Features

Redefining tipples

10 Nov 2020 by Anithya Balachandran
Safe drinking

In the last seven months, our tipple tales have transitioned from Saturday night bar crawls to in-house drinks with friends on Zoom; and now to a more conscious outdoor experience in this Unlock phase. It is interesting to note how the F&B industry in India that is undergoing a drastic change, is managing to keep our spirits high (literally and metaphorically) through constant innovations — hence proving that “necessity is truly the mother of invention”.

The introduction of alcohol subscription services revamped products, enhanced home delivery, unique packaging, and ancillary activities to complement the vibe of “drinking from home”, clearly signal the onset of a new era in alcohol consumption across the country.

Consumption pattern 

The pandemic has brought a dramatic shift in the consumption behaviour and patterns of people. Sommelier Nikhil Agarwal, chief executive officer, All Things Nice, a luxury, wine and spirits consulting and marketing agency says, “I think people are drinking more often but less. They are drinking better quality and in general there is a bigger emphasis on knowing more about what they drink. I also see people who are not affected financially by the pandemic (yes, they exist in manifold) are upping spends on the quality wines and spirits since they cannot go out.”

Chaitanya Rathi, chief operating officer, Sula Vineyards also believes that it is “quality over quantity” for consumers now. He explains that the switch to at-home consumption will be both a medium- and a long-term trend. Elaborating on the evolving concept of wine consumption, Rathi says, “Home delivery of wines has updated the alcohol buying experience. Women especially find it convenient to order their favourite bottle of wine from the comfort and safety of their home and not jostle for space in a cramped liquor shop.”

Overall, the pandemic, as Nitesh Chhapru, vice president, Marketing and Business Innovation at Diageo puts it, is fuelling underlying consumer trends like — drinks not just on-the-house but also in-the-house; socialising that seamlessly fits into a spontaneous and an active lifestyle; Made in India pride and increasing social and ethical consciousness.

virtual meeting

High on demand

While delving into the categories of spirits and beverages that are gaining popularity, I was convinced that gin is definitely on a rise — primarily due to the herbs and botanicals that go into its making; and also because it feeds well into the cocktail culture which is thriving in India at present.

Talking about the cocktail trend, Apurav Bhatia, head mixologist at Copitas, Four Seasons Hotel Bengaluru says, “There has been a resurgence in cocktails as opposed to straight drinks. Artisanal cocktails and classics have been trending and there is more of a demand for white spirits like gin, vodka and also tequila which was relegated as a shooter drink, earlier.”

High quality craft beers are also developing a loyal fan base as consumers, especially millennials, are looking for a more elevated drinking experience. Craft beers feature select ingredients and each batch varies slightly from the other because the entire brewing process is manual in nature. Where craft beers are brewed keeping in mind the varied palates, mass-produced beers are monotone in flavour, thereby making the former a clear choice for those wanting to break free from run-of-the-mill offerings.

According to Agarwal, although Scotch whiskies are evergreen, other whiskies like Bourbons of the United States and single malts from India are gaining traction currently.

What’s trending?

The alcohol beverage sector in the country is setting various new trends, to not just stay afloat but also encourage and support new developments in the spirits segment.

Home delivery: Since the beginning of the lockdown, the facility of  “liquor on your doorsteps” has played a key role in bridging the gap between the F&B sector and customers. Brands like Grover Zampa    Vineyards  are further expanding their reach by partnering with platforms like Hip Bar and Beer Box for smooth home delivery of their products. High-end grocery stores like Nature’s Basket also offer their international and Indian selection of wine for home-delivery.

Ready to drink: Ready to drink (RTD) beverage is becoming popular among youngsters due to easy home-delivery and convenience. In February this year, Sula Vineyards launched Dia Wine Sparkler in flavours of red and white wine, packed in attractive cans . The drink needs no corkscrews or swirling.

If an icy refreshing cocktail is on your mind right now, then pre-mixers delivered by restaurants may tempt you. The Mumbai-based Masque is dispatching mixers for its celebrated cocktails including the signature Terra. Add your favourite gin or vodka to it, and voila! You are all set for a happy weekend.

