The scoop on summer drinks
Dust off those “summer scorcher” offers signs - we’re heading into the season of bangers, festivals and picnics.
From sour beer and cloudy cider to canned cocktails and tequila, Laura Foster finds out which drinks will be hot to trot in the coming months.
Tangy and refreshing with an acidic flavour, sour beers are perfect for slaking the thirst in hot weather. Rather than being a particular style in its own right, sour beer is more a group of styles that includes lambic, gueuze and Berliner weisse.
“It’s really nice to see the growth in popularity of sour beers, which lend themselves well to being served really cold,” says Jake Doherty, manager of Bath Road Beers in Cheltenham.
“There’s a big range in styles, from 3.5% Berliner weisses, which are great picnic beers, to big, 10% mango smoothie-style thick things. Sour beers appeal to a much bigger range of drinkers. We’ve got this big palate of flavours with sour beers which are great to offer for non-traditional beer drinkers and win them over.”
The sour beer trend has also started to take off in the big supermarkets, with Tesco listing two of Vault City’s beers last year. The Edinburgh-based sour beer specialist has just launched two exclusive beers for the retailer – Blueberry Maple and Triple Fruited Mango – and announced that its sales have tripled year on year.
“When we first launched in Tesco, we had no idea what to expect,” says Vault City co-founder Steven Smith-Hay.
“We’re focused on making great beer, and the Tesco deal has helped us take huge steps as a brewery. It has introduced lots of people to the world of modern sour beer. The goal with our Tesco SKUs is to make them as accessible as possible – to create something light and refreshing for people who were potentially trying Vault City and sour beer for the first time.”
Forget fruit and pear ciders, this is the age of the apple. And not just any old apple cider, but those that are classed as more traditional and authentic.
Cloudy cider, which gets its cloudy look from not being filtered, falls under this umbrella, and has seen a huge growth in sales over the past two years, up by 95.1% and reaching £77 million in retail sales, according to the Westons Cider Report 2022.
“The long-term trend for drinking less but drinking better continues to reign supreme in the cider category,” says Darryl Hinksman, head of business development at Westons Cider.
“For these discerning cider drinkers, traditional, authentic apple ciders from heritage brands are proving more popular than ever. Brits have developed a refreshing appetite for something new and exciting, resulting in more experimental variants, such as cloudy cider.”
VERMOUTH AND APERITIVO
According to Allen Daly, general manager of Gerry’s Wine & Spirits in central London, we have Aperol to thank for this trend.
“Aperol and Campari are juggernauts right now. We’ve been selling Aperol for as long as I can remember, and it used to be Italians that we sold it to. But the British palate seems to have moved away from the sweet and sticky stuff to slightly more bitter flavours.”
As a result, Daly says, Gerry’s has seen a big growth in sales of vermouths and aperitivos: “Lots of our customers now are drinking vermouth Spanish-style, over ice and with a slice of orange. That’s the way we’re recommending people to drink it now, because it’s great in the summer.”
The RTD category has undergone a revolution in the past two years. A combination of consumers wanting to recreate bar-quality cocktail experiences in the home during lockdowns, and new, quality players coming to the market have created the perfect conditions for things to take off.
“RTDs are driving real excitement for consumers with a shift towards more sophisticated drinks and higher abv, with 45% growth of sales year on year,” says Johna Penman, UK trade & consumer marketing director for Ian Macleod Distillers, which owns Edinburgh Gin.
One of the big success stories of the movement is Moth, a canned cocktail company that launched last February. It first bagged a listing with Waitrose, and has just launched in Tesco and Sainsbury’s too – impressive for 15 months of trading.
“For us it’s about making a genuinely high-quality cocktail that’s as accessible as a can of beer and a glass of wine, in a sustainable way, by serving in cans,” says Rob Wallis, co-founder of Moth.
“For a long time, for producers of RTD cans it wasn’t about how high-quality you can make it, it was about how cheap. We said we wouldn’t do that, it was about the quality. We spend a lot of our pocket money on quality spirits.
“There is a sea change happening in RTD and that will mean greater quality for customers in a category that has been so unloved for so long.”
Mexico’s most famous spirit is enjoying a real moment in the UK, with volume sales increasing 36% year on year up to September 2021 (WSTA).
With tequila brands being launched by celebrities such as George Clooney and Rita Ora, awareness of the category has to have increased. Selling tequila isn’t all plain sailing at the moment, however.
“Tequila sales have really increased, but we’re also having stock issues – we’re getting a lot less stock,” says Gerry’s Daly. “We’ve been told for 20 years that there’s an agave shortage, and I think it’s starting to bite.”
Rosé has always been synonymous with summer, but last year really saw a jump in the category, with Sainsbury’s announcing that year-on-year sales were up 26%.
“We think it’s going to be another rosé boom this year,” says Aljoscha Wright, senior buyer at Oxford Wine Co.
“I think it was very much brand-led last year, with lots of new brands. This year we’re going to focus on our own-brand rosé, and those rosés that are exclusive to us, rather than lifestyle brands such as Whispering Angel.”
What are retailers planning to make their summer selections sing this season?
“Our marketing teams are putting together themed mixed cases such as summer sippers, barbecue wines and crisp dry whites, so we will be promoting the summer feeling with our website and online promotional activity.” Aljoscha Wright, senior buyer, Oxford Wine Co
“We’ll be focusing on activities rather than promotions. We’re going to create outside bars and take this place out to people at places like the Cheltenham Literature and Jazz Festivals. We’re talking about doing a beer festival as well.” Jake Doherty, manager, Bath Road Beers
“Generally, window displays are the main way we do it, and in-store tastings. At the front we’ll have a section displaying the things that are selling quickly, which in summer can be aperitif-style drinks.” Allen Daly, general manager, Gerry’s Wine & Spirits