Covid-19 Challenges Continue to Drive Innovation in the Cocktail Segment


The last 19 months have been particularly hard for beverage operations at Canadian restaurants as dining-rooms experienced closures and pivoted to takeout. And while some customers took advantage of innovative cocktail kits offered by many operators, pent-up demand to share drinks with friends means cocktails were top of mind when restaurant patios and dining-rooms were finally able to re-open.

This craving to return to normalcy has caused customers to flock to their local bars, restaurants and hotels more than usual. Rus Yessenov, director of Beverage at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel in Toronto, where he oversees all of the wine, spirits and cocktail sales for the hotel, says there are a few trends he’s noticed.

“I wouldn’t say consumption is up on the whole, but there is a lot of pent-up demand from people who were not able to travel or experience their favourite bars or restaurants [during COVID-19],” says Yessenov. “Guests are coming in to experience home away from home and as restrictions lift, you see an immediate boost in traffic.”

Tequila has seen its popularity rise steadily through the pandemic, with more and more people turning to the Mexican liquor as a way of living up the pandemic summer to the best of their abilities.

To determine what customers are drinking both at home and away from home, Yessenov says “you can check the shelves of your local liquor store,” agreeing that tequila sales have increased with Tequila Mescal being the biggest seller in his hotel. Another surprise big-seller, he adds, has been champagne.

Throughout the pandemic, he says the Margarita has reigned supreme, while also inspiring some hit spinoffs.
“The Margarita has been the drink of 2021 around the globe. The cocktail world is showing that sales have increased across the board, including the spicy Margarita and the Daisy Club, which features ancho chili, Blanco tequila, red bell pepper and grapefruit juice. It’s one of our more-popular hits” says Yessenov.

Gin has also seen a slight uptick in consumption, a trend Yessenov credits that to the number of local micro-distilleries in Canada. But it’s no longer just the basic gin and tonic driving sales. More specialty cocktails are being crafted with the spirit, a sign that customers are looking for more than just traditional tastes in their drinks.

As the seasons change so too do people’s palates and Yessenov says, that as the leaves shift from green to yellow, red and brown, the sales of liquor shift from white to golden brown, with more smoky whiskeys and rums being consumed.

By Nick Laws

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.