I get one almost every day, a press release for another new distilled spirits product. It doesn't matter if it's whiskey, tequila, rum or vodka. After a few words about why this is the most wonderful, delicious and prestigious new product ever, here come the recipes; the jazzy new cocktails, created perhaps by some celebrity mixologist.
Everybody today is pushing a new cocktail, or five. Each is promoted for about two seconds, then discarded for the next set. Often the drinks require exotic ingredients you don't have and bizarre processes you don't understand. (Fat washing, anyone?) Maybe they have clever names. Who can tell? Who can even take them all in? They're yesterday's news before you even finish reading them.
This is not a rant against cocktails. Cocktail culture is obviously still going strong. Consumers are still drinking cocktails and many still enjoy going up to their favorite bartender and saying, "what's new?"
But the difference between "what's new" and "what's out there that I haven't heard about" has never been greater. There are now thousands of drinks you haven't heard about and, therefore, nothing is new.
The problem is that as a form of promotion it has become rote. The drinks industry has become over-dependent on new cocktails. I expect to start seeing them in the quarterly financials.
The volume of new recipes is so great that no matter how breathless the people hyping them are, it's almost impossible for any of the drinks to catch on and become a phenomenon. Everything is simply washed away by the next wave before any new drink can plant a root and the people who are breathless about cocktail #286,547 today will never mention it again. Tomorrow they will be be just as breathless about cocktail #745,682.
You don't have to be around for very long to discern the pattern.
As a form of promotion, cocktails have become perfunctory, and in marketing perfunctory means dead. You might as well just save your money and do nothing if this is the best you can do.
Legal restrictions make it unusually hard for alcohol beverages to promote so it's probably no surprise that so many marketers seem to have given up. Instead of giving up, try harder, be more creative, take some chances. Recognize that what once was daring no longer is. If you must do a cocktail, figure out a new way to deliver it. Instead of doing five, do one and figure a way to make it stick.
New drinks, like new products, need more than their existence to justify their existence. That's what good promotion is all about.