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Liqueurs: Twist the classics
Published:  06 December, 2018

As consumers demand more from their cocktails, Clinton Cawood sees doors opening for liqueurs to make their mark on drinkers’ palates

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IF YOU’RE LOOKING for history, heritage and classic cocktail credentials, the liqueurs category can be just as good a place to look as many other spirit sectors.

On the other hand, if cutting edge and exciting is what you’re after, there’s some pretty cool stuff happening here at the sugary end of the spectrum too, with renewed focus on ingredients and provenance, as well as a keen eye for consumer trends. Compared to just a few years ago, iconic and venerable liqueurs brands now have a number of younger, edgier competitors. It’s a new world out there for these established classics that couldn’t be blamed for having become a little complacent over the decades.

In terms of sales, the overall liqueurs market is beginning to reverse the downward trends of the past few years, and with more promising improvements in value than volume. According to the IWSR, global volumes decreased by 2.5% CAGR between 2012 and 2017, recovering to just a 0.5% drop between 2016 and 2017. Value, meanwhile, fell 2.9% between 2012 and 2017, yet between 2016 and 2017 sales grew by 2.8%.

So there’s light for liqueurs overall. But can the big players maintain their position in this modern landscape, amid a constant stream of new and lively liqueurs?

COCKTAIL SCENE

Cocktails are arguably more important for the liqueurs category than for most other spirits, and one of the strongest weapons in the arsenals of many classic liqueurs brands is their association with certain classic cocktails.

This is certainly the case for Luxardo Maraschino. “More people are trying cocktails such as the Martinez and the Last Word, in which Luxardo Maraschino is an essential ingredient,” says Luxardo global brand ambassador Gareth Franklin. “The rise in interest in authentic classic cocktails is extending to more and more contemporary style bars too,” he adds.

Similarly, the Amaretto Sour is important for Disaronno, whose on-trade marketing manager at Illva Saronno, Gemma Monaghan, points out that the drink is currently at number two in the Difford’s Guide Top 100 Cocktails. “The Disaronno Sour is the brand’s signature serve, so this is great news,” she says.

Cointreau, meanwhile, has been taking full advantage of the consistent popularity of the Margarita, recently launching a campaign entitled Margarita Loves Cointreau to mark what it reckons is the 70th anniversary of the cocktail. It brought Mexican-themed events to various markets as part of the campaign, with cocktail masterclasses and more. The brand’s Art of the Mix campaign this year extended this association to the many other classics that it’s featured in, complete with an entirely new brand identity.

It doesn’t have to end at classic cocktails though, and a number of big liqueurs brands are making use of classic twists and contemporary cocktails to ensure that they remain relevant and in consumers’ glasses. Grand Marnier, for example, promotes its Grand Collins, a twist on the Tom Collins, and the Grand 75, a riff on the French 75.