If there is one thing that Joe McCanta likes more than anything else in the world, it’s making vodka cocktails. Little wonder then that McCanta is the global brand ambassador for Grey Goose, a leading vodka brand from Bacardi.
McCanta was in India recently as a jury member for Grey Goose House of Change, a programme by Bacardi that focuses on providing expertise to bartenders with training sessions divided into different modules, including sessions on grooming, styling, communication, photography, personality and etiquette and social media. This year is its fourth edition and it has collaborated with the Singapore Tourism Board. A final selection of eight bartenders will travel to Singapore and train with some of the leading bartenders there.
“The cocktail culture in India is growing and that makes India a very important market for Grey Goose,” says McCanta. “Just look at the number of Indian bars that are now in Asia’s 50 Best Bars list,” says McCanta impressed with Indian bartending talent. This year, five bars from India made it to Asia’s 50 Best Bars list. “We are a French brand. France is all about food. It is all about celebration, all about coming together. It's all about luxury. So in a lot of ways there are a lot of similarities between India and France,” he added.
While India is primarily a brown spirits market with whiskey enjoying maximum market share, McCanta feels that white spirits such as vodka and gin are making inroads, primarily in the metros. He credits the cocktail culture for that. “Converting a whiskey drinker into a vodka drinker is not all that difficult and I say this from personal experience,” says McCanta. He says in Europe a decade or so ago, people weren’t really drinking vodka cocktails.
All you saw in bars across Europe were Old Fashioned and Manhattan, both whiskey-based cocktails. However, with more bartenders working with vodka and gin, their consumption has increased. “Vodka is a very versatile alcohol and a great medium for a cocktail. I doubt even the most talented bartender could do a whiskey Bloody Mary or Espresso Martini with whiskey,” smiles McCanta.
In India the vodka market is currently around $38 million and is expected to grow annually by 4.34 per cent (CAGR 2022-2025), according to Statista. In comparison, the whiskey market is worth $17.6 billion and is expected to grow annually by 6.31 per cent (CAGR 2022-2025).
McCanta points out that people, especially Gen Z, are drinking less, but drinking better. In the US and UK Grey Goose has launched Grey Goose Essense which is 30 per cent ABV, 10 per cent less than regular vodka. It’s made with botanicals and fresh fruit.
“If every person was to have one nice cocktail instead of five bad cocktails, we would still be growing,” says McCanta adding that the plan is to convert whiskey drinkers into vodka and specifically Grey Goose drinkers and also recruit from the huge population entering the legal drinking age. “Globally we are seeing that people are drinking less beer and wine and more cocktails. So people are moving away from the binge drinking mentality and just enjoying the perfect martini.”
While vodka is generally associated with Russia, Eastern Europe and Scandinavia, Grey Goose is French. The brand was launched in 1997 by American businessman Sidney Frank who saw a gap in the market for premium vodka. It was sold to Bacardi in 2004. Frank collaborated with cellar master Francois Thibault who was earlier making cognac. And so it was that Grey Goose came to be made in Cognac. Grey Goose uses wheat grown in Picardie – considered the breadbasket of France – and natural spring water. The distillation and filtration takes place in Cognac. A French-made vodka gave Grey Goose the premium status in the American market that Frank had wanted.
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