New wave spirits or gins were a key moment in the liquor industry timeline not just for India but the world. However, to set context and understand this properly we need to acknowledge that uptake on concepts take a bit more time to land in India and usually a few years behind the international market.
The new age spirits had already started reshaping the beverage businesses in a lot of markets, heralded by the gin boom back as far as 2005/2006 in the European and American markets, 2010/2014 in the Asian markets. The boom arrived in India by 2016/17. The liquor industry and specifically the spirit saw the advent of local made craft gin and the sudden appreciation for it. A brand like Stranger & Sons was among the early innovators in the Indian new age spirits landscape and led the way for premium craft spirits in the space.
It wasn’t easy and like all innovations had its nay sayers among traditional liquor industry folks who could not fathom that the industry would turn in any other direction other than the trajectory it was on. However, change was slowly taking place which forced a correction on the traditional viewpoint and the timing was just right and the consumers were ripe to adapt to it given their penchant to travel and experiment.
The liquor universe was no longer dominated only by the big brands or the mass market IMFL spirits, there was a new segment that opened at the right pricing talking up Indian ingredients and craftsmanship and charging the right value for it which was key to pick from retail stores and bar call in venues. As of 2023 this industry has grown substantially with loads of new players coming in joined by even the big brands looking to create their version of craft nuanced spirits and, in some cases, investing in the small brands to increase footprint. Which means somewhere in there the bet paid off and once people get used to good quality spirits and service there is no coming back.
This has pushed our imagination as an industry and we see a lot more brands popping up and the ecosystem that will help them thrive largely the new age bars, restaurants and events like the cocktail weeks and gin fests which are popping up. This in turn has also made the market a lucrative potential for international brands who with the right partners have been able to penetrate the market and sell at acceptable prices and even manage to invest in building brands. To sum it up, back before 2015 when I used to run a bar we had limited options available and would have to pay through our teeth and work extra hard to convince people to get us cool stuff to use but now any bar worth its salt which wants to talk about quality stocks up all the brands and not only do they keep it in their inventory but also work with brands towards training their staff on using them effectively to better the bar experience.
New age drinks have therefore played a huge part in the evolution of the Indian bar and beverage scene and will continue to do so across various categories which are now becoming part of the new age drinks revolution like Indian craft beer, whiskies made and matured in India, rums, agave and of course things like Feni, mahua and a ton of local ingredient spirits which are improving the production quality to find more acceptability beyond their borders. I am glad I got to be here to see this segment flourish and get to use all this new stuff at Bars we run and work with.