Boston: This weekend, if you are at one of the happening nightclubs around the queen of Mumbai’s suburbs, Bandra, or further down at Juhu, the city’s glamour hub, you are likely to run into supermodel Carol Gracias offering the party-hearty some ice-cold Jager shots, served just like they should be—colder than ice at -15°C.
Carol will be flanked by a bevy of sexy Jagerettes, heralding a new concept in Mumbai’s party circuit called Jager Nights.
For the uninitiated, Jagermeister is a party drink. A mysterious recipe makes this herb liqueur appealing to millions of its fans worldwide. Sixty Jagermeister Tap Machine Dispensers have reached Indian shores.
They ensure that Jagermeister is served ‘colder than ice’ at the push of a button.
Jagermeister is not the only exotic liquor brand to hit Indian shores. Alize, a premium French cognac-based cocktail, is looking to entice the globe-trotting, well-heeled Mumbaikar with flavours such as passion fruit, tangy cranberry, mango and grapefruit.
Other interesting brands hitting bar tops across metros are Midori, Matusalem rum and Marie Brizard—fruit liqueurs with a long list of flavours. Midori, too, is a premium quality liqueur, vibrant green in colour, with a light, refreshing taste of melon, developed by Suntory, Japan’s leading producer and distributor of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.
Rohit Khosla, general manager, Taj President, a business hotel from the Indian Hotels Co. Ltd, agrees that there has been a huge influx of premium liquor brands in India. “Whether it’s platinum vodka, rare single malts, top of the line cognac brands or rare rum from the Caribbean—Indian consumers now have access to it all. While consumers generally pick their personal favourites, they are getting more experimental in their taste,” Khosla says.
Adds Sanjay Gupta, assistant food and beverage manager, Hilton Towers: “Till two years ago, whisky was the most sought after drink. However, over the last two years, things have changed drastically as people are experimenting with newer liqour. The good thing about the influx of newer brands in the Indian market is that it helps us innovate,” he says.
When Marie-Claude and Jean-Paul Lafragette started Alize in the 1980s, they wanted to take the finest French cognac and blend it with natural passion fruit juices to create an experience, and India is the latest invitee.
“Traditionally, cognac has been elitist, restricted to cigar bars and three-piece suits; it has always been considered the crème de la crème of wine and spirits and has this air of exclusivity. With Alize, we aim to maintain this position but at the same time make it accessible to a larger section of the public,” says Lewis Johnstone, director, Kobrand International, the company that owns the brand internationally.
While Matusalem is of Cuban heritage and origin, Marie Brizard from the famous land of Bordeaux in France is one of the world’s most venerable producers of liqueurs and drinks. Based on flavours and extracts of plants, fruits and spices, Marie Brizard products are used to rustle up cocktails that appeal to a range of tastes.
The brand positioning of these spirits is being created by a range of innovative marketing concepts such as the Jager Nights.
Marie Brizard recently held a competition for bartenders in Delhi, titled the Marie Brizard Dream Date Cocktail Contest. Bartenders from the Capital had to submit an original recipe using any of the Marie Brizard flavours as its base.
The creator of the best cocktail won a trip to Bordeaux to participate in the International Bartending Competition to be held in September 2007. The success of this initiative has prompted the brand to replicate it in other metros.
“The brand recently became the No. 1 imported liqueur in the US, and this is really a clear sign for us that Jagermeister has arrived as a power brand,” says David Bell, regional director, Asia Pacific region, Mast-Jagermeister AG. “In 2006, we shipped around 2.9 million nine-litre cases to the US. It is now our biggest selling market worldwide, overtaking our home market Germany.”
Manav Malhotra, a software developer from Mumbai who has recently come back from an education stint in the UK, agrees. “On those weekends when the plan was to let loose and have a good time, it was Jagermeister undoubtedly,” he says. “With any other shot drink, you get a terrible hangover the next day, but not with this one. We would buy a bottle between the group, and it would also work out to be economical. I’m really excited to see it in Mumbai’s nightspots.”
“The foreign brands hitting the Indian market are targetting the premium drinking occasions, where young and regular partygoers make it a point to experience a real global ambience. Many such brands, which are yet to be launched in the country, enter the market through duty-free channels,” says Santosh Kanekar, director, sales, Diageo India Ltd.
The industry, in fact, is not surprised by this. The firms are relating this to India’s economic boom. Says Vijay Rekki, president, United Spritis Ltd: “The increasing young generation and a boost in disposable income due to higly paid employment opportunties of late are the two factors that help expanding the Indian liqour market with global brands.”
The Taj President hires an international bar consultant every three months to ensure that it is abreast of all the international trends.
Vishal Singh, resident manager of the hotel, says, “People are more discerning about brands today. So a martini’s not just a martini anymore. Customers will ask the bartender to make the drink with their preferred brand of premium liquor.”
Gouri Shah and C.H. Unnikrishnan in Mumbai contributed to this story.