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Ready to Drink Cocktail Trends 2024

December 19, 2023

Ready to drink cocktail trends 2024

Our ready to drink cocktail trends 2024 report includes both predictions & lessons from London Cocktail Week

Ready-to-drink cocktails are for everyone – and we don’t just mean the types of drinkers enjoying them, but the different brands creating them…

The ready-to-drink cocktails market has enjoyed ample opportunities in recent years. Within the on-trade RTDs offer a way around labour shortages and price rises. And for off-trade, RTDs suited the particularly hot summers and are insulated against slowed consumer spending thanks to typically lower price points.

All this contributed to ready-to-drink cocktails enjoying strong growth of volume and values sales between 2018-2022 – up by 47.5% and 39.5%, respectively*. In 2022, 120m litres of RTDs were purchased, generating £866m sales*.

It’s little wonder then that many brands have expanded within, or even extended into, the category. White label, premium, and craft spirits brands alike have developed a range of premium RTDs as well as white label cocktails, while some have crossed over from other categories.

Grey Goose launched lower ABV vodka spritzes in 2022 while Dead Man’s Fingers launched three flavours of rum based RTDs, for example. Craft brand Tarquin’s joined in too, with RTD G&Ts. Cider, beer and even champagne brands have also launched RTDs, including Corona’s tropical hard seltzer and Chandon’s Garden Spritz.

Amongst the new low/no alcohol RTDs it’s predominantly been smaller players leading the way. Newcomers Citizen Spritz offers alcohol-free aperitifs, while NoLo spirits specialist Pentire extended into RTDs. Additionally, energy drinks have inspired new RTDs with caffeinated creations blurring the lines between the categories.

Now it’s anticipated off-trade offerings will be stepped up, to give similar strengths and experiences to on-trade cocktails, as brands further capitalise on the popularity, accessibility and affordability of RTDs. MOTH drinks’ higher ABV RTDs, made using premium spirits, are already available in Tesco and Sainsbury’s, for example.

Lessons from London Cocktail Week

London Cocktail Week led the charge on ready-to-drink cocktail trends for 2024.

The annual event, held in hundreds of bars and venues across the capital in late 2023, showcased a range of cocktail flavours and formats to inspire brands and mixologists.

foam topped cocktail

Fruity creations using 2023’s trendiest flavours and seasonal flavour favourites were all notable. And twists on classics were aplenty, like premiumised Collins or Martinis infused with savoury ingredients. Savoury flavours were used in lots of new creations too. Fun formats like foam-topped cocktails were also trending, alongside global alcohol styles, including mezcal, rum and baiju.

As the ready-to-drink cocktails market continues to grow and adapt, we look at how these flavours can prove popular with consumers in 2024.

Twists on classics

collins cocktail

Classic creations like the Collins and Martini were reworked with additions of 2023’s trendiest flavours at London Cocktail Week.

Florals and citruses like yuzu, jasmine, and chamomile complemented and elevated the gin, lemon and soda in a traditional Collins. The Broadcaster pub created a British-feeling Collins, combining chamomile tea with the dry gin and lime juice, along with a black raspberry liqueur and honey.

And Martinis were elevated with savoury additions, from simple strawberry and basil gin-based Martinis to spirits infused with olive oil or salt.

Fun formats

Most mixologists riffed on the presentation and aesthetics of their creations at London Cocktail Week, as much as the ingredients within. Amongst the fun formats showcased, foam topped drinks really stood out.

Venues created brioche foams – topping the Absolute Waste cocktail at restaurant Albie, made using discarded banana peel rum and reused tea blend cordial – or stylish Savoiardi foam – like Fitz’s whisky, coffee, cacao and almond cocktail.

New favourites & Seasonal flavours

Three of 2023’s trendiest cocktails are sure to stand out in RTD formats in 2024.

The Hugo Spritz is ideal for a premium premixed cocktail. The Italian drink – made from prosecco, elderflower liqueur, and sparkling water, garnished with mint and lime – is fragrant, zesty and refreshing.

Kir Royale

Another summertime favourite, the Kir Royale, is likely to hold its appeal well into next year. This bouji but vintage cocktail typically combines crème de cassis and champagne, though more affordable bubbly will suit RTDs lower price points.

Whisky highball

The Whisky Highball is another new favourite ideal for RTDs. It’s a simple but sophisticated cocktail that’s easily elevated. Its traditional combination of just whisky and soda suits low ABV offerings and can be easily riffed on by adding anything from ginger or honey to yuzu, apple and plum.

Autumn fruits like these are also ideal to create new seasonal cocktails. Orchard fruits like apricot, peach, pears and quince were rediscovered at London Cocktail Week, all suiting dark spirits. Seasonal creations, using festive flavours with rums or gins for example, help to extend RTDs’ appeal year-round too.

