Dundee Bartender wins 2018 Fernet-Branca coin design

March 2018

A Dundee bartender has won a UK-wide vote to have his design minted as the UK’s 2018 Fernet-Branca Challenge Coin.

Turtle Higgins, bartender at Bird & Bear, won the biggest share of the vote by bar trade professionals in the contest organised by Hi-Spirits, UK distributor of classic Italian digestif Fernet-Branca.

The challenge coins are carried and swapped by a select group of bartenders around the world, marking their membership of the exclusive Fernet-Branca Secret Society. Many countries create their own annual designs, celebrating the brand’s heritage and versatility.

The design theme for the contest was “what makes the UK bar scene so great?” Turtle’s winning design uses the tools of his trade – bar spoons, a jigger and a bar top – to create a stylised Union flag, and is a celebration of the unity and diversity of the bar trade.

More than 1100 bar professionals took part in the online vote, with Turtle’s design winning 254 votes. He said: “I’m both humbled and ecstatic to win with a design that I put a lot of thought into, and particularly because Fernet-Branca is a brand that means so much to the hospitality trade.”

Second place went to a design by Roy Varty of Night Caps in Newcastle upon Tyne, with a design commemorating a Fernet-loving customer who was tragically killed in a skiing accident; while third place winner Mariusz Plucinski of Johnny Foxes & The Den in Inverness created a cocktail shaker design to symbolise the broad mix of people who make up the bartending community.

Turtle will be the first person in the UK to receive the 2018 UK coin. He will be presented with one to keep for himself and four more to pass on to fellow bartenders on his travels, before the coins are released into wider circulation.

Dan Bolton, managing director of Hi-Spirits, said: “All the entrants put real thought into their designs, so full credit goes to Turtle for winning the vote. The Fernet-Branca Challenge Coins are an important part of the international bartending community, and so we’re delighted to have given bartenders the chance to design the 2018 UK coin.”

Created in Milan in 1845 by Bernardino Branca, Fernet-Branca is a 39% ABV digestif amaro with a distinctive bitter flavour, still made to the closely-guarded original recipe.

This September also sees the annual global Fernet-Branca Barback Games for bartenders held in London. To keep up with the latest news on the contest, please visit

For more information, please contact Hi-Spirits on 01932 252 100, email or visit

Casual Dining contraction is independents’ opportunity, says Lynx Purchasing

March 2018

With casual dining brands closing sites and scaling back expansion, well-run independent operators have an opportunity to take back market share, says buying specialist Lynx Purchasing.

Operators who do their homework on the eating-out market, including implementing strong buying disciplines, can broaden their customer appeal, says Lynx Purchasing managing director Rachel Dobson. “Since the start of 2018 we’ve seen a number of well-known casual dining operators announce branch closures, renegotiate with their landlords, and cut back on expansion plans.

“It’s clear that some brands had over-extended themselves. While every business is dealing with the challenges of more cautious levels of consumers spending, there are still customers ready to eat out if they are offered good value and quality.

“Many of the businesses we work with are independent restaurants, pubs and cafés, and we’re advising them to look carefully at their menus and suppliers, and make sure they are implementing sensible buying habits that will enable them to make the most of opportunities in the current market.”

Lynx Purchasing is highlighting the changing eating out landscape as it publishes the Spring 2018 edition of its regular Market Forecast, which draws on exclusive data from its suppliers to look at buying trends. Issues flagged up in the Market Forecast include:

• Beef: Strong export demand is pushing up prices for UK customers, and the high profile investigation by the Food Standards Agency into catering butchers is also causing challenges There is more caution about using the trimmings from primal cuts, which increases not only the price caterers pay for steaks and joints, but also for beef mince to make menu favourites such as pies and burgers.

• Fish: The Marine Conservation Society has been calling on restaurants to remove wild caught sea bass from menus for some time, due to overfishing. New regulations have been put in place that aim to significantly reduce catches and chefs should consider using high quality, certified farmed sea bass, as an alternative.

