Northern Ireland’s largest hospitality provider has reported a 30% rise in sales of innovative alcohol drinks and cocktails, compared to the same time pre-pandemic in 2019.

Since reopening the doors to the Cocktail Bar at The Merchant, mixologists and bar staff at the Beannchor Group’s five-star venue have served almost 2,200 cocktails each month, despite still not being able to operate at full capacity due to social distancing restrictions.

This newfound appreciation around cocktails has led to the venue’s current recruitment search for a Head of Drinks Innovation position.

The reported surge in cocktail orders is a direct reflection of a trend that emerged last year whereby consumers, during extended lockdown periods, turned their efforts to recreating drinks that typically would have been enjoyed while socialising. Consumers not only invested in at-home cocktail making equipment, but data from off-trade sales reported a shift in purchasing behaviour – with consumers opting to purchase more premium priced spirits and mixers.

Gavin Carroll, general manager of The Merchant Hotel, said: “Ahead of reopening earlier this year, our team discussed the implications of consumer trends that arose during the pandemic, and the direct impact they may have on the sector, particularly whether people would choose to stay at home rather than visit a venue for drinks premium cocktails.

“In contrast, we were surprised to see a significant spike in cocktail orders post-lockdown in comparison to the same date period in 2019. Our Cocktail Bar mixologists and serving staff would agree that over the last few months, guests are more knowledgeable in the science and creativity behind the invention of cocktails – and this is something we intend to embrace.”

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