Cordial Kaleidescope: With Sales Skyrocketing , Cordials Are Defining Today’s Cocktail Culture

Posted on | February 1, 2007   Bookmark and Share
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Chris Anderson documented in his book The Long Tail (2006) that mass culture is on the wane, being replaced by customized or niche products that scatter the consumer’s attention. He wrote, “The era of one-size-fits-all is ending, and in its place is something new, a market of multitudes.” DeKuyper Pucker, Jägermeister, Southern Comfort, Baileys Irish Cream and Kahlúa sold more than 1 million cases each in 2005, and these make up the “head” of the cordials market. The remaining hundreds of cordials brands sold fewer than 600,000 cases each and make up the “long tail” – a huge niche of cordials that can be mixed into almost infinite cocktail combinations.

The Head of the Class

DeKuyper’s Pucker sold nearly 2.8 million cases in 2005. It is well-positioned: consumers were ready for a cocktail to follow the Cosmopolitan, and they found it in the Appletini. Amy Underwood, Pucker brand manager, commented, “We discovered that people love driving cordials on-premise – they love colored martinis.”

Pucker focused on promoting consumer education with the “Bump it up” campaign. Pucker launched two new flavors in 2006: Strawberry Passion and Berry Fusion. New flavors will be rolled out in 2007. “Flavor continues to be key” to growing the brand, said Underwood.

Jägermeister experienced an eye-popping 27.8% growth to 2.3 million cases. This wasn’t a fluke, explained Amanda Lechner, brand marketing manager. “Since 1999, the momentum has been strong, so the 27.8% increase has been in the making for many years.” She credits the growth to smart integrated programs, such as the Jägerette program, the Jägermeister Music Tour, Bus Program, and National Hot Rod Association sponsorship. Each builds product momentum.

Jägermeister isn’t typically mixed in cocktails, but that has not stopped the brand from finding innovative uses beyond shots. Two very popular ways of enjoying the product include the Jäger Bomb (Jägermeister mixed with an energy drink, such as Red Bull) and the Jägermeister on Tap Machine, which pours sludgy Jägermeister at a temperature below freezing. Customers love it, and sales are skyrocketing.

The Head of the Class

DeKuyper’s Pucker sold nearly 2.8 million cases in 2005. It is well-positioned: consumers were ready for a cocktail to follow the Cosmopolitan, and they found it in the Appletini. Amy Underwood, Pucker brand manager, commented, “We discovered that people love driving cordials on-premise – they love colored martinis.”

But Pucker realized that off-premise sales were less than inspiring, so it is focusing on promoting consumer education with the “Bump it up” campaign. Pucker launched two new flavors in 2006: Strawberry Passion and Berry Fusion. New flavors will be rolled out in 2007. “Flavor continues to be key” to growing the brand, said Underwood.

Jägermeister experienced an eye-popping 27.8% growth to 2.3 million cases. This wasn’t a fluke, explained Amanda Lechner, brand marketing manager. “Since 1999, the momentum has been strong, so the 27.8% increase has been in the making for many years.” She credits the growth to smart integrated programs, such as the Jägerette program, the Jägermeister Music Tour, Bus Program, and National Hot Rod Association sponsorship. Each builds product momentum.
Jägermeister isn’t typically mixed in cocktails, but that hasn’t stopped the brand from finding innovative uses beyond shots. Two very popular ways of enjoying the product include the Jäger Bomb (Jägermeister mixed with an energy drink, such as Red Bull) and the Jägermeister on Tap Machine, which pours sludgy Jägermeister at a temperature below freezing. Customers love it, and sales are skyrocketing.

Although Baileys Irish Cream’s sales are higher, it and Dooley’s both share a good part of the cordials market. While Dooley’s is better known for its mixability, Baileys is favored for drinking chilled and neat. However, Baileys is working to change that by sponsoring the Baileys Drinkable Desserts Challenge in late 2006, inviting mixologists to invent mixed drinks using the liqueur.

Both Kahlúa and Hiram Walker are owned by Pernod Ricard. Jack Shea, a company spokesman, noted that “women represent an estimated 57% of liqueur consumption,” though the results vary. Kahlúa consumption by volume is split almost evenly between men and women, while Hiram Walker Cordials skew male. “Pernod Ricard recognizes the need to speak directly to the target consumer while not ignoring potential new consumers of any gender or legal drinking age,” Shea said. Kahlúa is stressing its ability to “shed the day’s baggage in exotic and alluring ways,” while Hiram Walker is building line extensions to reach new customers, such as a new pomegranate liqueur. Pernod Ricard is placing increased emphasis on on-premise sales: “Analysts predict that within 2 years, consumers will spend more than 50% of their food and drink budget out-of-home. This will represent a great opportunity for our brands,” Shea said.