• Dairy: Dairy prices have generally eased from the very high prices seen in 2017. However, the price of butter is softening, but is still higher than a year ago. As fluctuations continue, this has an impact on a range of products which use butter as an ingredient, and is likely to mean unpredictable prices for caterers into the spring and summer.

• Sugar: The sugar tax on soft drinks, which comes into force in April, will hopefully not come as a surprise at this stage, but the full impact on prices is still not clear, as some brands may implement a price increase over and above the tax itself to offset higher production costs.

Dobson adds: “There will be boosts to trade around upcoming occasions such as Easter, as well as two Bank Holidays and the Royal Wedding in May; and, as we know, it sometimes only takes a spell of good weather to persuade customers out to eat and drink.

“While there are many factors beyond operators’ control, we are emphasising the importance of cost control and good buying habits to all our customers. Our new free insight guide, ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Purchasing Teams’, details seven proven ways that operators can make simple improvements to their purchasing, to generate substantial savings that can mean the difference between staying profitable or going under in this challenging market.”

Both the Spring 2018 Market Forecast and The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Purchasing Teams guide are available to download free from the Lynx Purchasing website at

Lynx Purchasing works with more than 2,200 hospitality and catering operators to match them with the best suppliers and get the best possible prices on food and drink, as well as a whole range of essential products and services. Lynx’s buying experts help operators buy better and save time and money, year after year.

For more information on Lynx Purchasing, visit email or call 01325 377 845.

Southern Comfort Black serves up the authentic taste of New Orleans

March 2018

With a high profile UK launch, Southern Comfort Black is bringing a robust new blend to the iconic New Orleans brand. Using the strapline “For those who want their smooth Southern Comfort extra BOLD,” the launch campaign engages with younger spirit drinkers’ growing interest in American whiskey.

The 40% ABV premium Southern Comfort expression will be distributed by Hi-Spirits in the UK on-trade and off-trade beginning March 2018. Southern Comfort Black features an innovative new blend which brings the New Orleans brand’s whiskey credentials to the fore, while still featuring creator M.W. Heron’s blend of fruits and spices.

Dan Bolton, managing director of Hi-Spirits, said: “Southern Comfort Black has an exciting new blend that puts whiskey right back at the heart of the brand’s proposition. There is a new generation of younger spirits drinkers looking for provenance and authenticity, and who appreciate the heritage of American whiskey.”

The new expression has been crafted by Drew Mayville, Sazerac’s master spirits blender , who acquired Southern Comfort in 2016. Hi-Spirits expects the bolder profile of Southern Comfort Black to have its strongest appeal to men who are seeking out American whiskey.

Using digital and social media, consumers will be able to access the ”Blacklist,”’ an interactive database of all stockists, to find their nearest outlet, and download a range of special offers to encourage trial.

Bolton adds: “The new ‘Spirit of New Orleans’ positioning launched last year has brought Southern Comfort back to its roots, and while Southern Comfort Original has a strong customer following who enjoy it in a broad range of drinks, Southern Comfort Black will specifically appeal to those looking for a bold whiskey profile, whether they enjoy it straight, on the rocks, or in whiskey-forward cocktails and mixed drinks.

“Southern Comfort Black is a bold expression, combining a robust new whiskey profile with the iconic Southern Comfort fruits and spices. Our high profile launch campaign will encourage trial and give consumers the opportunity to put Southern Comfort Black at the heart of the repertoire of drinks they enjoy.”

Southern Comfort Black has an RSP of £25 for a 70cl bottle. It joins Southern Comfort Original (35% ABV) and on-trade only Southern Comfort 100 (50% ABV) in the range distributed by Hi-Spirits.

For more information, please contact Hi-Spirits on 01932 252 100, email or visit

Brooklyn Gin incentive offers trips to Bar Convent Brooklyn

February 2018

Brooklyn Gin is offering bars the chance to win an all-expenses paid trip to the inaugural Bar Convent Brooklyn trade event in June.

