Premium tonics – just what the gin industry ordered
Whether it’s a combination of grapefruit and rosemary, bitter orange and elderflower or even rhubarb and hibiscus, there has never been such a wide choice of flavoured tonics and premium mixers to give gin drinkers something to salivate over.
With the industry riding a sales boom, partly thanks to the new varieties of premium mixers on offer, the Director General of the Gin Guild Nicholas Cook says mixologists and bartenders are being spurred into trying new and exciting combinations to whet even the most discerning gin connoisseur’s appetite.
“There’s never been such an exciting time for both producers and consumers, with a plethora of new craft gin varieties and mixer flavours now available. It is clear that premium mixers have played a large part in driving sales – and there’s no sign of this abating.”
Tonic water still tops the mixer leader board, with dozens of different alternatives to the traditional quinine-flavour now available. Around 70% of gin drinks are served with tonic water, according to data analyst Kantar, which also reported a 27% growth in the on-trade last year.
Ounal Bailey, Co-Founder of The London Essence Company, says: The introduction of new brands has opened up a world of enjoyable experimentation for consumers, whilst offering existing brands healthy competition to spur them on and create new and better offerings.
“It’s these new offerings, and interesting flavour combinations, such as our Grapefruit and Rosemary, Bitter Orange and Elderflower, plus Pomelo and Pink Pepper tonics, which have made gin more versatile and accessible to a wider audience.
“We are also finding that these adventurous gin drinkers are equally keen to branch out beyond G&T into Gin and Ginger Ale, or even into our crafted sodas, such as White Peach and Jasmine, for a less bitter finish.”
Rosie Crossman, Brand Manager at Franklin & Sons, says consumers are interested in trying new flavours that improve the overall experience. Their Franklin & Sons Flavour Collection comes in four unique flavours, Rosemary with Black Olive, Pink Grapefruit with Bergamot, Rhubarb with Hibiscus and Elderflower with Cucumber.
She says: “Consumers want to become everyday connoisseurs, improving their knowledge on the brands they drink, from ingredients and flavour pairings to the brand history and heritage. Being able to take their learnings back to friends and family gives the consumer satisfaction as they become known as the discoverer of new tastes and trends within their group.”
Craig Harper, Regional and National On-Trade Sales Manager for Fever-Tree, which offers flavours such as Mediterranean, Elderflower and Aromatic, adds:
If tonic was still in the sorry state it used to be in we wouldn’t be able to taste the flavour and quality of the fantastic gins out there. Now many people will only mix their favourite gin with a premium tonic that really complements or brings out the flavours they love about that gin. Putting quality back into the mixer category has premiumised the whole drinking experience.”
Gareth Jones, UK Spirit Brand Engagement Ambassador for Schweppes, says: “I think to some extent, tonic has been the underdog to the gin itself. However, with the increase in flavours and premium offerings, it’s becoming increasingly important.
“Our Schweppes 1783 range of naturally flavoured premium mixers gives people the option to create serves through different combinations of tonics to elevate their spirit.
“For example, Schweppes 1783 Cucumber Tonic Water adds aroma and a subtle cucumber flavour without overpowering the drink. Our Schweppes 1783 Salty Lemon Tonic Water is not afraid to push boundaries, merging salty and citrusy notes. The aim is to add variation through our flavoured tonic waters but still champion the spirit it is mixed with.”
“There is a whole world of wonderful, premium craft gins out there, so why drown them all with the same tonic?” asks Jason Sennitt, Global Brand Director, Merchant’s Heart. “People want to taste the subtle, nuanced flavours of their chosen gin, even after they’ve added the tonic. They have become increasingly demanding when it comes to their choice of gin, and we are now seeing their attention turn to the other key part of the equation – the tonic”.
“We designed the Merchant’s Heart range – which includes Hibiscus, Pink Peppercorn and Floral Aromatic tonics – to enhance the flavour of the gin they’re paired with, rather than mask it. They have powerful flavours at the start and on the finish, through the middle they mellow out to allow the full flavour of the gin to shine through. It’s what we call a ‘hollow centre’, and why we call them ‘spirit enhancers’. The gin is still the star, and you can either highlight those flavours or add in new ones to create something even better.”
While the classic tonic looks set to remain a firm favourite for gin lovers, there is undoubtedly a move towards offering extra excitement to gin drinkers’ palates.
As Nicholas Cook adds: It’s such an interesting and innovative time for the industry right now, with new inventions and concoctions being served up daily.
“Who would have thought that rhubarb would become de rigueur and a must have ingredient for the Instagram generation, keen to savour the experience, long after the taste has faded away?”
The introduction of new brands has opened up a world of enjoyable experimentation for consumers, whilst offering existing brands healthy competition to spur them on and create new and better offerings.
It’s such an interesting and innovative time for the industry right now, with new inventions and concoctions being served up daily.