What’s New in the “Long Tail”?

Peter Gyimesi, group brand director for Suntory, has a significant task for 2007: he must reinvigorate Midori while launching Zen Green Tea nationally. Bartenders consider Midori “highly mixable, unique, and they love the color.” He knows more than a few bartenders who swear, “You gotta have Midori.”

Zen Green Tea launched nationally in early 2007. “It’s a very tasty product made specifically for the American market,” remarked Gyimesi, and it fits our growing appetite for green tea. “Interesting cordials give distributors something to talk about to their retailers besides just another flavored vodka.” Suntory hired beverage consultant David Commer to create recipes of Zen Green Tea drinks, such as the Zen & Zang and Gan Bei.

Dooley’s, a toffee cream liqueur, is rolling out a new bottle; its former packaging was a comic book red and blue. The new bottle will give it a more upscale look. Pam Jarrett, director of marketing, said, “Dooley’s has earned a reputation as the most versatile cream liqueur available for today’s expanding variety of cocktails. It is a primary ingredient in more than 500 cocktail recipes developed by professional bartenders worldwide.”

According to Roseann Sessa, VP marketing at Castle Brands, Inc., once consumers get to try Celtic Crossing, a liqueur which combines Irish spirits and Cognac with hints of honey, “they absolutely love it.” She explained that the amount of consumer mail the company gets regarding Celtic Crossing “is totally disproportionate to its sales level.” Sessa noted that they are now working on a new look and feel for the brand. “The thrust of the new campaign will be tasting events both on- and off-premise and, in addition, we will be launching a dynamic, interactive website.” Sessa said that the company plans to launch Celtic Crossing’s new campaign in the spring.

Barton Brands, Ltd. has three liqueur lines in its portfolio of brands – 99 Flavored Schnapps, di Amore and Caravella – and marketing manager Lori L. Logan stated that sales are up across the board for all three. “There are currently 5 flavors in the 99 line and they are very strong both on and off-premise,” she said. The di Amore line also has a strong distribution and shelf presence and “the key to success,” she notes, “is holiday gift sets with premium cordial glasses.” The Caravella line grew 42% this year and is “on the drink menu at Olive Garden Restaurants,” she said. This past year, Caravella released holiday gift sets with espresso cups and also introduced a 375ml package.

Starbucks, the country’s leading coffee chain, launched a line of liqueurs in 2005. “Due to the mixability and versatility of Starbucks Liqueurs, the brand also has had great success with creative cocktail recipes and menu placements,” explained brand manager Stacey Simmons. Diageo introduced Dulseda, a dulce de leche liqueur that appeals to the nation’s rising taste in Latin cuisine. Ted Anderson represents the brand in Phoenix, Arizona, and indicates that consumers are responding enthusiastically. “We’ve been very successful with restaurants embracing Dulseda and incorporating the unique and very appealing flavor into desserts and cocktails alike.”

Michelle Murray, brand director for Alizé, explained how Alizé’s national brand spokesperson, Wendy Williams, led a national Alizé Live Tour in conjunction with the “Go On! Alizé” program. The cordial has multiple “flavor personalities,” such as Alizé Red Passion, Gold Passion, Wild Passion and Bleu, all “made from fresh fruit juices and the finest French Cognac.” It also sponsored more than 100 Block Parties at retailers with special guest appearances by Williams and other celebrities.

The “New” Absinthe

Since the 2001 movie Moulin Rouge reintroduced absinthe, a niche culture has sprung up around the “Green Fairy.” Trouble is, absinthe has been illegal in the U.S. since 1912, but that’s where Absente comes in, a legal version of the liqueur. Jim Nikola of Crillon Importers explained how Absente exploits the tradition, the preparation ritual, and the connection to art and legend. People enjoy the ritual at the Mars Bar in Richmond, Virginia, or Sip in New York City. Sip also features the Monkey Gland, a long-forgotten absinthe cocktail. Roger Kugler, beverage director at Suba in New York City, developed an Absente recipe that combines the mojito with the absinthe preparation ritual.