Hi-Spirits, UK & Ireland distributor of Brooklyn Gin, will fly seven regional winners to Brooklyn in the USA, with the prizes awarded based on sales and promotion of the premium craft gin.

Bars can win the points-based incentive by collecting the distinctive copper-coloured Brooklyn Gin bottle caps as proof of sale. Additional points will be awarded for social media posts using the hashtag @BROOKLYNGIN, as well as for displays in venues featuring the brand.

Dan Bolton, managing director of Hi-Spirits, said: “Brooklyn Gin has built a strong following amongst bartenders, who appreciate the way its fresh, citrus flavours enhance both classic gin serves and bespoke cocktails.

“Bars now have a huge choice of gins, so with the much-anticipated Bar Convent Brooklyn trade event taking place in the home of Brooklyn Gin in June, this incentive is designed to recognise and reward bars that are supporting the brand. Our seven winning bartenders will enjoy an unforgettable trip and get a feel for the true Brooklyn spirit.”

To take part, bars need to register their interest by emailing, or contact their local Hi-Spirits rep. The incentive will run from 15 February to 31 April 2018, with a place on the trip for one bartender from the winning bar in each of the seven regions: London; Scotland and Newcastle; North; South Coast; Midlands; South West; and Ireland.

Points will be awarded on the basis of one point for each Brooklyn Gin bottle cap collected; one point for each social media post using the @BROOKLYNGIN hashtag (maximum three posts a week); five points for each in-venue display produced and photographed (minimum one month display); five points for featuring Brooklyn Gin on the drinks menu (minimum one month).

Winners must be over 21 to comply with Bar Convent Brooklyn entry conditions. The prize runs from 11 June to 14 June, and includes flights, accommodation at the Henry Norman Hotel and tickets to Bar Convent Brooklyn. Full T&Cs can be found at

Launching in 2018, Bar Convent Brooklyn takes place at the Brooklyn Expo Centre in the New York borough on 12 and 13 June. The event is an extension of the successful Bar Convent Berlin trade show for bar professionals, spotlighting premium brands and a high profile education programme. (

Brooklyn Gin is handcrafted in New York using artisan methods and the finest natural ingredients, including fresh, hand-cut citrus peels and hand-cracked juniper berries. The flavour is fresh and complex, with juicy citrus notes that enhance both classic and contemporary gin serves.

Founded in 2010 by industry veterans Emil Jättne and Joe Santos, Brooklyn Gin has won multiple awards including a double gold medal at the 2016 San Francisco World Spirits Competition.

For more information, please contact Hi-Spirits on 01932 252 100, email or visit

Lynx Purchasing shares buying insights with new guide

February 2018

Buying specialist Lynx Purchasing is opening the book on its decades of negotiating experience with the launch of a new insight guide – The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Purchasing Teams.

As hospitality and catering businesses gear up to tackle the twin challenges of continuing inflation and subdued consumer spending during 2018, the White Paper-style guide is free for operators to download from the Lynx Purchasing website.

The guide details seven proven ways that operators can make simple improvements to their purchasing, to generate substantial savings that can mean the difference between staying profitable or going under in a challenging market.

Rachel Dobson, managing director of Lynx Purchasing, said, “Between us, the Lynx team has decades of buying experience on both sides of the fence – most of us had operational roles before moving into purchasing.

“We’ve seen our Seven Habits work in practice many times. However, there are plenty of chefs and GMs out there who haven’t experienced a market as tough as this in their career so far, so we’ve brought the information together in a simple-to-use guide.”

