Vital ingredient

Whether savoured alone or enjoyed in a long drink, liqueurs have certainly made remarkable headway in the cocktail world. Christian Davis reports
27 August, 2008
Page 43 
Liqueurs are the "spices of the bar" , the "oils and vinegars" of a bartender. All but gone are the days when a long meal ended with the men breaking out the Cognac or whisky, while the ladies cradled their liqueurs.

These descriptions from Mozart Distillerie president Harald K ÷nig and Bols' master bartender Philip Duff sum up the reincarnation of liqueurs. Where once they were traditional, staid and, with a few exceptions, local , now the names of the game are mixing and cocktails. If a brand is n 't courting bartenders, and getting specified , it 's lacking that vital ingredient it needs for success.

The writing has been on the wall for some time. Euromonitor's last Liqueurs Global Overview stated: "Younger consumers' very weariness with traditional spirits has motivated an energetic search for new brands and flavours, with liqueurs providing a range of unusual tastes. Indeed, the demand for novel products offers producers the opportunity to breathe new life into tired brands by introducing the m to new markets where they are perceived as exotic."

The report cites Pernod Ricard's Amaro Ramazzotti as a liqueur that has suffered in its native Italian market due to being perceived as a traditional Amaro liqueur , while in Germany itáhas performed strongly.

Euromonitor says: "The transition from traditional local products to fashionable, premium-positioned brands provided a significant spur to sector value growth."

Simon Difford, the drinks consultant , publisher and author of the Diffords Guides and the new, definitive Cocktails #7, says: "The rapid development in cocktail culture since the early 90s has led to the development of many new liqueurs, and has given renewed vigour to many old established brands such as Grand Marnier, Cointreau and Chartreuse.

"Prior to this cocktail resurgence, it was the established 'range liqueur' brands such as Bols and De Kuyper that dominated UK bar shelves. As cocktail culture has developed, so has a new breed of bartenders who seek ever more interesting ingredients and bar managers who are prepared to pay a premium price for them, but only if they deliver great tasting drinks."

Difford believes the larger drinks companies have targeted more premium spirits, but have been slow to capitalise on the opportunity created for premium liqueurs. He cites smaller family producers such as TeichennÚ, Cartron, Giffard and Briotte as being quicker to react with the development and launch of new flavours into theáUK market.

"T oday these brands dominate the back bars of the UK's leading cocktail bars. Some relatively new liqueur brands such as PassoŃ and Hpnotiq, which were specifically targeted at the cocktail sector, now appear to be suffering as bartenders seek more 'natural' and 'authentic' flavours," saysáDifford.

"The last two years have seen the launch of high-end specialist liqueurs which are being well received by mixologists. One example that I've been heavily involved with the development and marketing of is St-Germain elderflower liqueur. I'm also very excited about Bols' imminent relaunch of Galliano in its original form, and I'm sure the liqueur sector will see many new products over the course of 2008."

Last year Bols opened the Bartender Academy at its Amsterdam HQ. Nikki Cumming, Bols brand manager for Maxxium UK, says: "Bols seeks partnerships with the most talented bartenders around the world. We are looking for passion, creativity and innovation, and the best way to communicate those qualities is through the people who know and understand our product. By doing this, we further extended support to the growing network of bartenders looking to learn and improve their skills and knowledge."

Andy Gemmell, brands mixology manager for Maxxium UK, believes that: "Liqueurs and cocktails go hand in hand. A good-quality liqueur will always add an extra dimension to a cocktail as well as developing sweetness in the drink."

Philip Duff, master bartender at the new Bols academy, says: "I see the future for range liqueurs as the oils and vinegars of the accomplished bartender and home mixologist. And just as a home cook will always use quality, fresh, natural ingredients, anyone who wants to make truly tasty, classic or modern cocktails has to use a quality liqueur.

"Many cocktail recipes can seem deceptively simple: just three or four ingredients. But, as you can discover in any good bar, it's the attention to detail that separates a good cocktail from a great one. Hard, cold, large ice cubes; decent quality liqueurs and liquor; freshly squeezed juices and fresh herbs; the right technique and a properly sized glass, garnished with an obviously fresh, minimal garnish - that's what dreams are made of! And increasingly, guests won't settle for anything less. They don't have to either, as there's always a bar around the corner that's doing it right," concludes Duff.

UK Bartenders' Guild president Salvatore Calabrese, of central London bar Fifty, said: "When I was young, liqueurs were everything from a restorative in the morning to an aperitif, through to a digestif - if you had a heavy dinner - or something sweet that wasn't a dessert. I remember my mother used to give visitors a Limoncello, and I can think of nothing better than a Brandy Alexander instead of a dessert.

"Liqueurs make a great cocktail. They give colour, taste and flavour - they are the condiment of the bartender."

Calabrese was researching a book on after -dinner drinks in the 90s, and found it depressing that the bartender of a top bar kn ew little about digestifs because he said there was no demand.

K ÷nig acknowledges that Mozart, with its premium chocolate liqueurs, is a small player and quips that he is grateful for budget airlines. "As a niche player, we have to make the most of opportunities. Bartenders are looking for something new and not too obvious. We can fly them in on Rya nair for US$50 and show them around. There is lots of competition from the likes of syrups, flavoured vodkas - all going in theásame direction."

