• Projects
  • Studio
  • Thoughts
  • Careers
  • Contact
  • Date: 30.05.24

    Thirst Shots: American Gin

    In this edition of Thirst Shots, we explore three opportunities to own the next generation of American gin. While gin has long been entrenched in global spirits culture thanks to its versatility, there is a notable outlier: America, where gin is yet to find its home.

    In contrast to markets such as the UK and Spain, perceptions of gin in the U.S. are notably limited, which has constrained consumer appeal for decades. Instead, US consumers have gravitated towards more established and innovative categories, such as dark spirits and tequila. However, the tides are turning as both craft distilleries and luxury consumers are driving gin towards the forefront of spirits culture.

    As we enter this new era, the category is looking for a leader to craft gin’s American story, defining what the spirit stands for and what that means for consumers.

    So, how might one lead the American “Ginaissance”?

    01 Beyond botanicals

    Since its medicinal origins, gin has largely relied on traditional botanicals resulting in a sea of sameness centuries in the making.

    This isn’t to say our category has gone without innovation; we’ve seen strides in sustainability efforts, production methods, new ingredients, and unique provenance stories. However, these innovations have largely played it safe. In the US, we continue to orbit just outside of our original narrative: we are a spirit that is a sum of its humble botanical parts, and not much more.

    In a market saturated with high quality spirits, expanding past botanicals – in flavor, brand & product stories – presents an opportunity for differentiation to captivate consumers.

    “When I’m pushing a new spirit, I need stories with nuance and emotion. Provenance, ingredients, and production methods have become the lowest common denominator.” Bartender, Sip & Guzzle NYC

    How might we break from traditional narratives to escape the gin sea of sameness?

    What if…

    • Your products transcend category borders?

      Competitors are looking to adjacent spirits for inspiration across production, ingredients, and flavor. Gin has the opportunity to follow suit and borrow from the US’s more established categories, from whiskey to wine. Don Julio’s Rosado tequila aged in ruby port casks is an example of successfully executing this novel approach.

    • You share your story, not your ingredients?

      Our stories tend to hyperfocus on ingredients and processes, while consumers are looking to connect with brands in a more human capacity. There is an opportunity to shift our stories to tap into time, place, and people, to transition our storytelling from functional to emotional.

    • Your ethos gives consumers a reason to believe?

      Complex botanical stories lead consumers to switch off. While brands in other categories have extended their stories past the confines of their liquid, gin brands have not. What does your brand stand for? Articulating this ethos gives consumers a reason to believe beyond commoditised botanicals.

    02 Seize the occasion

    Unlike whiskey and tequila, gin is yet to define its time and place amongst American consumers’ lives, leaving notable opportunity on the table. In order to capitalize on this, a bit of consumer hand holding and a nudge in the right direction will be necessary.

    As it stands, US consumers’ perceptions of gin are limited: G&Ts, negronis, and gibsons define the category, ignoring the spirit’s versatility, both in serve and occasion. By showing up and facilitating our targets’ key touch points and experiences, we have the opportunity to encourage consumers to replace their occasions’ go-tos with signature gin serves of our choice.

    The On Premise is a key channel for trial, experimentation, and launching new brands, with 41% of US consumers enjoying exploring new or different drinks brands when out. NielsenIQ, 2022

    How might we evolve our category perceptions and offerings to dethrone current occasion go-tos?

    What if…

    • You bring unfamiliar serves to familiar occasions?

      Showcasing how various gin serves can seamlessly substitute favorite drinks—be it a Pimm’s Cup for a spritz or a citrus gin slushie for a margarita. Chandon’s spritz pop up was an opportunity for them to show up in the aperitivo hour, pushing consumers to swap Aperol for their serve.

    • You make gin hangs easy with an all-in-one “kick back kit”?

      Consumers are prioritizing low-effort gatherings, reaching for familiar, convenient serves. By providing everything needed for a signature gin occasion you remove the effort obstacle. The Aperol x Cinzano spritz kit illustrates how added convenience can position a serve as the occasion go-to.

    • You win over the on-trade with a “switcher’s tool set”?

      Equipping the on-trade with bespoke cocktail recipes and simple serves could establish mixologists as passionate gin ambassadors. Empowering the on-trade to seamlessly guide consumers from their usual tipple into an exploratory mindset, converting non-gin drinkers into gin believers.

    03 Craft the culture

    Much like owning a time and place, gin is yet to find its role in the American zeitgeist. Unlike the UK and other global markets, gin serves in the US say little about a consumer’s personality, values, and more.

    Given consumers are distancing themselves from superficial brand interactions and emphasizing the narrative and identity that those interactions create, a lack of cultural depth hinders a brand’s ability to stand out in a saturated market.

    With gin’s current position, creating a unique cultural footprint will require more than carving a niche in the existing landscape. Rather, it will require the creation of a new, distinct, gin-led realm.

    “A convergence of factors…is sharpening consumer appetite for entertaining brand storytelling that captures their aspirations and interests, well beyond the products on offer.” — BoF-McKinsey State of Fashion Report, 2024

    How might we shape gin culture to establish our own unique presence?

    • Your partnerships create culture?

      Gin’s efforts will require more than traditional collaborations. Bowmore x Aston Martin illustrate well a more substantial approach: the “Discover Islay” experience put a twist on the conventional distillery tour creating a new whiskey culture — not tapping into an existing one.

    • You choose a subculture to champion?

      In order to cultivate 360° brand worlds, many cast a wide net to reach as many consumer touch points as possible, leading to less impactful interactions. Yet, investing in deeper pockets of culture creates richer consumer relationships. Could your gin show up in every comedy club or every blues venue?

    • You found brand spaces in unexpected places?

      Showing up in untapped environments can help drive consideration. An RTD bar in your favorite retail outlet? Why not. Refreshing pop up stalls to beat the summer heatwave? Yes please. An artisanal food pairing experience at the center of the hottest new art show? Great idea. Which unconventional areas can we appear and be available in?

    Want to continue this conversation? Has this sparked an idea for your brand? We would love to hear from you, get in touch:


    Thoughts, trends, trips and tips from Team Thirst.

    View all