Pre-Mixed Cocktails: Ready when you are

Pre-mixed cocktails are rapidly shucking off the stigma that linked them with the sugary confections of yesteryear. Angel Brown reports


PRE-MIXED COCKTAILS are a world away from the tacky alcopop which teenagers in the 90s went crazy for – probably because of their familiar sweet flavour and bright cartoon-like packaging. With a booming cocktail scene and increased consumer knowledge, pre-mixed cocktails are injecting new life into the ready-to-drink category.

While still in their infancy, pre-mixed cocktails are forging their own path, leaving the door wide open for brands who want to tap into the market. Selina Raggett, brand ambassador for the Handmade Cocktail Company said: “The opportunity in pre-mixed drinks is huge. They were a big trend in 2018 in the UK and globally, and the category is continuing to grow. We have seen a change in the way people perceive pre-mixed drinks, as they become aware that there is more to the category than sugary alcopops. Many of the world’s best bars have been pre-mixing their cocktails for speed and efficiency during a busy service. Consumers now understand that pre-mixed cocktails can be delicious and high quality.”

Thanks to demand the category is big business. In a significant move, US-based Constellation Brands seized the pre-mixed opportunity in 2015 by acquiring a stake in Crafthouse Cocktails founded by bartender Charles Joly.


In the UK decreasing staff levels and busier venues are just a couple of the issues the drinks industry faces which play into the hands of pre-mixed cocktails. Figures released by the human resources body CIPD show the number of non-UK-born workers decreased by 58,000 between April to June in 2018 compared with an increase of 263,000 in the 12 months to June 2017. These figures heavily affect the hospitality industry.

Pritesh Mody, founder of the World of Zing, thinks pre-mixed cocktails have a part to play in helping venues with poor staffing levels: “There aren’t enough bartenders to go around. There is a shortage of staff and that is growing particularly due to Brexit [in the UK]. It is well documented that food service is suffering massively. In this calendar year we will deliver over half a million serves. Casual dining for us is massive – it can be little groups of three or four restaurants but also premium pubs and hotel bars.”

In addition to these issues, some venues can’t implement the required training, necessary equipment or simply don’t have the space for cocktail making. Ryan Chetiyawardana, owner of Mr Lyan bottled cocktails, said: “Our bottled cocktails are exploring something that can’t be mixed on the spot as a complement to the classic version. We’ve helped friends’ venues with serving them but that is usually in settings where the space is tight, such as a restaurant bar, or in spaces where they want something unusual to offer as part of the mix.”

With more venues turning to pre-mixed cocktails, could the stigma now be behind us? Piotr Jedrzejewski, from Aske Stephenson bottled cocktails, sees pre-mixed as a solution that’s embraced: “As an industry we have recently woken up to the idea that a cocktail does not have to be prepared in house. The growing numbers of customers who don’t only expect cocktail options but also know the standard, make it more and more important to have a solid cocktail offering even in a family restaurant or burger joint. The same applies to boutique hotels and minibars. As long as cost-per-serve allows the business to charge a reasonable price and make a desired GP, it’s a no-brainer.”


With pre-mixed cocktails no longer considered ‘lazy bartending’, the category is instead innovating and providing solutions for the industry. But it’s not just the on-trade that is embracing the change – perception in the off-trade has shifted too. Consumers are not concerned about their cocktail being out of a bottle or can, as long as the quality and drinking experience is there.

Jen Draper, marketing director at Global Brands, said: “Global Brands completed research of some 1,000 people aged 18-plus and found consumers value the serving experience, with excellent service a key part of what they consider the perfect drink. Whether served in a bottle or a can, the drinking experience is as important as the drink itself, as consumers look to share their evening and drinks on Instagram.”

With the theatre around cocktails being just as important as the liquid itself, venues have free rein to serve pre-mixed cocktails in a fun way, just as if they had made them themselves.

Mody has had positive feedback when it comes to consumers grasping the category. “Our clients’ consumers haven’t questioned where the cocktail comes from across any category. I launched this company four years ago and last year is when it really kicked off for us and we’ve not had a single client in that time who has come back to us and said ‘our customers don’t get it’. Our clients actually make a point of showcasing that it’s pre-batched through nice glasswear or bottles, even barrels on the bar.”

The Old Fashioned was named number one for the fifth year running in our World’s Bestselling Classics list, closely followed by the Negroni. Classic cocktails such as these are staples of the industry and will always have a place in the hearts of bartenders, but it seems they could now be becoming mainstream enough for consumers too.

Handmade Cocktail’s Raggett says: “As consumers are becoming more and more educated about what they eat and drink, the amount of history that has gone into the creation of these drinks will really allow them to feel they understand cocktail culture.”

Classic cocktails have the authenticity and history consumers increasingly look for and with the convenience of pre-mixed cocktails consumers can enjoy more complex varieties.

Pamela Jean Noble, marketing manager at Blue Marble Cocktails, thinks this is the perfect mix: “People love mixologist-created drinks, but don’t want to deal with finding and buying all of the ingredients, or attempt to replicate a true cocktail.”

While there is no doubt that pre-mixed cocktails can provide quality, authenticity and convenience for the shopper, they are still classed as part of the wider ready-to-drink sector, which has some big players. In Diageo’s annual report 2018, its ready-to-drink offering, which represents 6% of its net sales, had 4% growth driven by good performance in North America and Europe. Overall world RTDs/high-strength pre-mixes have increased by 5% from 2012-2017, according to Euromonitor International. The overall category may have only increased by small increments, but growth is growth. If pre-mixed cocktails continue to win over the consumer, they could soon be leading the category forward in a better direction.

So where can we expect to see pre-mixed cocktail in the next five to 10 years? Jedrzejewski says: “Considering the trends and tendencies I believe bottled cocktails will be an integral part of any good supermarket’s drinks section, both as single-serve low abv and multi-serve strong drinks and will most likely become as usual as pink gin or flavoured vodka in less than a decade.” While pre-mixed cocktails might not have reached full potential yet, the future’s bright.