Albert de Heer, international marketing manager at De Kuyper, says that the company has a network of ambassadors and works hard to target talented and up-and-coming bartenders. "It is a changing industry and that seems to be the way forward," he says.

Referring to the acceptance of cocktails around the world, Lewis Johnstone, director of Kobrand, which owns the AlizÚ brand, reckons that the "job is only half done". He claims the AlizÚ brand is "on fire" in countries such as the US, UK, Australia and New Zealand, but emerging markets like the so-called BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) are "at day one" and the company is "standing at the gates". He sees duty -free and travel retail as vital "regional beachheads" to get to new markets.

Melissa Frank, Malibu-Kahl˙a International's global brand director for Kahl˙a, sees the

cocktail culture as being "in early stages of development in some emerging countries". She says key markets poised for growth include Canada, Mexico, Japan, Australia, global duty -free and Europe, as well as additional Asian markets.

Since Pernod Ricard bought Kahl˙a from Allied-Domecq in 2005, the newly established division, Malibu-Kahl˙a International (MKI), has a new strategy for Kahl˙a and has introduced new packaging, new advertising and two new flavours - Kahl˙a French Vanilla and Kahl˙a Hazelnut - to elevate the brand.

Similarly, Alexandra Walter, Tia Maria global brand director, is looking for a more premium positioning for the Jamaican coffee liqueur , after new packaging was unveiled last September.

Lionel Fromont, regional director of global travel retail for MKI across Africa-Middle East, Central and South America and the Nordics, is more forthright. He says Kahl ˙a was too cocooned, relying on being an ingredient in black or white Russian and mudslide cocktails, while Tia Maria has strong loyality among women, particularly in the UK, and again the brand appeal needs to be broadened.

A major priority for him is Malibu, which he says: "Had lost some of its dynamics. It had become too laid back - by the pool, with pineapple, low energy, low vibe." Whereas the new surfboard ads are about being "on the beach, being active and positive - and more Caribbean".

On the overall liqueurs market, he says: "There are a lot of local liqueurs, but the trend is to international brands. Traditional is struggling, whereas modern, including cream liqueurs, is in very good shape. The craze is for flavours and key players are coffee liqueurs."

Claude de Jouvencel, GrandáMarnier's chief operatingáofficer, says 40áperácent of the usage of Grand Marnier in the US comes from cocktails, in particular margarita and cosmopolitan, which have helped to "shift the moment of consumption and recruit a younger consumer base in their late twenties".

More than a year ago, Grand Marnier launched Navan, a Cognac and vanilla-based liqueur, which has been "seeded" in half a dozen markets. This year the company is rolling out its first international advertising campaign for Grand Marnier, called Reflections, and which was launched in Belgium, France, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands and the US last autumn and is being rolled out to other countries this year.

Denis de Groote, managing partner of After, the Belgian coffee liqueur that was launched in 2004 to compete with the likes of Kahl˙a, Tia Maria and, to a lesser extentáBailey s and Amaretto, has identified "adult pleasure seekers, 25 to 55 year s old, predominately female" as After's target consumer.

Frangelico, the Italian hazelnut liqueur infused with cocoa and vanilla

bean, claims to be fast establishing itself as a mainstream cocktail ingredient - particularly in the Americas. With sales currently more than 300,000 cases worldwide, primarily in the US, but alsoástrong in Spain, Australia and Canada, its signature cocktails are nuts & berries and the hazelnut martini.

"The global cocktails scene is a natural foráFrangelico", sa ys C&C International's marketing manager Kevin Abrook, "and the USámarket is proving particularly dynamic for theábrand. "

The cocktail sector is fast and furious, and not for the faint -hearted. For most liqueurs, certainly those with ambition , the route out of tedium and the road to success is via bartenders. These guys are the king makers, the necessary ingredient to oil the wheels to success.
----=== Fact file ===Liqueurs represent 3 per cent of global spirits, but there has been 3 per cent category growth over the past five years (nine-litre cases, compound annual growth rate, IWSR).

North America and Europe represent 84 per cent of international liqueur sales in the world. Duty -free accounts for 5 per cent.

Malibu and Bailey s are outpacing other international liqueur brands, and Malibu claims to be the second -largest liqueur brand in the world; but white mixable spirits is a "much larger source of business for the Malibu brand", according to Malibu-Kahl˙a International (MKI).

In travel retail, international liqueurs are the third -largest category with a 12 per cent share. Diageo has 23 per cent , thanks to Baileys. Pernod Ricard is second with 22 per cent global market share, and Kahl ˙a and Malibu are the second and third-largest brands . Malibu outperforms the category overall, according to Malibu-Kahl˙a International.
== Liqueur ==

The word liqueur comes from the Latin word liquifacere, which means "to dissolve". This refers to the dissolving of the flavourings used toámake the liqueur. == Cocktail guide ==

Among the "14 key ingredients" that "make more than 450 cocktails" in the Diffords Guide to Cocktails #7 are four liqueurs: Cointreau, a coffee liqueur, Grand Marnier and a rich berry liqueur.