For years having a hot alcoholic drink in a pub has come to mean a mulled wine or, more recently, cider. This year, however, hot cocktails are predicted to come up to the boil.
Pernod Ricard's recent Christmas forecast, for example, revealed that one in five people say they tried a hot cocktail last year and the company has earmarked the category for big things during 2019's festive season.
"We believe the rise in hot cocktails is due to the growth of Christmas markets, with mulled wine a staple part of the experience at these events," says James Bremner, on-trade channel director at the company.
"The weather in December is never guaranteed and therefore pubs can capitalise on this upcoming trend by serving hot cocktails consumers can enjoy inside."
Pernod Ricard has created a range of hot serves for its brands such as Havana Club Rum and The Glenlivet whisky and are rolling out branded enamel mugs and urns across the on-trade to help promote them. Hot cocktails need not just be about dark spirits though.
"Traditionally dark spirits work well in hot cocktails, however white spirits overtook dark spirits for the first-time last year due to the increased demand for gin," James says. "This Christmas is likely to be the third in a row dominated by gin and we've developed two really simple gin hot cocktails: The Pink Tingle and the Christingle, made with Beefeater Pink and Beefeater Blood orange, respectively."
As well as rum, whisky and gin, look for spirits that can stand up to bold flavours.
"Some liqueurs work well if they have the right flavours, Our Cazcabel Honey Tequila, is a good example of this," says Chris Hare, brand Manager at Proof Drinks.
"Also remember that you can get a greater depth of flavour from heating liquids from certain spices, which creates flavours that are nearly impossible to create in cold drinks. It is partly this, coupled with the UK's cold weather, that makes hot cocktails so appealing."
Forget the science if you want to however, making hot cocktails need not be complicated, as Tim Garratt, spirits and mixers brand manager at Franklin & Sons explains. "Pubs that don't have a cocktail menu can still tap into the world of hot cocktails," he says.
"Depending on space, venues can invest in a soup kettle that keeps large batches of cocktails warm, to enable quick service. This means they don't necessarily need expert mixologists on hand to create each one individually but they can prepare ahead of time by making a large batch, making the serve quick and easy for those not used to serving cocktails regularly."
If all that sounds like it might decorate your tree this December, then make sure you are letting potential customers know. That means putting hot cocktails on your menus – Pernod Ricard research suggests that 46 per cent of decision making around drinks is made when consumers read a menu, so any hot cocktails you are offering should be promoted as festive serves here.
A-boards outside your pub and signs and posters inside should also showcase your unique Christmas hot cocktail, while social media will also be a powerful tool.
"Our research for Franklin & Sons found that a high percentage of consumers believe it is important for a drink to look 'insta-worthy'," reports Tim. "Generation Z also stated that they are more likely to order a drink that they have seen on a bar's Instagram page, with the perfect drink receiving an average of 74 likes."
Hot cocktails have another promotional advantage over their cold counterparts too – aroma. So, whenever possible lift the lid of your urn or soup kettle and let some of that seasonal scent waft over your customers and even out into the snowy (we wish) streets to tempt in some new ones.
After all, as Tim puts it: "Nothing says Christmas like walking into a pub and being greeted with the aroma of mulled wine, cider or hot punch on a cold evening."