For years the Old Fashioned has topped Drinks International’s ‘Best Selling Cocktail list’, firmly heralding a new era of discerning drinkers, leaving the beloved ‘disco drinks’ of the 90s and early noughties in the corner.

This move towards sophistication meant Daiquiris, Pina Coladas, Mojitos and even the beloved Cosmopolitan became a guilty pleasure to enjoy in secret, sipping away with likeminded disco drinkers, whilst listening to the ‘best of the 90s’ in the comfort of our own living rooms. Out in the light people were ordering and enjoying Old Fashioneds and the now cult cocktail: The Negroni.

As a devout Negroni lover, from my years working with Campari, and someone who fully embraced the discerning drinker phase, they aren’t, dare I say it, fun. Perfect as an opener (Negroni) or a closer (Old Fashioned, Boulevardier) they aren’t the drink that’s going to get you up on the dancefloor, raving at a festival or enjoying the pub in the sunshine with your mates, and isn’t that what we are all after now?  We’ve done the research…

The last few years were defined by a move towards more purposeful and earnest communications and campaigns which reflected the somber mood of the time. As people revel in the newfound freedom, consumers are beginning to reject this, seeking out and engaging with more joyful, uplifting marketing, advertising, and PR. 41% of consumers from a recent Porter Novelli survey, stated that fun was the number one reason to engage with a brand.

When it comes to alcohol, and the restrictions associated with it, how can brands capitalise on this newfound thirst for fun? People may have noticed that we are reliving many of the finest trends the 90s had to offer, from fashion to footwear to hairstyles. This decade, whether you loved it, loathed it, or even lived it the first time, is back and consumers can’t seem to get enough.

Along with barely their crop tops and boybands, the parties of the 90s were defined by hedonistic pleasure in now iconic night clubs, and this wanton abandon really shows us up as not partying like we used to. It appears to us that this could be the sweet spot for brands to ‘bring back the disco drinks’ and help us party like we want to. (Responsibly of course.)

Discerning drinkers led to discerning campaigns that communicated spirits as a passion point, the successful ‘Stir Creativity’ campaign from Bombay Sapphire and the ‘Campari Creates’ from Campari showed how brands wanted to tap into something more than ‘just’ a drinking occasion and how the spirit in question can elevate your cultural experiences. With consumers seeking vehicles for fun, brands need to capitalise on how their spirit can heighten whatever fun people are seeking. That is the new sweet spot.

Beer is a category that leverages fun communications, think of Foster’s adverts, Carlsberg ‘if Carlsberg did’, and the infamous BrewDog ‘Barnard Castle’ campaign. They know how to target and market to drinkers, appealing to the fun side of beer lovers, encapsulating how, as beer is a universal drink, it needs to have universal appeal. This approach has resulted in commercial success, with the BrewDog Barnard Castle beer crashing the website for nine hours.

With fun back at the top of the agenda, is it time for spirits to stop taking themselves so seriously?  There is huge opportunity to do this. Vodka, for example still enjoys the largest market share, and whilst other spirits have since become more ‘fashionable’, it is still the high-energy, high-octane session spirit that is the go-to of night clubs and festivals alike. It’s not just vodka, there is an opportunity for white rum and tequila to dial up the fun communications and appeal to the carefree wants of target audiences.

Not embracing this could have longer term consequences for attracting and securing customer loyalty and, with such a competitive category, spirits can’t be slow in catching onto this trend. Tequila and mezcal, despite status as ‘fun spirits’, from 2015-2020, the growth rate decreased by 4% and the sales value saw a 40% decrease from 2019.

Joyful communications is not just for the benefit of consumers – as communicators we thrive on the prospect of developing a campaign that plays on the desire for fun and laughter. So, bring back the Cosmo, decant the Daiquiri and mix up those Mojitos, the roaring twenties are back on the tracks and it’s time to help people dance to the tune they miss and enjoy.