Premium vodka brand Grey Goose eyes India’s young cocktail-drinking population

If there’s one thing Joe McCanta likes more than anything else in the world, it’s making vodka cocktails. No wonder McCanta is the global brand ambassador for Gray Goose, a leading Bacardi vodka brand.

McCanta was recently in India as a jury member for Gray Goose House of Change, a Bacardi program focused on providing bartenders with expertise with training divided into different modules including grooming, styling, communication, photography, personality sessions and etiquette and social media. This year is its fourth edition and it has collaborated with the Singapore Tourism Board. A final selection of eight bartenders will travel to Singapore and train with some of the world’s leading bartenders.

“The cocktail culture in India is growing and that makes India a very important market for Gray Goose,” says McCanta. “Just look at the number of Indian bars that are now on the list of the top 50 bars in Asia,” says McCanta, who is impressed by Indian bartending talent. This year, five bars from India made it onto the list of Asia’s 50 Best Bars. “We are a French brand. France is all about food. It’s about celebrating, about getting together. It’s all about luxury. So in many ways there are a lot of similarities between India and France,” he added.

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While India is primarily a brown spirits market, with whiskey enjoying the largest market share, McCanta believes white spirits like vodka and gin are on the rise, especially in the metropolitan areas. He attributes that to cocktail culture. “Turning a whiskey drinker into a vodka drinker isn’t all that difficult, and I’ll say that from personal experience,” says McCanta. He says people in Europe didn’t really drink vodka cocktails about ten years ago.

All you saw in bars across Europe were Old Fashioned and Manhattan, both whiskey based cocktails. However, as more and more bartenders work with vodka and gin, their consumption has increased. “Vodka is a very versatile alcohol and a great medium for a cocktail. I doubt even the most talented bartender could make a whiskey bloody mary or an espresso martini with whiskey,” smiles McCanta.

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In India, the vodka market is currently around 38 million US dollars and is expected to grow by 4.34 percent annually (CAGR 2022-2025) according to Statista. In comparison, the whiskey market is worth $17.6 billion and is projected to grow at 6.31 percent annually (CAGR 2022-2025).

McCanta points out that people, especially Gen Z, are drinking less but drinking better. In the US and UK, Gray Goose has launched Gray Goose Essense, which contains 30 percent ABV, 10 percent less than regular vodka. It consists of botanicals and fresh fruits.

“If each person had one good cocktail instead of five bad cocktails, we’d still be growing,” McCanta says, adding that the plan is to convert whiskey drinkers into vodka and especially Gray Goose drinkers, and also recruits to gain legal drinking age from the huge demographic. “Around the world we are seeing people drinking less beer and wine and more cocktails. So people are moving away from the binge drinking mentality and just enjoying the perfect martini.”

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While vodka is generally associated with Russia, Eastern Europe and Scandinavia, Gray Goose is French. The brand was launched in 1997 by American businessman Sidney Frank, who saw a gap in the market for premium vodka. It was sold to Bacardi in 2004. Frank worked with cellar master Francois Thibault, who used to make cognac. And so it was that Gray Goose was made in cognac. Gray Goose uses wheat grown in Picardy – considered the breadbasket of France – and natural spring water. Distillation and filtration takes place in cognac. A French-made vodka gave Gray Goose the premium status Frank desired in the American market.

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