We ventured out East to visit the Boutique Bar Show London, without really knowing what to expect. Held in a lovely old stable building opposite Spitalfields Market, the show was different from any other trade show we've visited. Not over branded, each exhibitor had the same size stall around the venue, providing a sense of equality between the brands that are more established and those that are new to the scene.
After a wander around, some sampling, and some conversations with very passionate brand ambassadors, we left with a consensus on our 'top 3 most interesting things we saw'...
1. Ginger Beer gets a Gluten Free Makeover
Crabbies have held a monopoly over the alcoholic ginger beer market for a while now, so it was interesting to see Fentiman's (a brand who are associated with soft drinks) introducing their take on the drink. Not only does their Ginger Beer strike the new trend of catering for the gluten-free market, but it also differentiates itself from its competitors by using a base of pear juice. This, paired with the fiery ginger root flavour, will appeal to both ginger beer and cider/perry drinkers, as it provides a much lighter drink. It seems that the team at Fentiman's have also been thinking long term; they have produced two variants of their Ginger Beer - the original, and a Spiced Ginger Beer. The latter of these smells exactly like Christmas, and is begging to be served warm over the winter months. This provides Fentiman's to be a perennial brand, with their light, refreshing option throughout the summer months, followed up by their winter-warmer during the colder climes.
2. There's a gin for everyone
It's a good thing that we like it here in the office, as it doesn't look like this trend will die soon! With what seemed like 3 artisinal gin stalls for every one stall for anything else, the ways in which these brands are setting themselves apart from each other are getting increasingly creative. We saw artisinal, vegan, locally sourced gins from the North East, gin with foraged botanicals from the very tip of Cornwall and even a black gin. In a market almost full to bursting, it's incredible to see that there is still some wiggle room for innovation and creativity.
3. Bespoke Mixers are a thing
Because, why wouldn't they be? Tonic water was made to go with gin, but cola wasn't created with the intention of emphasising the flavour of whisky or rum. This is where possibly our favourite discovery of the Boutique Bar Show comes in - Sekforde Drinks. The new brand offers two variants of soft drinks, crafted to perfectly complement the flavours of a rum or whiskey. Minimally designed, and well positioned as premium yet approachable, these soft drinks work not only as a mixer to bring out the best of their spirit, but could also be consumed as standalone drinks. Topped off with a low calorie count and natural ingredients, what more could you want?!
Overall, Boutique Bar Show was a great experience for us to enjoy - for us, a very new take on a trade show, with interesting, young innovators showcasing their skills and passion for their products and the industry as a whole. It's a definite must-visit if you can (shows are also hosted in Edinburgh and Manchester) and is getting us very excited for the upcoming London Cocktail Week!