This was a clear indicator of a trend, of a new age drinker with a more evolved palate, thirsty for more interesting options to top up his spirit, and hence an opportunity for products that enhance the home drinking occasion.
Unfortunately with the restrictions of lockdown in the past year and a half, people have had to stay indoors in the comfort of their homes. This led to people coming up with unique ways to create experiences within. The trend of ‘at home party’ is one such experience.
With some cities still on night curfews, and others possibly following suit, home parties are bound to be the flavour of the season especially until the Covid situation subsides. People are now socializing with smaller groups of friends and family at home giving them a more premium experience. People have been serving premium spirits but unfortunately, there was a dearth of mixers with which they could create good quality ‘Bar cocktails’ with. And while adding carbonated sodas to drinks is the preferred choice for many, organic mixers with natural and unique flavours are now growing in popularity.
Cocktail mixers or Tonic water is however not a new connotation in India. Back in the 19th century in India, the British had prescribed an unpalatable medicine called quinine to the Indian army to help them fight malaria. But given the bitter taste of the powder, the soldiers started mixing it with soda, water and sugar. And that’s how Indian tonic water was invented. Over time, some soldiers decided to start adding a nip of gin or whiskey to the mix, giving rise to the trend of flavoured mixers, which until now was mostly restricted to bars and restaurants.
Bringing Bar Home
“The past two years have been very exciting for the cocktail mixer space in India. Entrepreneurs have come up with unique drinks and mixers that compliment spirits and help people create cocktails that you would have at bars. Companies have been able to leverage the D2C ecosystem to bring these mixers closer to consumers at home. This has also played a pivotal role in improving the ‘at home party’ experience,” Angad Soni, Founder of Sepoy & Co. commented.
Premium botanical mixers and drinks company, Sepoy have seen a 5X increase in sales during the pandemic when it started in March 2020. The company was able to provide the mixers to consumers via their website and marketplace like Amazon. According to Soni, consumers did not stop drinking during the pandemic but rather started drinking better. “They wanted bar like cocktail experiences and we are happy we could give our consumers high-quality mixers to enjoy their spirits with,” he said.
While cocktails have seen an increasing interest and demand at bars over recent years, their home consumption has been muted, as recreating complex recipes at home was a cumbersome task for most. Also, there was a weariness set in with the mixer options consumers had at hand, limited to sugary colas, juices and soda.
Ankur Bhatia, Founder and CEO of Jimmy’s Cocktails feels that as consumers migrate to premium spirits, there is also a desire to upgrade the mixers that complement them. This latent demand is why consumers have been quick to try and embrace homegrown mixer brands that have burgeoned in recent years.
“The variety of cocktail mixers available now are giving consumers a wider playground, and the ability to pour some exotic concoctions at home without the hassle of gathering multiple ingredients, purchasing special bartending equipment or the need for mixology skills. Social gatherings centred around enjoying gourmet cocktails will be a trendsetter in the near future,” Bhatia stated.
While the company took its first steps into retail in early 2020, the retail business environment was plagued by the pandemic. However, Jimmy’s Cocktails took the opportunity to accelerate its D2C operations and initiated online orders through their website and a few other popular 3rd party platforms. “The enthusiastic response we received for our products forced us to scale our supply and set up a larger manufacturing facility mid pandemic,” Bhatia commented.
This was a clear indicator of a trend, of a new age drinker with a more evolved palate, thirsty for more interesting options to top up his spirit, and hence an opportunity for products that enhance the home drinking occasion. In less than a year, Jimmy’s has served over 1 million cocktails across India and scaled its presence to 2500 retail outlets and achieved 20x growth in revenue. The online sales channel, comprising primarily of the website have allowed the company to deliver Jimmy’s to over 400 cities in the past year.
New scope of expansion for companies
Svami Drinks has recently launched a range of non-alcoholic ready-to-drink beverages as an alternative to spirits. The first three products in this line are non-alcoholic Rum & Cola, non-alcoholic Gin & Tonic and the non-alcoholic Pink Gin & Tonic. “We have created a range of mixers to elevate the daily drinking experience of our consumers. As for our non-alcoholic ready-to-drink beverages, we have always believed that you do not necessarily need to have alcohol in a drink to make it complex and enjoyable and that’s what we have created with this new range,” said Aneesh Bhasin, co-founder, Svami Drinks.
With stay-at-home orders being extended across the country and no sign of bars coming back soon, cocktail-loving Indians will have plenty of time to refine their techniques and enjoy the fruits of that labour.