Packaging: Creative and sustainable packaging are on top priority for brands now. A case in point is Diageo that made a hip-flask packaging format for Scotch whisky, with the campaign Scotch – Just Got Hip. “This innovative format makes Scotch whisky more accessible and relevant for today‘s spontaneous and casual socialising occasions,” says Chhapru.

 Extending its contribution towards an eco-conscious environment, Diageo announced the creation of a 100 per cent plastic free paper-based spirits bottle. Made entirely from sustainably sourced wood, the bottle will debut with Johnnie Walker in early 2021.

Empathetic approach: In the midst of adapting to the new normal and revolutionising their business model, many alcohol manufacturing companies are focusing on ways to support several causes and segments. Pernod Ricard India collaborated with the National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI), to pledge support of 14 million for the welfare of distressed employees of NRAI Members’ restaurants.

Furthermore, the beverage company provided financial assistance to boost healthcare facilities and also offered sanitisers and face masks to truck drivers.

drinking outdoors

Future of drinking outdoors 

With restrictions easing across the states, people can be seen venturing out cautiously to enjoy a drink or two at restaurants and bars nearby. This indicates that people aren’t skeptical to move out for recreation, but are more alert about their choices now.

Pankil Shah, director and co-founder, Neighbourhood Hospitality that owns the popular Woodside Inn brand says, “I believe that one thing people have missed over the months of the lockdown is human interaction. Bars and restaurants provide the background for this basic human need. A drink with friends and family is as much a celebratory affair as it is a way to drown your sorrows. If anything, restaurants and bars that can provide a healthy balance of this hospitality along with proper safety and security protocols in place will be even more in demand now.”

As Shah rightly mentioned, an outlet that assures heightened standards of sanitisation and hygiene will be instrumental in normalising the act of going out, again.

At Copitas, every used table is sanitised after use and left unused for two hours before the next guest arrives. The customers are offered sanitisers and envelopes to keep their mask upon arrival and bar snacks used for sharing have been discontinued.

Grover Zampa Vineyards is ensuring privacy and social distancing in their spacious indoor, outdoor seating, and lawn area. Their lounges are sanitised every hour. Wine tasting sessions with the in-house sommelier are also being conducted at their Cave De La Reserve space with safe practices in place.

Likewise, popular hospitality establishment Impresario Handmade Restaurants has rolled out several new safety measures across its labels including SOCIAL, Salt Water Café, Smoke House Deli, Slink & Bardot and Ishaara.

Riyaaz Amlani, chief executive officer and managing director, Impresario Handmade Restaurants elaborates, “All our staff members and bartenders wear safety gears and practice high levels of sanitisation. To avoid crowding, serving drinks at the bar has been prohibited. We will only be serving drinks to our patrons on their tables.”

In addition, to get loyal customers back to their outposts across the country, SOCIAL has launched a pan-India bar campaign called #ThatOnePerson. “With this campaign, we are inviting our fans to reunite with their best friend offline at their neighbourhood SOCIAL and celebrate responsibly by offering their first drink together on the house,” adds Amlani.

DIY Cocktail:

Try out the Curcuma cocktail, where the hero ingredient is immunity boosting turmeric:

Serves: 1

Ingredients 

Gin: 60ml

Turmeric Syrup: 15ml

Fresh Lemon Juice: 20ml

Tonic Water

Method 

  • Add the gin, turmeric syrup and fresh lemon juice to a cocktail shaker with ice.
  • Shake vigorously for about 30 seconds.
  • Strain mixture into highball glasses filled 2/3 of the way with ice.
  • Top up with Tonic. Garnish with a lemon wedge.

For turmeric syrup

Fresh Turmeric Powder: 20g

Organic Honey: 75ml

Hot Water: 100ml

Method – Add in turmeric and honey in hot water and stir well.

-Recipe by Apurav Bhatia, Four Seasons Hotel Bengaluru

 

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