We attended Tales of the Cocktail 2014 last week along with Anthony King of BAT and Jon Brathwaite of Singani 63. Here are my big takeaways:
- Next year I want Steven Soderbergh to be invited to be on Paul Clarke’s panel on the emergence of Brandy, Pisco, and Singani. This year Alex Day Death & Co. bartender turned bar owner and mixology impressario, Duggan McDonnell of Encanto Pisco, and Alexandre Gabrielle of Cognac Ferrand. Paul is editor of Imbibe.
- The big international spirits companies dominated the evening parties and events. Each year the challenge is to top the year before, and stand out from the others. Absolut did a carnival theme at Mardi Gras World that was great, and Wm. Grant took over the Lakefront airport with an Arabian nights theme, complete with sand, desert tents and a live camel.
- Bartenders embrace craft, but tend to follow trends…there was a waiting list to get into the Fernet Branca tasting room
- Brands need to be non-traditional in everything you do to get credibility with mixology-inclined bartenders…wholesalers you use, how you work brand ambassadors, the kind of support you provide, engagement with the bartending community.
- Lots of talk (and joking) about the tsunami of “Brand Ambassadors” who have swamped the market. It used to be a point of difference, now it’s a requirement, but potentially perceived as a negative if you don’t train them right and arm them with the right tools, tasks, funds and goals.
- Bartenders have a LOT of tattoos, gauge/piercings, beards, funny haircuts and like to wear fedoras, skinny jeans and Chucks
- Creatively leveraging the trade should be a core strategy to craft brands. Must act and do things differently.
- Tales participation for new/smaller brands: focus on tasting, less brand promotional than “discovery”, facilitate awareness and some sort of action by and oriented specifically to bartenders.