Your backbar and coolers are prime real estate, and the products placed there must be money-makers. With hangover prevention and recovery drinks entering the fray, patrons’ philosophies on drinking are evolving. At the same time, bartenders are looking to mixers, such as Mercy, iX MiXer and Hangover Joe’s Get Up & Go, as novel additions to their backbars, cocktail menus and bottom lines.
Form & Function
The search for the cure to the common hangover is age-old; today, innovative companies spend time and money with scientists creating all-natural products that assuage the symptoms of alcohol consumption. The pay-off for that effort is enjoyed by bar and club operators savvy enough to take them on, as hangover prevention and recovery drinks can help distinguish them from the competition.
Offered as stand-alone beverages or mixed with spirits and juices, hangover recovery and prevention drinks come in various shapes in sizes. Mercy and iX Mixer are served in 8.4-ounce cans to preserve effectiveness, while Hangover Joe’s is a two-ounce shot.
In this day and age, anything that mitigates the effects of indulgence is welcomed by consumers. Still, when Jeff Somers, Nick Rolston, Guy Adams and his wife Lisa Lovett launched iX MiXer in Denver in 2010, they knew they were entering into uncharted territory.
“This is something that hasn’t been done before,” Somers says, explaining that they were looking to create an alternative to tonics, sodas and energy drinks patrons often turn to at the end of an evening. “We have a gimmick that differentiates us from most mixers.”
For instance, iX MiXer is created with an enhanced formula of electrolytes and vitamins that “won’t make you feel bad the next day,” Somers explains, because it keeps you hydrated. Additionally, iX has distinct flavors, so it can be mixed with other spirits or sipped on its own.
The priority for Somers and his team is to conquer the mixer market with a product that tastes good, is carbonated and is naturally sweetened. “The hangover [remedy] stuff is secondary,” he explains.
Dave Shor, founder and chief executive officer of Mercy, highlights the functionality of ingredients that “help the other ingredients work together.” The synergistic elements in Mercy jumpstart the body’s recovery process before the hangover sets in, he says. “It fortifies your body against the damages of alcohol, replenishing nutrients and preventing hangovers.”
To develop Hangover Joe’s, an alcohol-free recovery shot, President Shawn Adamson spent months of long hours working alongside scientists before he got the right combination of amino acids, antioxidants and herbs for hangover relief.
For operators, having recovery drinks on the backbar entices Millennials who come out on weekends, as well as professionals who want to enjoy a few drinks after work without feeling the repercussions the next day.
Originally, Adamson’s target market for Hangover Joe’s focused on males between the ages of 21 and 30, and although it’s very popular among the male crowd, he was shocked when baby boomers, women, stay-at-home moms, day laborers, executives on the way to the office, etc., all started using the product. “It’s really a crossover brand,” he says.
Somers relies on a two-fold segmented marketing strategy for iX MiXer. The brand targets 21- to 25-year-olds, who are more interested in the hangover aspects but “not quite as concerned about being healthy,” and people in their late 20s and early 30s who are looking for a healthier mixer alternative.
Shor explains that Mercy is geared toward responsible revelers who come out to enjoy a couple of cocktails but still want to function the next morning without worrying about the residual effects of imbibing.
Even with the mix of amino acids and vitamins that deliver energy and strength, recovery and prevention drinks also must consider flavor.
Mercy boasts a light citrus flavor that mixes well with spirits but also can be enjoyed on its own. Others have a sweeter profile. Mark Rebolini, general manager of Sharkey’s Beach Bar in Myrtle Beach, S.C., describes Hangover Joe’s “like a punch or Kool-Aid.” Meanwhile, iX MiXer comes in two flavors: Berrie and Citrus.
Bartender Andrew Linares from The Matchbox in Denver took on iX MiXer more than a year ago and understands the natural trepidation in adding these new products to your menu.
“I think that there are some patrons that have heard of the general notion of alcohol mixers that alleviate hangovers, but it’s still a novel concept. People are familiar with energy drinks and vodka, and people assume [iX MiXer] is an energy drink,” so, to distinguish iX MiXer from other options, he displays it prominently with the canned beer, prompting patrons to ask about it.
Anessa DeSarno is director of client services at Greenhouse nightclub and Juliet Supper Club in New York City where Mercy was introduced six months ago; it’s included as a specialty offering for private parties, as a mixer and in bucket form for bottle service. DeSarno also sends cans of Mercy to the venues’ biggest clients as a thank you. After a great night at Greenhouse, they wake up, take a few sips of Mercy and are energized to do it again, she explains.
DeSarno credits most of Mercy’s success to word-of-mouth marketing from staff and patrons. “We’re really promoting the idea of drinking Mercy and feeling good in the morning,” DeSarno says, especially because they have a lot of repeat clients.
“You drink Mercy by getting a can on your way home, and you can come back the next day,” she says.
DeSarno and Rebolini agree that what really makes recovery and prevention drinks profitable is that they don’t compete with anything else on the backbar.
“Anything you’re going to sell that doesn’t compete, you’re going to increase profits,” Rebolini says. “We didn’t have anything like [Hangover Joe’s], we just had BLU Energy and Red Bull. This is a unique concept. It sells.”
Mixing It Up
For a bartender, the making of quality drinks often outweighs the profit. At The Matchbox, Linares says iX MiXer isn’t overpowering, allowing “for the flavor of [the spirit] to come through.”
One of Linares’ favorite uses of iX is in his Gineration iX cocktail made with gin and Berrie iX MiXer, topped with lemon juice. “It’s delightful,” he says, noting that, more importantly, it’s a great drink to turn people onto gin who aren’t into it. “I’ve never had someone say they didn’t like it.”
Rebolini and his team sell more than a case of Hangover Joe’s on its own per week; to increase profits further, the bar team recently created the Joe Bomb, made with raspberry vodka and Hangover Joe’s, which sells for $6.
Not only is it profitable but “it’s healthier than a Jägerbomb,” Rebolini says.
Cocktails made with Mercy at Greenhouse and Juliet Supper Club are priced between $12 and $16; DeSarno buys a case for $33. “It’s less expensive [than energy drinks]. It has been more profitable to our business on the monetary side,” she explains, adding that the profit margin on Mercy is higher than other beverages.
In fact, because Greenhouse is a high-volume nightclub, bottle service is big business. DeSarno notices guests creating their own Mercy cocktails, often drinking Mercy Mimosas at 2 a.m. “It’s definitely an extra outlet for us,” she says.
Versatility is key in marketing recovery and prevention drinks. Options include serving them as alcohol-free beverages on their own that increase guest energy throughout the evening, as cocktail mixers that please the palate and as the last drinks of the night — a great alternative to water — before exiting the bar or club.
Once your bartenders are on board, your cocktails are in place and your merchandising points for these newcomers are on the backbar, hangover prevention and recovery drinks will become familiar to your customers and undoubtedly make them think even more fondly of your venue the next morning. NCB