Welcome to What India is Drinking 2023, the first edition of a planned annual
survey of the best-selling alcobev brands in India’s top bars. This survey report
is in many ways an extension of 30BestBarsIndia—our annual bar ranking
platform and awards show that honours the best bars in the country—which is in its fourth
edition this year.
While 30BestBarsIndia’s origins lay in the need for a platform to celebrate the remarkable
evolution of the Indian bar industry over the last decade, What India is Drinking 2023 is
a deep dive into understanding the rapid rise in premiumisation in the drinks industry in
India, as seen through the preferences of bar enthusiasts.
The rapid flow of international brands into the Indian market in recent times has been more
than matched by the tremendous upsurge in the launch of Indian spirits’ brands across
sectors, by entrepreneurs, mid-sized companies and even multinationals. This in turn has
been driven by the variety seeking consumers attracted by the high liquid quality, and strong
brand stories. Bars and bartenders too are revelling in this opportunity to expand their
potential offerings as it gives them more flavour profiles to work with for their cocktails, as
also more premium spirits to serve their guests.
The launch of What India is Drinking 2023 in that sense comes at an appropriate time in the
evolution of the Indian drinks industry. Based on a survey of bar owners, bartenders and bar
managers, it looks at the sales pattern of major brands across 20 categories in the premium,
on-premise segment in alcohol and non-alcoholic categories, spread over 125 bars in leading
metros in the country.
The report provides some interesting findings, especially with consumers giving as much
weightage to international brands with substantial pedigree and provenance, as to local and
recently launched home-grown brands in several categories. Brands that have invested in
on-trade promotion and in building strong linkages with the bartending community seem
to have benefitted the most. And these benefits in the on-trade segment, we’re sure, have also
had ripple effects in retail.
This report has been produced by 30BestBarsIndia, in association with the Bangalore-based
PR firm, The Outlier. They have been our partners in numerous projects, and we are thankful
to their team for their hard work. We are also grateful for the time volunteered by bars across
the country in responding to our survey. This report would not have been possible without
their time and effort.
Hope you find the report insightful and beneficial.
THE METHOD BEHIND THE SURVEY
It goes without saying that Indians have been drinking and brewing alcohol for thousands of years. Even industrial scale alcohol production in India is more than two centuries’ old. The British set up the first modern distillery in India to make Rum for its soldiers in 1805, in Kanpur. By the early 20th century, there were 14 distilleries in the country, and by the time the country gained independence from the British, the number had climbed to 40, a figure that has grown steadily since. Production, imports and consumption of alcohol have seen a quantum leap in the last
two decades. The Indian alco-beverage industry is currently estimated to be worth more than $50 billion a year; most of it dominated by what is officially called Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL), and Indian Made Indian Liquor (IIML).
This report, despite the name, is focused only on a small slice of this giant liquor market — the drinking habits of Indians who frequent 125 premium bars in the country’s biggest cities. The list of bars is drawn from a long list of bars that we compile annually for the ‘30BestBars India’ ranking; and is a mix of independent bars, restaurant bars and hotel bars.
Equally important, this report is based on a survey of bar owners (and head bartenders, and bar managers where the owners were not available) or beverage managers who provided answers to a questionnaire asking them to list the names of the best-selling brands in various alcohol categories in their respective bars. No sales figures were asked for, and no sales figures were provided. The list of the bars surveyed is provided at the end of this report.
Our sample covers 12 cities in a dozen states in the country. These are states where laws for the sale of alcohol are relatively less restrictive. All the bars surveyed have been around for more than six months, which we believe is the minimum time required to comprehensively gauge consumer trends and preferences. We have also ensured that for major centres like Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Kolkata, and Goa, we have a minimum of 10 top bars surveyed.
Each respondent was asked to rank their 5 top selling brands over the past year, across important categories such as Whisky, Vodka, Gin, Wine, Beer, Rum, Wine, Mixers, Water and many others. In some of the minor categories, the respondents were asked to name their top 3 top selling brands. The brands mentioned could be Indian or International, unless specified otherwise. A weighted average system was used to arrive at the final tally.
Recognising the distribution problems inherent in the Indian alcohol industry, we have also provided specific cityrelated insights, which reveal interesting data and discernible geographical trends. With burgeoning interest in cocktails across the country, the survey also lists the most sought out cocktails in these bars. We targeted five popular spirit segments for cocktails – Gin, Vodka, Agave, Rum, and Whisky – for this exercise.
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