Specifically for Women

Bright pink X-Rated Fusion Liqueur makes no bones that it is targeted at women. Mike Dennehy, director of communications at Daucourt, explained, “We found that there was an area out there, especially in the liqueur category, which had yet to be cultivated: 25-35 professional, fun, and fashionable women.” The liqueur was voted “Best New Spirit” in the U.S. for 2006 by Market Watch Leaders. The Houlihan’s chain offers the Flirtini, made with XRFL, on its regular drink menu.

Tequila Rose likewise targets itself at women aged 24-35, and created the Wicked Women Choppers sweepstakes to help grow the tequila-cream cordial, remarked Mike Breazealento, who represents the brand. “Our consumer is a country western music fan and is self-assured, independent and as our ad campaign suggests a little bit naughty.” The brand was also aligned with a country western group called Bomshel.

And, How Would You Like That?

Straight up and neat or over ice are still the most popular ways to serve many cordials, including Frangelico, Baileys Irish Cream, and Pallini Limoncello, among others. Wolfberger French Fruit Liqueurs, which come in Litchini, Lime, Coconut Splash and Green Apple flavors imported by BerNiko LLC, are touted as drinks for “modern living” because of the endless possibilities for enjoying them.

Cordials are imminently mixable, and bartenders love using them to craft fun new drinks that not only taste good, but also look appealing. Bright colors are in the forefront, as we see with Apple Pucker’s bright green, PAMA’s deep red, Hpnotiq’s cool aquamarine, and X-Rated Fusion’s hot pink. “Crafting cocktails is hot right now!” exclaimed Michael Vai, president of Entourage of Schaumberg, Illinois.

Another emerging trend is that many newer cordials are generally lower in alcohol by volume. Dooley’s, Hpnotiq, PAMA, X-Rated Fusion, and Wolfberger French Fruit Liqueurs only have 17% ABV, while

Zen Green Tea registers slightly higher at 20%. This is less than half the alcohol of the typical distilled spirit. Josh Hafer of Heaven Hill, maker of Hpnotiq and PAMA, said, “It’s a mixability issue. No one wants to be overpowered by the alcohol when mixing.”

Long Live the Margarita!

It seems the tooty-fruity Cosmopolitan craze ended with the last episode of Sex and the City. Americans have shifted to other cocktails, and in many ways our tastes have splintered. Yet every mixed drink pales in comparison to the Margarita, the country’s favorite, fueled by the popularity of Mexican food. Many restaurants are offering a better Margarita by upgrading from triple sec. Two super-premium brands are competing for their attention: Grand Marnier and Cointreau.

Grand Marnier markets itself as a key ingredient in the Grand Margarita. “The blend of the tequila and our Cognac makes a very rich drinking experience,” said brand director J.C. Iglesias. Roberto Cruz, senior brand manager for Cointreau, pointed out that, “Some restaurants will offer a ‘Cointreau floater’ to their house Margarita. The extra shot of 100% orange liqueur upgrades the flavor and proof of the cocktail, while enhancing bar margins and tips.”

Favorite Cordial Recipes from People Behind the Bar

Flirtini

Jack Wright, area director for Houlihan’s in NY and NJ, said this was “one of the best-selling drinks that we marketed.” The restaurant group intended this as a summer drink, but “it went so well that we moved it to our regular drink menu.”

1 oz. X-Rated Vodka
1 oz. X-Rated Fusion Liqueur
1 1/2 oz. Cranberry Juice
Splash of Triple Sec

Pour all ingredients into cocktail shaker over ice and mix. Serve up in a martini glass. Garnish with lime.

The Barfly

This drink is built around ice blue-colored Hpnotiq, whose lower alcohol makes a tasty drink without a big wallop.

1 1/2 oz. Hpnotiq
1 oz. Lychee Puree
1 oz. Fresh Sour Mix
Champagne to top
Lemon twirl

Combine all the ingredients over ice in a shaker. Shake and strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with a lemon twirl.

The Rouge

Seth Martin of Southern Wine & Spirits created this cocktail for the Rouge bar at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, which sells about 1,000 units each month. It fits in with the room’s red décor. “PAMA was just the right drink.”

3/4 oz. PAMA
1 1/2 oz. Stoli Blueberry Vodka
3 oz. Fresh Lemon Sour Mix
Pomegranate Ice Cubes

Mix all the ingredients in a shaker, then strain over pomegranate ice cubes and serve in a highball glass.

