The alcohol world is undergoing transformation, subtle and steady...
By: Anand Virmani, Marketing Manager, Indian Sub Continent, Remy Cointreau
Posted on: April 24, 2015
In the high-school of alcohol, wine and beer have long been the prom king and queen – the cool kids that set the trends, have the up-to-date wardrobe and are always talked about by the geeks and jocks alike. The gang of spirits – Whisky, Vodka, Tequila and the lot – have meanwhile established themselves as the bad eggs of the lot. They’re always getting pulled up to the principal’s office for something or the other, landing up in detention, and can’t seem to grow out of the black leather jacket that was cool way back in the day. Spirits have just not been cool.
Over the past five years though, the spirit gang has been plotting its comeback and beating wine and beer at their own game. They’ve brought onto their team a whole new lot of geeks, producers, marketers and communicators to re-write the yearbook. Let’s take a look at five trends that have made the spirit gang from the graduating class of 2015 so very cool.
1. Cheap, sugary, syrupy cocktails like the Mojito from your favourite nightclub go out of the window and are slowly being replaced by proper cocktails made by proper bartenders who use proper ingredients. Fresh fruit, clear ice, hard shakes are the new rules of the game, and long-forgotten cocktails like the Manhattan, the Old Fashioned and even the Whisky Sour are back on everybody’s lips. These vintage cocktails have found their home in the reemerging prohibition-style bars like PCO, Speakeasy, and PDT in Delhi and Mumbai, amongst many others.
2. While wine has always considered itself to be a craft produce, beer has caught up with craft beers of a multitude of flavours and personalities. Craft spirits are only just catching on though, and when I say ‘craft’, I do not mean brands like Hendrick’s gin which can be found now in just about any self-respecting bar and restaurant. To be called a craft spirit, the brand must be independently owned and produce less than 42,000 nine liter cases. Craft spirits have gained momentum simply because of the consumer’s desire for the ‘local’ flavor and a move away from ‘big bad brands’.
3. Gone are the days where a spirit meant a rocks glass was automatically pulled out of the cupboard. Legend has it that the rocks glass is best suited for whisky and other spirits because of its fat, low to the ground structure which ensures that when hands start flying about, your whisky doesn’t. Nowadays you’ve got specialized tasting glasses like the Glencairn and the Louis XIII Pillet glasses made out of Baccarat crystal. Tasting spirits is no longer limited to a quick swig from the flask. Cocktails are also calling for specific glasses, and my favourite has to be the silver cup for the Mint Julep, which frosts up on the outside to show off the rather cool temperature of its contents on a sunny day at the races.
4. Who says one size fits all? When it comes to packaging, beer and wine have not necessarily experimented as much with it as the spirit world has, but they have still managed to come out tops by simply looking better. Spirits, however, are quickly redefining ‘bottle fashion’. The Hendrick’s gin bottle stands out on the gin shelf without having to be “loud” about it. We’ve also got distilleries like Bruichladdich questioning age-old beliefs on the need for a clear bottle. Their revamped Classic Laddie prompts a double-look with its aqua marine blue bottle while the slender black bottle of the Octomore makes for quite a show stopper. I’m not even talking about the actual Whisky itself for the moment.
5. The dinner table has long been the domain of wine, and any spirit and food pairing has been limited to the whisky and kebab combination in India. Over the past few years, however, the Indian palate has become more and more curious and has tried to put two and two together. What has emerged has been a fantastical journey of taste. We know now that the famous Grilled Bombay Sandwich is best accompanied by a VSOP Cognac and that you should carry a bottle of Speyside Single Malt if you’re packing a wedge of Camembert in your picnic basket.
These are only some of the changes we have seen amidst the Spirit crew. If I was wine or beer, I wouldn’t get too comfortable with the prom crown just yet – spirits are well on their way!
A jolly good fellow with a drink or two always on his side, Anand Virmani is currently the Marketing Manager, India Sub Continent for Remy Cointreau. After learning the ropes as the Brand Manager at William Grant & Sons India, Anand imbibed the art and intricacies of the alcohol world by completing Masters of Science in Wine Business from Burgundy School of Business. A WSET Level 3 certification further armed him for the world of hangovers. He has also served as a Consulting Journalist for Harper's Wine & Spirits Online UK. Follow him on Twitter at @AnandVirmani