Put down the salt and the lemon slice. Forget about the worm at the bottom of the bottle. It's time for tequila but there's no room for shot glasses in this new wave.

 

If you have any doubt about that above statement, consider that tequila is now the second fastest category growing in the on-trade, up seven per cent in sales compared to 2015.

This is being driven by more premium brands - drunk in any way but a slammer...

 

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"Across all categories people are starting to drink less but consume more premium products and tequila is no exception to that," says Natalia Garcia, brand manager for Casamigos Tequila and La Fee at Cellar Trends.

"UK drinkers have only recently been exposed to premium tequilas – predominantly the category is still associated with late night parties and shots - and so we need to educate them at a category level, explaining to them the origins of tequila, the different varieties and why they should try sipping tequilas like our Casamigos brand (famously owned by none other than George Clooney)."

Try serving more expensive tequilas on the rocks in a tumbler and challenge your customers to try something different, offering them a sipping tequila instead of a malt whisky, brandy or Cognac, she suggests.

 

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Craft tequila
It's similar advice from posh tequila Patrón, which is pushing its artisan credentials to introduce serves such as Patrón & tonic, as a replacement G&T, and from Pernod Ricard, which is highlighting the craft cues of its newest tequila – Olmeca Altos Añejo.

"Añejo is exclusively created using an artisanal production process at Altos's own distillery," explains Adam Boita, head of marketing at the company.

"It's a 100 per cent blue agave tequila, made from handpicked plants which are cooked at a low temperature and crushed using a traditional 500-year-old method involving a volcanic millstone." It is then aged in oak barrels for 18-months.

Boita says this process creates a spirit with "distinguished fresh citrus aromas as well as sweet and fruity flavours," which makes it perfect, not just for sipping, but also in cocktails – a shrewd move given that one in six cocktails sold in the UK on-trade are tequila based, according to the latest CGA Strategy Mixed Drinks Report.

The report also found that the tequila-based Margarita cocktail was the seventh most popular in pubs, bars and restaurants, "meaning tequila cocktails should hold pride of place on any cocktail menu," advises the spirits trading manager at Molson Coors, David Styring.

 

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Mexican it up
Funkin, the cocktail mixer brand, has been quick to capitalise on this movement, last month launching two new cocktail syrups, Smoke and Jalapeño.

"The syrups were developed in response to on-trade demand for complex cocktails inspired by food trends," says Funkin MD Andrew King.

These trends include the rise in what Andrew refers to as the "Mexican fusion food revolution" and the demand for spicier flavours that is now emerging, both trends that pubs can easily capitalise on.

"To keep pace with evolving consumer trends we suggest publicans provide an experience such as a celebration of all things Mexican by hosting live music and offering different serves to educate and inspire consumers," suggests Michelle Chadwick brand manager of Tequila Rose at Halewood International.

And, with spirit and food matching increasingly popular, "publicans should try pairing tequila with food to extend the occasion from the bar into restaurants, for example," she adds.

To achieve any of this, of course, you are going to have to offer more than one bog standard tequila, a challenge for any licensee when space on the back bar is at such a premium, something Dan Bolton, managing director at Hi-Spirits, freely admits.

"Space on the back bar is a perennial challenge but the key to growth of any spirits category is support by the brand owners, along with staff knowledge at point of sale...and range planning is key," he says.

"We offer Montezuma Silver and Gold as a house pour; Monte Alban Mezcal with the agave worm in the bottle as a speciality, and the premium Expresiones del Corazón range of tequilas aged in bourbon barrels to give each a different character. Displaying that type of choice creates a talking point that helps operators engage with their customers."

And it's a talking point that can be far more profitable than those slammers.

 

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Four simple drinks to make you re-think tequila:

  1. Tequila & tonic (garnish with lime)
  2. Paloma (tequila, topped up with a sparkling grapefruit juice, such as Ting)
  3. Tequila & lemonade (squeeze in some lime juice to finish)
  4. Tequila Rose Hard Shake (blend 150ml Tequila Rose liqueur with one scoop strawberry ice-cream, 75ml cream, 15ml milk and 25ml Strawberry puree

 

Check out some other spirits trends in our category report.