Tonics & Mixers: Flavours bring light to the dark

Tonic and mixer producers have done a stellar job of keeping up with the evolution of the premium spirits market and, in particular, gin. The category now has a number of premium players and

many products have been tailored to specifically match their alcoholic counterparts.

There are now plenty of tonics designed to give some added zing to a G&T and producers have been moving on to advance the category further.

Key producer Fever-Tree recently announcing that its growth in the UK has started to slow, many have been asking whether the UK is perhaps starting to suffer gin fatigue.

In anticipation of this, a number of mixer producers have spent the past few months honing in on dark spirits, hoping to find the perfect pairing for these drinks as the popularity of bourbon and rum grows.

Coca-Cola recently released a range of Signature Mixers in four flavours – Smoky, Spicy, Herbal and Woody – designed specifically to pair with dark spirits. The collection was created with the assistance of leading bartenders and the drinks are packaged in stylish, retro glass bottles.

A UK brand that is also designed to pair with dark spirits – Long Tail mixers – hit the market earlier this year, recently securing a listing with Selfridges. The mixers come in Blood Orange, Island Spice and Ginger Lime flavours and have been created to pair with rum, bourbon and other whiskies.

Co-founder Alex Jollivet says: “[Selfridges] understands the uniqueness of our brand and the movement in the dark spirits market, and jumped on the opportunity to offer consumers something new and exciting.”

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Dark spirits are also on the radar for premium tonic and mixer specialist Fever-Tree.

Fever-Tree has a range for dark spirits and has teamed up with various spirit brands to create “the ultimate dark spirit serves”. It also has flavour wheels for different spirits and mixers.

The tonic sector continues to see NPD and producers are reporting good sales for a number of flavour combinations.

Earlier this year Franklin & Sons, the tonic in Global Brands’ portfolio, launched four premium dual-flavoured tonics: Rosemary & Black Olive, Pink Grapefruit & Bergamot, Rhubarb & Hibiscus and Elderflower & Cucumber.

Marketing director Jen Draper says: “The flavours work in harmony with a range of spirits. For example, the Rhubarb & Hibiscus pairs wonderfully with a spiced gin, or you could diversify a herbaceous gin with the Rosemary & Black Olive tonic.”

The collection has been designed to pair with more than just gin. The tonics can help elevate fortified drinks such as vermouth, port and sherry, according to Draper, who adds: “Franklin & Sons Rosemary & Black Olive tonic water would pair seamlessly with vermouth as the bitterness of the olive beautifully balances the sweeter notes.”

And Raisa de Hass, co-founder of Double Dutch Drinks, says: “We have seen an increased interest in flavoured mixers and the growing popularity of pink gins and flavour innovation in spirits has certainly fuelled this further interest in the flavoured mixer market.

“Our Cucumber & Watermelon is now almost selling as much as our standard Indian tonic, which really shows people are looking for different flavours.” The producer has launched two flavours in the past year – Double Lemon and Ginger Ale.

De Hass adds: “The success of our Ginger Beer naturally led to the development of our own take on Ginger Ale, the perfect mixer for whisky as well as a richly rewarding solo drink.” The drink blends natural ginger with a touch of cardamom.

Lixir Tonic has also added a Ginger Ale.

Coca-Cola European Partners says the ongoing demand for premium spirits is helping to drive the popularity of premium mixers.

Amy Burgess, senior trade communications manager, says: “In 2017, we unveiled the biggest investment in the Schweppes brand in its 234- year history, which has seen the redesign of Schweppes Classic and a £6.6 million marketing campaign for quarter four of 2017.”

Burgess also notes people are becoming more adventurous in this sector.

She says: “This is also being driven by the growing popularity of homemade cocktails and non-alcoholic mocktails. Some are even buying bar equipment and cocktail glassware to recreate a bar atmosphere at home.

“Garnishes and botanicals are also becoming more popular as people look to expand their homemade cocktail range or jazz up a classic mixed drink such as a G&T.

“Retailers should consider a range of premium mixers, such as Schweppes Classic and Coca-Cola original taste, and Appletiser to go alongside their alcohol ranges, so people can stock up on everything they need for their night in all in one go.”

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