The leading online news service for Australia's beer, wine, spirits and hospitality industries.

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