High in sugar, focused on dairy and the favourite tipple of your grandma – maybe even your grandma’s grandma – the retro serves making a return this Christmas shouldn’t be cool. Yet somehow the likes of eggnog and snowballs have made a strong comeback. What’s behind this embrace and reinvention of once uncool classics? And what can drinks makers learn from it for the future?
Pour a stiff one. You’ve survived 2022 with enough of your sanity intact to still be functioning cognitively. And so, we raise a glass to you. Yes, it’s been another year loaded with curve balls and surprise plot twists. And as much as that’s true of events in the wider world, it’s also true of drinks.
Nostalgia has been a mega-trend across food and drink over the past year or so, as stressed consumers have been reaching for comforting treats that remind them of better times. Refer to our previous focus for a closer look. But even so, the flurry of interest around ironic, elevated, and updated versions of deeply retro festive serves feels like an unlikely event.
Serves that shouldn’t make sense
From eggnog to snowballs, serves that shouldn’t make sense in the flurry of wellness and moderation trends still shaping consumption, are being revived and updated and embraced by seemingly unlikely consumer groups.
Let’s start with snowballs, a kitsch concoction of Advocaat (made with egg yolks, sugar, brandy and vanilla) lemonade and a squeeze of citrus. Bonus points for a glacier cherry. Believed to date from the 1940s, in 2019 the serve truly entered the modern era with a launch by leading Advocaat brand Warninks, of a tinned RTD serve.
New for 2022 is a number of riffs on the classic recipe, as well as a wealth of social media activity as the sweet serve is fully embraced by a new generation. I’m sorry, you knew it was coming – we defer again to TikTok. From a Bailey’s snowball, to the inevitable creep of the dirty soda trend (milk and cola) to new realms with the milk and Fanta snowball, this social media platform truly knows no bounds when it comes to enthusiastic, if unproven, recipe development. Videos under the ‘snowball cocktail’ term have amassed a whopping 1.2 billion views.
But if social media is a source of consumer innovation, bartenders and brands are of course our barometer of more credible new takes on the old. Master of Malt is pushing a spicy version of the serve, with the addition of its seasonal Project #173 Christmas Pudding rum. Meanwhile respected East London bar Silverleaf has added a limited edition Snowball, made with Nikka Days Whisky, salted egg yolk, Oolong tea and white chocolate.
Eggnog has always been much more of a US tradition. Made with eggs, sugar, milk, cream, rum or bourbon and spices such as nutmeg, it’s never taken off to the same degree in the UK. In fact, NPD in the US this year has seen a rush of premixed Eggnog options, or Eggnog flavoured products, including unsurprisingly, a rush of lower fat, lower sugar and plant-based, dairy-free options. Just look to Kellogg’s partnership with Sugarlands Distilling and the resulting Eggo Nog Appalachian Sippin’ Cream for the more indulgent side of the trend.
In the UK, bars and brands are still trying to make it a thing. Chairman’s Reserve Spiced rum has been pushing a Spicenog recipe, while the Kyrö Distillery Company has also been marketing an Eggnog recipe, made with the addition of its Cream Liqueur. Compared to the snowball though, it’s not yet reached a critical mass, but awareness is certainly growing.
What does it all mean?
We can’t deny that every four or five years there seems to be a headline or trend piece on return of these classics. But their proliferation on platforms such as TikTok to an entirely new generation is something new. And not only are this generation giving it a go, they’re embracing it rather than ironically poking fun at it, and making it their own. Meanwhile, the endorsement by high-end bars seems to lend credibility to the renaissance. Ironic indulgence with a wry wink, this is not.
Fun, frivolity, and it has to be said, the opportunity to not think too deeply and just embrace tried, tested and reliably good things, is very much the overriding mood as another tough year comes to a close. Though high-end and new takes on the serves are fun, it’s the comfort in familiarity people are seeking. Easy serves that tap into this, from the wine spritzer to a sherry and tonic, will continue to pop back up and be embraced for as long as this consumer mood sticks, offering value for money and a reliable treat.
A safe renaissance
But as we move into the new year, what can we learn? When is this consumer mood likely to shift? For the answer, we look largely to the economy. Though many imbibers continue to seek experimentation, those feeling the financial pinch are likely to stick to reliable sources of pleasure for as long as they feel uncertain of their current circumstances.
For brands, does this mean that successful innovation currently lies in being, well, a bit boring? The key to capturing the consumer imagination at the moment seems to lie not just in nostalgia and tapping into habits, moments or serves that seem familiar. No, it seems to lie in being customisable too, and offering consumers enough of an opportunity to play and make a serve their very own. Whether that’s by throwing fanta in it, or throwing in some jalapeno peppers. Hell, why not.
Brands looking to launch in 2023 and break free of this current need for the familiar, should take heed of what seems to now be essential; having a serve that either offers something visually fun to play around with, or else offers the opportunity for a serve that may seem a bit mad flavour and ingredient wise, but just works. Comfort them, or else be playful, for now those are the golden rules.
Interested in finding out more about what this might mean for you and your business?
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