The drinks industry's latest services during lockdown

Millie Milliken

Millie Milliken

01 April 2020

As lockdown continues amid the covid-19 pandemic, bars, merchants and brands continue to innovate and adapt. Here are some of the latest and greatest

You may remember that only a week or two ago, we rounded up some of the ways in which the on-trade were already adapting to the encroaching coronavirus pandemic, from drive-throughs and vouchers to click + collect services. Since then, all bars, restaurants, pubs and non-essential shops have closed, and the public have been told, with few exceptions, to stay at home.

So, what does the drinks industry do in these restrictive times, you ask? Thinks on its feet, gets shit moving and adapts even more. From collaborations and technology investments, to new delivery initiatives, the world of drinks keeps going.

We’ve been keeping track of the best and newest of the bunch. If we’ve missed something or someone out, let millie@imbibe.com know and we’ll update our list.

Stronger together

In the spirit of being ‘stronger together’ brands, bars and wholesalers are joining forces to keep the on-trade functioning.

Yesterday (31 March) chef Tommy Banks took to Instagram to announce the Michelin-starred Black Swan's Bottled Cocktails. His brother James (who looks after the drinks for both the Black Swan at Olstead and sister restaurant Roots) and front of house man Seamus Hooley have spent the last year working with Cooper King Distillery to produce them, as well as forage wild herbs and harvest fruit and flowers for the cocktails' ingredients. 

Five-hundred millilitre bottles of their Marigold Martini, Damson Sazerac, Rhubarb Negroni can be bought from the chef's own website and delivered across the UK. Banks and co have limited stock, but production on more bottles is already underway.

Back in London, and those mavericks at Empirical Spirits will be collaborating with a number of bartenders for its new pre-batched cocktail series, available for home delivery. The first name to collaborate with Empirical’s founders Lars Williams and Mark Emil Hermansen is Ryan Chetiyawardana, who will be creating Martini-style drinks, mixing cold-infused pineapples with Onyx and olive-brined Helena (part of the Empirical collection). A percentage of sales from the cocktail will go to Hospitality Action, Chetiyawardana’s charity of choice.

Empirical has also made its own cocktails available on its web shop: the Pony Negroni and Bonita Applebum. They’ve even made delivery free, worldwide – all customers have to do is use the code STAYSAFE.

Also joining forces are Speciality Drinks and The Whisky Exchange, which have launched the ‘Bring the Bar Home’ initiative. Restaurants, hotels and bars can get involved by submitting cocktail recipes and Speciality Drinks will put a kit together for customers, who can buy the ingredients and recipe on The Whisky Exchange’s website and make them at home.

And, while a lot of the initiatives to have launched over the last week or so have been focused on cocktail deliveries for customers, drinks supplier Matthew Clark is making its own on-trade customers’ lives easier with a new app. LOCAL allows pubs, restaurants, bars and independent drinks merchants to easily take orders from customers for delivery – and it’s free for them to set up.

On the grapevine

With the public on lockdown, wine merchants, independent stores and on-trade sites have perhaps been on their radars more than ever.

Wine merchants have been working hard to get word out to consumers as well as their regular trade customers. Nickolls and Perks are selling mixed cases with no minimum order and are charging just £5 ex-VAT for delivery in the UK. Trade get special prices too by dropping sommelier Lionel Pernier a line.

Elsewhere, Champagne & Chateaux is keeping its online wine shop open for orders and deliveries, while fine-wine merchant Oeno is giving its private clients a specially-curated wine list to buy off (including Henri Giraud Argonne 2004, Opus One 2012 and Sassicaia 1990), with £1 from each bottle sold heading to Hospitality Action.  Importer and distributor Les Caves de Pyrene is also business as (kind of) usual, with retailers still having access to its entire portfolio for deliveries, as well as offering private customer service for anyone who wants to buy direct.

Where restaurants can still operate, they are. Last week, we spoke to Diogenes the Dog about its home sommelier service as well as Top Cuvée, which is delivering set menu dinners with wine pairings. Humble Grape is also keeping its online store open for deliveries with discounts for cases of 6 (THANKYOU10 for 10% off) and 12 (THANKYOU20 for 20% off), while Vinoteca’s web shop features wines starting at a (supermarket-matching) £8.50 per bottle which can be delivered UK-wide.

Keep shaking

Cocktail and spirits bars are not slowing the pace either. In the last week, Milroy’s of Soho and its new site in Spitalfields has launched the ‘Drams to your Door’ delivery service, giving its normal clientele (and more) access to some of the world’s best whiskies.

Fellow Spitalfields bar The Proofing Room has also just launched its range of RTD cocktails for delivery. The Nikka Highball, Vodka + Cream Soda, Figuette cocktails are among what’s on offer in serves of two – and four for Le Golden Highball. They are also selling That Boutique-y Gin Company’s cans.

Staying in east London, and Happiness Forgets has started same-day delivery of 15 of its cocktails from Wednesdays to Saturdays which include ice and the garnish (fancy) with no minimum order, while the Venning brothers’ Three Sheets is selling RTDs through sister shop Top Cuvée in London. Incidentally, they’ve also created a collaboration with Monica Berg and Alex Kratena’s Tayer + Elementary.

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