La Pesca

Head bartender, Brian Kay, at Dani restaurant in New York City took some inspiration from the idea of a Bellini and twisted it into the idea of pre-dinner cocktail similar to a Sidecar. Italians love the American Cocktail Culture and Brian wanted to create a drink that combined the two.

2 oz. Pierre Ferrand Cognac
1 1/4 oz. Pallini Peachello
3/4 oz. Lemon Juice
1/4 oz. Simple Syrup

All shaken over ice and strained into a Cocktail glass. Garnish with a long lemon twist.

Chai Cream Latte

This warm-you-up-from-the-inside-out cocktail is “perfect for the cold, winter months,” says Robert B. Back of Bacmar International LLC, importers of Voyant.

3 oz. Voyant Chai Cream Liqueur
1 oz. Milk

Steam warm and top with whipped cream.

Italian Mudslde Martini

Romano’s Macaroni Grill teamed with Starbuck Liqueurs to create this decadent dessert-like martini, and rolled it out to their restaurants nationwide in late 2006.

1/2 oz. Chocolate Syrup
3/4 oz. Starbucks Coffee Liqueur
3/4 oz. Starbucks Coffee Cream Liqueur
1/2 oz. Di Saronno Amaretto
1 oz. Half & Half

Swirl the chocolate syrup around the inside just below the rim. Add ice to the shaker, pour in the coffee liqueur, cream liqueur, amaretto and half & half. Shake for 15 seconds. Strain contents into the prepared martini glass.

Raspberry Toddy

Daniel Roth, the bar manager at the Old World Village in Huntington Beach, CA, says that a customer invented this unique, cool weather drink.

1 oz. Dooley’s Toffee Liqueur
1 oz. Brandy
Bigelow Raspberry Tea bag

Fill a large mug 3/4 full of very hot water. Add the tea bag and steep until very strong. Add the Dooley’s Toffee Liqueur, followed by the shot of brandy. Do not stir.

Orange Blossom

This cocktail is one of many Lichido cocktails being served at high-end restaurants and bars in New York.

2 oz. Lichido
2 oz. Gin
1 oz. Cointreau
Splash of Fresh Lemon Juice

Mix the ingredients in a shaker of ice. Shake well and pour into a cocktail glass with a few cubes of ice. Garnish with an orange slice and a maraschino cherry.

Wet Pearl

This cocktail captures the two elements most known about TY KU, its natural elements as well as naughty ones (it is the first natural Asian aphrodisiac liqueur).

1 oz. TY KU
1 oz. Vanilla-Flavored Vodka
Splash of Pineapple Juice
Dash of Bitters (optional)

Shake thoroughly and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with a slice of pineapple.

PB&J

PB and J’s origins are unknown, but it’s a cocktail that’s popped up on menus across the country. It’s along the “upscale shooter” lines (a trend that we’ve been seeing more and more of), that takes the shooter and turns it into something a bit more complex, interesting and, of course, tasty.

1/2 oz. Frangelico
1/2 oz. Chambord Raspberry Liqueur
1/2 oz. Vodka

Shake and serve in a shot glass.

Tips for Promoting Cordials

A few simple guidelines that will help boost sales:

Mix it up! Cordials fit into Cocktail Culture, since many can be mixed with other ingredients to make fabulous and fun beverages. “We found our gourmet drink list is really exciting to people,” explained Michael Vai of Entourage, who hired Bridget Albert, a Southern Wine & Spirits mixologist, to develop the venue’s proprietary drink list. “You can’t get these drinks anywhere else.”

Bring it down. Cordials can make great low-alcohol beverages that allow customers to have more than one. Examples are the Barfly and the Flirtini (see recipe page).

Reaching on and off. Cordials need to reach out to both the trade and off-premise. Bars aren’t the only venue where people drink – they also drink at home. People who drink a cocktail at a bar based on a bartender’s recommendation often have little idea what went into the drink.

Education. Cordials require education for both bartender and consumer. Southern Wine & Spirits makes its mixologists available to bartenders to train and educate them in how to mix a particular cordial into an exciting cocktail. “Without an educational component, these things will collect dust,” Seth Martin of SW&S explained.

Differentiate. Often a problem with mixability is that cordials can get lost in the mix. A mixed drink should be centered around a highlighted ingredient, rather than just one of many.

Brand it. To boost off-premise cordial sales, invent an on-premise mixed drink that includes the cordial’s name. Consumers will remember the name and seek out that cordial for purchase. Instead of a “French Martini,” call it the “Chambord French Martini.”

 
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