With government guidelines changing once more, the pinch for the hospitality industry can be felt again. Having navigated the ever-changing parameters of pandemic living, businesses are scrambling to find ways of staying afloat. However, some have managed to find the silver lining; like South-London drinks brand, Asterley Bros, who have managed to keep both the drinks – and the cash – flowing with a pivot to direct-to-consumer trade.
Headed up by sibling-duo Rob and Jim Berry, Asterley Bros started as a passion project for the pair: with a combined 20 years’ experience in bartending and mixology, they knew better than anyone what would whet the appetite of the drinks industry. Producing the much-loved Italian tipples of vermouth, amaro, and fernet, but giving them a premium British twist, the brand had grown to grace the back-bars of the most reputable establishments in the country.
When lockdown put an abrupt end to its routes to market, the brand faced a sink-or-swim moment and realised its survival could be served solely by pivoting to a DTC model. However, with little brand awareness outside of the hospitality circles, the challenge lay in establishing itself as a household name.
To do this, Asterley Bros launched a series of Lockdown Cocktails and ‘Quarantinis’, updated its branding to reflect the changing world around them and ensured its designs were as bold as its flavours. The brand then launched its Cocktail Club in July: a direct-to-door subscription service, which delivers ready-mixed cocktails, snacks from independent British brands, and taster samples of its spirits with suggested serves. The pivot paid off: in the first six months, the team has sold almost 4000 cocktail serves and has sent out hundreds of Cocktail Club boxes to adventurous cocktail enthusiasts.
Speaking about the decision, Asterley Bros co-founder Rob Berry commented:
“The cocktails were our one shot at making it through lockdown, but the source of its success is that it answered a gap in the pandemic market – for both us and our customers. We’d never needed the consumer market to buy into British amaro before; we just needed their bartenders to!”
“However, with the change in demand, we knew we needed to look beyond the on-trade, and the only way to do this would be to recreate the bar experience at home. We analysed what we thought consumers would miss most and quickly realise that it was premium cocktails, simple aperitivo snacks, and the discovery process of trying new drinks and spirits that they would usually have had at their favourite bars. We knew we had to embrace those changes.”
A key focus of the Cocktail Club, as well as delivering unique & seasonal cocktails to delight home-drinkers, is to promote other small independent brands and shine a light on their products as well as the Asterley Bros serves. The brand includes free samples, serves, additional content and interviews with the brands to help drive awareness, and much needed revenue, in this time of crisis. Partnerships with Cabby’s Rum, British Cassis, HYKE gin and Londinio Liqueurs are just a few of the many the Brothers have planned for 2020.
In addition, building on the success of the Cocktail Club, Asterley Bros set out to find the ‘new faces’ of its Cocktails. Looking to give back to the customers that had been loyal through the launch – as well as reaching and converting new customers – the brand ran a competition, in which the winners would have their selfie recreated in the Asterley Bros signature style, and feature on the front of The Cocktail Club kits. Four lucky winners were chosen and will appear on the popular cocktail kits throughout the year, each representing a season of the Year all whilst becoming honorary members of the Cocktail Club and receiving a year’s worth of free cocktails. The Autumn release will be the first to feature one of the new brand ‘icons’ and is the face of the brand’s Plum Daiquiri, designed by Creative Director Joe Schofield.
“As times change and we head into the next phase of ‘covid-influenced’ living, we know that our customers want unique, celebratory experiences, delivered to their doors. People want some fun and levity, and an opportunity to share these new found drinks and spirits with loved ones on a regular basis. In celebration of the support we have had, and the loyal customers we have secured, we set out to find four new faces that represented us, the brand and our customers. We are so pleased with the new look and feel of our Cocktail Club and hope that the images resonate with our customers.”