After weeks of promising “some very exciting news”, Bacardi Brown-Forman Brands (BBFB) last night revealed what it has been up to: bottled ready-to-drink Bacardi cocktails. “Inspired” by what it calls the brand’s “legacy cocktails”, it is launching a new range called Bacardi Originals which will initially feature Bacardi Mojito and Bacardi Cuba Libre. It is an important move for the brand, according to BBFB chief executive Mark de Witt. “We really believe we have come up with a new category for drinks,” he said last night. “We are convinced this will change the landscape.”
Having put a lot of effort into helping bars to create good freshly made cocktails, BBFB is keen to stress that the new products are “inspired” by the classic cocktails. While a normal Mojito would have an ABV of about eight per cent, the Bacardi Mojito has an ABV of 5.4 per cent and the Bacardi Cuba Libre is five per cent. “If we had created an eight per cent product, that format would be too strong,” Liam Newton, marketing director for Bacardi, explained last night. “We have consciously done it as a drink ‘inspired’ by a Mojito but in line with the ABV of beer.”
However, the products have been created according to the traditional recipes by respected mixologist Alex Turner, who heads BBFB’s training team, with Bacardi’s senior brand manager David Paskins, who both travelled out to Bacardi HQ in Jacksonville, Florida, to spend two days sampling different recipes. “For us, it was about nailing that Cuba Libre and Mojito – something that we would be happy to sit and drink ourselves,” Alex explained. “We all know the Mojito is a great drink when made well and something you will reorder and reorder in a great bar. We wanted to recreate that great flavour in a bottle so you can walk into anywhere and get a pretty-much-nailed Mojito consistently over and over again quickly.”
Available in 275ml bottles, the Mojito is a mix of Bacardi Superior, soda, mint and lime while the Cuba Libre is Bacardi Gold rum, cola and lime. They are to be served either chilled in the bottle, with a wedge of lime on top, or as a long drink over cubed or crushed ice, although Liam admitted that “realistically most bars will sell it in the bottle”.
My own days of drinking RTDs out of bottles are long gone but, poured over ice in a highball glass, they tasted better than some freshly prepared Mojitos and Cuba Libres I’ve had in my time. They are less sweet than you might expect of mainstream RTDs with a good balance of flavours. For a busy club, bar or pub, where staff lack mixology skills, it will help to expand opportunities for people to drink cocktails.
Last night, Liam explained that Bacardi Originals was developed to tackle the challenge of “how do we deliver Mojitos to bars in the UK that don’t serve cocktails”, who “think cocktails sound a bit fancy”. They considered other options, such as a draught Mojito, but “there were a lot of cost and operational issues that came up”.
Bacardi Originals are aimed at people aged 18 to 24 who want a product that is “fresh and easy to drink” with “more authenticity and credibility”, Liam added. “We are targeting that moment when you want a break from beer or sometimes wine.” He continued: “People want to see real brands, not made-up brands”. Bacardi marketing manager Nik Krys added: “Bacardi rum was used in the very first Mojito and Cuba Libre, so these are authentic serves.”
The new products will be launched exclusively in the UK on-trade on February 4, the 149th birthday of the creation of Bacardi Superior rum, supported by branded 290ml glasses and point-of-sale materials. Liam said they chose the Mojito as one of the first products because the cocktail is still in “massive growth” but said that other “legacy cocktails” would follow. These classics – whose heritage is tied up with Bacardi – include the Daiquiri and the Piña Colada, but Liam said there were new “legacy cocktails” coming out of its annual Legacy bartender competition. “One of those drinks could inspire a Bacardi Original for the future,” he said, but adding: “There are so many classic cocktails in the archive.”
Liam pointed out that the ready-to-drink (RTD) category is still bigger than all white spirits combined in the UK. “The RTD category is something that people historically have walked away from and it has been in some decline but there has been a revival in the last two years.” However, he stressed that BBFB would not lessen its efforts to promote properly made Mojitos in bars. “We will always prefer it to be made with fresh ingredients but we are looking at how to offer that to outlets that don’t serve cocktails.”
He added that Bacardi Originals did not herald the death of Bacardi Breezer. “We will be coming back in two months with plans for Bacardi Breezer,” he said. “It’s still a key part of the portfolio. It has a role to play, with loyal consumers. With Bacardi Originals, we are targeting a different group of people in different outlets.” Bacardi also launched the 75cl ready-mixed Bacardi Mojito Classic two years ago, mainly targeted at the take-home market.
Of course, this is not the first time anyone has tried to bottle a cocktail. Nearly three years ago, another leading mixologist Ben Reed was involved in creating the West Eleven range which included a Mojito made with their own blend of Caribbean rums. Despite being a great product, this never took off in the way that it should have.
The strength of Bacardi Originals is that it has Bacardi Brown-Forman Brands behind it as well as the value of the Bacardi brand which is worth a phenomenal £296million in the UK and has continued to grow volumes over the past two to three years. The products are already going out into the market ahead of the February launch, and a major bar and pub operator – believed to be Mitchells & Butlers – is expected to take them on shortly. Liam also indicated that, after launching Bacardi Originals in the UK market, it will be introduced in other countries over the next 12 months. BBFB will be spending about £3million on Bacardi Originals in the UK over the next nine months, including digital marketing and press and outdoor advertising, so expect to see them in a bar, pub or club near you soon.