A Sip of Change: India's Journey Into Next-Gen Spirit Consumption

With a thirst to acquire the best of spirit knowledge via trivia-style information, this stage of India’s drinking is populated by a curiosity-driven experimentalist.

Published On Feb 27, 2024 | Updated On Jul 10, 2024


What does the modern Indian tippler like to indulge in today? Given the multitude of labels present, are there go-to preferences, or is it an acquired taste that categorises millennial and Gen-Z consumers’ choices? While mainstream big names continue to exist in the market, the new-age consumer is one who is cautious and careful - to the point of being hyper discerning about their spirit of choice. Armed with an ‘experience over excess mindset’, that translates to drinking better, instead of more; this next generation of tipplers is a revolving door of surprises. With new trends around the corner, here’s a quick decode on how to identify and engage with the modern Indian spirit enthusiast. 

Keshav Prakash, founder and curator, The Vault Festival 

If there is a north star to exist for contemporary drinkers, it would be – curiosity. With a thirst to acquire the best of spirit knowledge via trivia-style information, this stage of India’s drinking is populated by a curiosity-driven experimentalist. One who seeks value in every experience they partake in, staying far away from the erstwhile consumption-focused mindset. 


Replacing this consumerist proposition is a wave of qualitative, conscious consumption – enveloped by the need to lead an aspirational lifestyle. Observing a behavioural theme across avant-garde tipplers, what strikes most is their lack of fierce loyalty to any single brand or label. On the contrary, they are driven by a feature-led approach: education about production, terroir, a nuanced understanding of ingredients and flavour profiles. By way of expert-led workshops, DIY kits, courses and certifications, the new set of mod consumers are integrating themselves into the very fabric of beverage production. 

A renaissance in India’s burgeoning spirit community can be attributed to a surge in the interest in different spirit categories, from agave to craft gins, saké, batch-made flavoured rums and special edition whiskies. Tipplers now seek never-seen-before innovative experiences and are open to experimental choices led by meaning and value. This culture of experience-led consumption is the foundation of spirit communities and appreciation clubs – avenues where real conversation takes place. 


There exists an avalanche of pop-ups, dedicated events, and virtual social media groups and in-person communities bringing people together with the sole objective of driving enthusiastic dialogue. Tasting sessions, spirit break-downs, sommelier-led pairing workshops, and experiential events are the foundational basis for engaging enthusiasts and connoisseurs alike. Such community-building initiatives, by way of craft spirit festivals, bar takeovers, and events; are strengthening the Indian spirit community one sip at a time. 

As mere restaurant visits no longer suffice, there is a heightened expectation on experientials - seasonal, geography-driven curations, tasting tours, degustation menus, hyperlocal food and curated pairings. Consumers are looking for discerning dining experiences – they consciously choose venues based on their signature styles, guest mixologists and food curators, as opposed to popularity-led recommendations. This upward cycle is indicative of a well-travelled nature that inculcates an innate appreciation of local culture. This trend is apparent in travel-based consumption, where consumers are seeking niche, offbeat travel experiences to truly immerse themselves and appreciate the culture of spirit production right at its source. Feni experiences in Goa, Mahua and Gin-based travel consumption in the North and North-east have increasingly caught more footfall. 


As the spotlight shifts entirely to conscious quality-based purchasing, one observes that although price is a consideration, it is no barrier to accessing a good spirit. This paradigm shift is now driving up demand for premium and ultra-premium spirits, with the craft industry curating batch-made products and limited editions to keep up with the pace. Special editions and seasonal curations, like Paul John’s Christmas Edition, and private labels such as ‘Children of a Lesser God’, launched by Amrut Distillers in conjunction with Single Malt Amateur Club, are now earning the status of collectibles. With consumers vying to get a bottle, the prices of such exclusive spirits have driven up monumentally. Good spirits are celebrated as great gifts, and consumers are no longer hoarding onto collectibles, rather, embracing the heritage of the bottle as an enviable gift. With the growing trends of spirits as travel souvenirs and premium gifts, duty free stores and airport purchases are returning to their former glory, serving as sites with high accessibility to limited-edition crafts.


Value-driven consumers earnestly look to satisfy their ‘curiosity cravings’, thus creating a class of discerning consumption like never before. The ball is now truly in the brands’ courts to keep up with consumer demands and provide value in every product. Not shying away from learning and experimenting with trends, the expectation for futuristic experiences is high, among our educated and ‘evolved’ consumers. 


Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article reflects the author(s) opinions and do not necessarily represent the views of the publisher and editor.

Photo: Shutterstock; The Vault