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Purchasing Teams identified by Lynx are:

1. Beware The Sacred Cows: When it comes to purchasing, no product, ingredient, service or supplier should be sacred. Compare prices and look around for other options.
2. Keep It Strictly Business: Strong relationships with suppliers doesn’t mean getting too close and cosy. Compare prices and know which other suppliers are out there.
3. The Devil’s In The Detail: Have systems in place to make sure you are getting exactly what you pay for as well as buying what’s best for the business, such as checking price lists against invoices, and checking and weighing deliveries.
4. All Budgets Are Equal: Necessities – from cleaning products to pest control, lighting and office stationery – often escape buying scrutiny. Making a change could be an easy win with no customer impact.
5. Provenance Isn’t Always King: Local is a great story for the menu but businesses can lose sight of true costs – and the real value – of buying from local suppliers.
6. Test Traditions: Just like habits, there are good traditions and bad ones – “this is the way it’s done because we have always done it this way” isn’t a good enough reason in itself.
7. Always Review Renewals: It’s easy to let contracts roll over, especially if you are happy with the service. Never automatically renew a contract; call for competitive quotes on everything from utilities to waste management.

The insight guide focuses on each Habit in detail, and illustrates them with real examples of savings generated by Lynx Purchasing customers. These include a boutique hotel that saved £6,000 annually simply by switching the brand of chocolate used in the kitchen, and an independent restaurant that cut its annual food bill by 14% by using different suppliers for fresh and commodity items.

Dobson adds, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Purchasing Teams guide is a wake-up call for operators to review costs and take purchasing more seriously. It’s also an opportunity to get rid of bad purchasing habits and replace them with good ones – the kind that will maintain margins, or even increase them, however the economy is impacting on the business. Something as simple as specifying exactly how steaks are trimmed can save a substantial sum across the year.”

A copy of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Purchasing Teams can be downloaded FREE from the Lynx Purchasing website at

Lynx Purchasing works with more than 2,000 hospitality and catering operators to match them with the best suppliers and get the best possible prices on food and drink, as well as a whole range of essential products and services. Lynx’s buying experts help operators buy better and save time and money, year after year.

For more information on Lynx Purchasing, visit email or call 01325 377 845.

Drinkaware and Asda team up for responsible drinking campaign

January 2018

Alcohol education charity Drinkaware is joining forces with Asda to help shoppers keep their New Year’s resolutions by providing free information and advice on alcohol.

On Friday 12th January, Drinkaware ambassadors will be on hand in 100 Asda stores nationwide handing out thousands of specially-created alcohol assessment scratchcards which use a factual, non-judgemental approach to invite consumers to reflect on their drinking habits.

Customers will also be able to talk to the ambassadors to discuss any concerns they have about their own or family members’ drinking. The aim is to help people to make informed decisions, by creating awareness around the harms of alcohol and the health benefits of cutting down.

The 2018 partnership builds on a successful January 2017 pilot which saw Drinkaware engage with more than 2,000 Asda customers. This year will see a particular focus on women, based on Food Standards Agency research showing that 68% of women say they are responsible for most or all of the household shopping.

Along with the chance to talk with Drinkaware’s trained advisers, shoppers will be able to take home a copy of the charity’s ‘Talking to your kids about alcohol’ leaflet, as well as alcohol unit measure cups and calorie wheels.

Drinkaware Chief Executive Elaine Hindal said, “Drinkaware is delighted to be partnering with Asda on this important campaign which will help us to directly reach customers.

“With one in five people setting themselves a New Year’s resolution to lead a healthier lifestyle, which may include cutting back on alcohol, Drinkaware’s accessible and friendly advice will help people to make positive choices that will impact on their health and wellbeing, not just in January but throughout 2018 and beyond.”

Chris Lowe, Senior Director for Corporate Affairs at Asda, said: “We are pleased to be working with Drinkaware again this year, as part of our role as a responsible retailer, helping them to engage directly with our customers.

“Customer insight shows that more people think about their health in January, and look for ways to cut back on their alcohol consumption after the festive period, so this opportunity to receive accessible, friendly advice and support comes at just the right time.”