Autumn fruit cocktail

London Cocktail Week also saw apple as a flavour favourite. The orchard fruit suited the Autumnal timing of the event as well as cocktail bases including tequilas, gins, cider, and champagne alike.

New bases & creations

An increasing range of alcohol bases can be confidently used in new RTDs now the category is so well-established. At London Cocktail Week, mixologists made up cocktails using the tried and tested favourites – vodka, gin, rum and whisky – as well as wine, champagne, sherry and cider.

Cider cocktail

Cider based cocktails built on the mini boom in apple cocktail flavours. The Alma pub combined rum, apricot and fig with a triple vintage cider for its Merengue Fizz, while luxe late-night bar, Demon, Wise & Partners, elevated a cider reduction with rum, ginger beer, cinnamon and cardamom.

champagne cocktail

Another sparkling addition to new cocktails was champagne – offering luxury alongside a base flavour that pairs well with both vodka and rum and infusions from fiery chilli or ginger to zesty lime or lemon and tart passionfruit. Cocktail bar Little Mercies added chilli, passionfruit liqueur, grape skin vodka and lemon to its champagne cocktail.

For a more affordable alternative, wine-based cocktails have been making waves. Standard Sauvignons, mulled or spicy reds, or peachy new wines all offer interesting base flavours to build on. The Soak took the ‘Sauvy B’ up a notch by adding rum, elderflower liqueur, passionfruit puree and grapefruit soda, while Silk Weaver added whisky to a white wine syrup with banana, rosemary, thyme and cardamom.

Getting ahead on a traditional festive flavour, Equal Parts bar used sherry with a dash of absinthe and elderflower liqueur in its Palomina.

Global alcohol styles

Unusual or upcoming global spirits were also showcased as bases for cocktails or RTDs at London Cocktail Week.

The influence of Asian cultures and cuisines was clear, with cocktail flavours using Japanese sake, awamori (another rice spirit), shochu (a distilled liquor), and umeshu (a plum liqueur), and Chinese baiju.

These all blend with a range of botanical ingredients, including bold flavours like cherry and ginger, fragrant yuzu and chamomile, and familiar watermelon, plum and lime.

Savoury flavours

Savoury cocktail flavours were a 2023 trend heavily explored at London Cocktail Week. As drinkers demand nuance and balance from cocktails, savoury ingredients are the perfect addition, often elevating the aesthetic of a drink too.

peppercorn infused cognac

Mixologists used everything from food favourites – including a tzatziki-inspired gin with Greek yoghurt, saline solution, cucumber and mint – to pantry staples – like Dijon mustard with rum and passionfruit, or a black peppercorn infused Cognac.

Pepper was one of a range of spicy additions giving extra kick to cocktails, along with chilli or tabasco. Spices like ginger and cardamom are now fairly well established as ingredients to enhance cocktail flavours, and additions like cumin and cardamom are being seen more too, suiting a range of white and dark spirits.

Another popular flavour enhancer tipped to be a continued cocktail trend in 2024 is salt, giving depth or balance to fruity and herbal drinks.

Herbs are a fail-safe go-to as savoury flavours for ready to drink cocktails, offering both versatility and familiarity. Moving on from simple minty Mojitos, experimental drinkers will be open to thyme with tequila, as well as additions of sage, fennel or basil for fruity cocktails.

Sweet & Fruity creations

For familiar RTDs, offering broad appeal and boundless versatility to work with all spirits, fruit-based cocktail flavours are best.

peach cocktail

At London Cocktail Week fruit flavours really dominated, with traditional offerings elevated and new creations showcased. The most prevalent were stoned fruits peach and apricot, orchard fruits apple, quince and pear, and tropical banana and pineapple.

The former are perfect for dark spirits, with peach and Cognac creations served up, and apricot liqueur used alongside both rum and a plum wine.

banana spiced rum

The latter are also ideal with the increasingly popular dark spirits, such as banana spiced rum or whisky, and pineapple with whisky and lime, or a tequila and mezcal mix with pineapple syrup.

While the sweetest flavours are usually helped along by a flavoured cocktail syrup, mixologists preferred homemade cordials for London Cocktail Week, including an unusual yuzu and kiwi creation from Sochu Lounge, and a kumquat, lemon and grapefruit blend at Happiness Forgets. Sherbet syrups were also used to introduce intense flavours, using a range of citrusy, herbal or spicy ingredients.

Expand your product line or extend into RTDs

With such a range of formats, flavours, and target markets available to RTDs, it’s no wonder the ready-to-drink cocktails market will be booming next year.

At Simpsons, we are experts in the development of flavours for RTD cocktails.

Chat to our team today to start setting the Ready to Drink Cocktail trends for 2024.

*Mintel, White Spirits & RTDs UK, 2022

Image source: Trendhub The Food People 2023

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