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Record numbers of Britons took to cocktails drinking during pandemic

Britons are drinking cocktails in record numbers at home and in bars according to drinks group AG Barr, as consumers opt for a pornstar martini or mojito in a trend accelerated during the pandemic.

The Scottish company, which makes Irn-Bru, Rubicon and cocktail brand Funkin, said 7.4 million people drink cocktails when they go to a bar, club or restaurant, a 13% increase compared with pre-pandemic levels. About 43% of those cocktail drinkers indulge at least once a week.

AG Barr, which reported that its overall business has bounced back above pre-pandemic levels in the year to 30 January, first noticed the cocktail boom last spring as Covid restrictions that kept the hospitality industry shut were lifted.

Sales of its mixers jumped more than 60% in the 10 weeks after restrictions were lifted, compared with pre-pandemic.

“The cocktail category has performed extremely well, benefiting from increased numbers of consumers returning to venues and increasing levels of participation in the category,” the company said. “Cocktails outperformed other categories.”

The company said that the popularity of cocktails has endured, accounting for 9.9% of total venue drink sales between April and 23 October last year, compared with 6% in the same period pre-pandemic.

“While the emergence of the Omicron variant towards the end of 2021 led to both the reintroduction of some social restrictions and increased consumer caution over the festive period, the cocktail category remains a significant growth opportunity for the hospitality sector in general,” the company said.

The surge in the popularity of drinking cocktails while locked down at home has continued despite the reopening of pubs, bars and clubs.

The company said the sale of cocktails for home consumption had risen 44% year-on-year to be worth £92m, of a total ready-to-drink market of £509m. Bestsellers include pornstar martini, mojito, sex on the beach, Long Island iced tea and daiquiri.

In February, AG Barr revealed it is increasing its prices after its packaging, ingredients and energy-linked commodity costs jumped, as it raised its sales and profit estimates.

On Tuesday, the company reported a 62% increase in pretax profits to £42.2m for the year to 30 January. Revenues rose 18% to £268.8m with the financial performance leading the company to reintroduce its dividend during the year.

“Our business and brands have once again proven their resilience in uncertain and often challenging circumstances,” said the AG Barr chief executive, Roger White. “We enter the new financial year with good momentum and exciting brand and sales plans. Trading in the early weeks of the new financial year has been well ahead of the prior year and in line with our expectations.”

The drink made global headlines last November when the US congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez posted an Instagram video praising Irn-Bru, after being handed a can by the Scottish first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, on her arrival in Glasgow for the Cop26 conference.