Pubs are slowly but surely welcoming patrons back with socially distanced open arms, and life is getting back to normal.
But despite the fact that we can now enjoy a drink down the local, our drinking habits have changed over Lockdown, and we think there are a few that might stick around. Namely bottled cocktails.
Unlike their canned counterparts (travellers, tinnies, RTDs, street booze, Dianne Abbott’s favourite tube tipple, or whatever else you might call them), bottled cocktails are less about convenience and more about recreating your favourite cocktail bar at home.
When restaurants, pubs and bars were forced to close their doors to the public (then open them again. Then close them again. Then open them again. Then close them again…), many establishments turned their attention to meal boxes, which meant you could enjoy food from your favourite eateries, even if you weren’t allowed through the door. And as well as meal kits, many places started producing premium bottled cocktails – the kind of cocktails you don’t just drink room temperature from the bottle. The kind you chill, pick out the perfect glass for, garnish and serve.
During Lockdown, the team at Lyaness offered a selection of their iconic cocktails bottled and ready to drink.
“We missed the busy vibe of the venue and wanted to ensure that people could have great drinks at home as they couldn’t visit the bar,” Will Meredith, Head Bartender at Lyaness, tells Delish. “We had a range of serves including single-serve drinks; two-serve drinks; and five serve drinks; spanning profile ranges from boozy sippers to a base liquid for a spritz."
Lyaness won’t be continuing to offer bottled cocktails once things get back to normal as they want to commit their time and energy in getting the bar reopened, functional, and just as considered as it was before.
Another top restaurant continuing their bottled cocktail range is Michelin-starred The Black Swan at Oldstead. In fact, this restaurant was creating bottled cocktails long before the pandemic had even begun, but noticed even more desire for their drinks once lockdown hit.
"Our bottled cocktails were always a hit, and we often found customers taking a bottle home with them after a meal, or ordering a bottle for a special occasion for their partner when they'd perhaps dined with us previously," says James Banks who oversees drinks production for the restaurant.
"But then we launched our premium food box business Made In Oldstead, and we suddenly saw lots more people ordering our cocktails alongside their food box in a bid to have the full restaurant experience at home. They weren't just yearning for a restaurant meal, but that perfectly mixed cocktail, too."
The Black Swan bottled cocktail collection, is made using ingredients foraged and grown in and around their farm in Oldstead and includes a Damson Metropolitan, Sloe Bramble and even a "Buck Fizz," a fizzy cocktail made with sea buckthorn.
Scarfes Bar at the Rosewood Hotel in London is another place that has no intention of discontinuing its bottled cocktails, which include a Peach Flower Martini (Roku Gin, 1757 Vermouth di Torino, Amarico and Peach) and a Smoked Maple Manhattan (Maker's Mark bourbon, 1757 Vermouth di Torino, black cardamom and maple syrup).
Martin Siska, Director of Bars at Rosewood London, tells us, “So many people have missed being out in their favourite spots and seeing their friends, so we expect people are keen to get back out and socialise. But we still see the bottled cocktails as a brilliant gifting opportunity or the perfect keepsake and way for our guests to take a bit of the bar home with them.”
GH Drinks, founded by Greig Howitt is another company that has used bottled cocktails as a way to survive the pandemic. A bartender at Mayfair’s Hawksmoor, Greig was furloughed at the beginning of Lockdown so started making premium cocktails at home and biking them to friends across London as a way to, well, stay sane, quite frankly.
“After finding myself furloughed back in March 2020, I was forced to bring the creativity I have at work home with me,” Greig explains to us. "I really started to miss not being able to share new cocktails ideas, flavours and drinks with people, so I decided to start bottling some I was making at home in my kitchen and deliver them around to friends and colleagues for free.
“After the first load of drinks went down a storm and seeing the enjoyment they got out of them, I began slowly upping the scale slightly and selling them to friends, friends of friends and anyone else who was interested.”
At the beginning of every week, Greig came up with a new cocktail; ready to be made with the best quality ingredients, bottled and biked across London. Cocktails include the likes of a punchy Peachy Negroni, a refreshing Elderflower Gimlet, and a patriotic Scotland Forever: a nod to Greig’s hometown of Edinburgh, which is – you guessed it – a whisky and Irn Bru-based drink that tastes a damn-site better than Buck Fast.
“We’ve made lots of inventive riffs on classic cocktails and been quite creative with our processes like we usually are behind a bar, and I think people have missed having these flavour experiences at home.”
Let’s be honest: having a cocktail shaker from Home Bargains and a bottle of Angostura Bitters in the cupboard (which is at least 12 years old, natch) is enough to make us think we’re master cocktail makers, but it takes A LOT of knowledge and skill to be able to whip up tasty cocktails at home, which is what we’ve been forced to do this year as visiting our favourite cocktail bars hasn’t been an option.
Lyaness’ Will explains that it’s simply not possible to totally replicate a whole bar experience, but bottled cocktails at least mean you can have a bar-quality drink in your own home.
“This is mainly because we consider so many elements beyond drinks when considering a space for people to drink. However, we can still encapsulate our overall philosophy in these bottled cocktails. Elements such as the purpose of the ingredients and their combinations and the bottle design are tangible elements for the drinker, but we also wanted to retain the curiosity in our bottled drinks so that people can still have those contemplative moments when taking their first couple of sips.”
And as for comparing premium bottled cocktails to canned cocktails from your local supermarket, the bottled cocktails from your favourite bar or restaurant will always be infinitely better.
Greig says, “I’ve had some top-notch, small-batch canned cocktails from bars doing takeaways and deliveries, but the cans in your supermarket booze section can’t compare as they’re often sugar-heavy and never going to compare to a cocktail from a bartender. So, if a bar that you love is bottling cocktails, chances are you’ll probably love what they are bottling so get involved!”
There are plenty of things we’re looking forward to seeing the back of once Lockdown comes to an end and life gets back to some kind of normality (the phrase, “You’re on mute”, springs to mind…), but we at Delish firmly believe that premium bottled cocktails will remain a way of revolutionising the way we drink at home long after we’re able to visit cocktail bars again. And Greig agrees. Or is at least hopeful that they will.
“I like to think that there will still be a market for them in some sense, as I see people still wanting to buy them to take to the park and share them with friends when it’s lovely and sunny outside. Or a nice bottled cocktail would make a great present for someone, right?
“Although they may not have quite the same popularity as they have had while the world has been locked down, I do think they’ll still have a place, albeit a smaller one.”
And seeing as Scarfes’ Martin believes bottled cocktails can be just as delicious as a cocktail made in front of you, it seems crazy not to continue producing them in some way or another.
“I am about to say something that could be controversial, but YES, bottled cocktails can be as good as a cocktail mixed in front of you! Maybe even better actually. With bottled cocktails, you have the luxury of time.
“Think about working in a busy bar, with endless covers- bartenders need to move really fast. With bottled cocktails, you have guaranteed consistency and perfectly balanced proportions with ingredients (that also have had the time to settle). The bar vibe might be missing but sometimes you can create your own at home.”
When Greig returns to work as a bartender, he’ll continue to keep GH Drinks going in some fashion, but he admits he’s looking forward to shaking drinks and for customers IRL.
“It’s been a wild ride and a steep learning curve of the non-drink-making skills necessary to run a drinks business. I’m lucky to have some good friends who were very generous with their time and advice.”
So, cheers to generous friends… and delicious cocktails – bottled or otherwise.
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