Social media has changed the way we think. From delivering information via sound bites to interrupting our meals to snap photos, social channels are the modern equivalent of a peephole into our lives. The 21st century “look at me” attitude finds a permissive home online, and Instagram, with its vivid visuals and thinking-outside-the-box hashtags, is made for cocktail porn. Some bars do it better than others, of course, not only via their level of activity and their choice of photos, but also in the design of the cocktails themselves. In a culture where popularity is measured in likes, crazy-sexy-cool has never been more important.
Los Angeles bars make the most of Instagram by spotlighting visually compelling cocktails interspersed with cool lifestyle vignettes. At Birch, bartender Gaby Mlynarczyk sees her drinks as a form of storytelling and is known for using alternative methods of narrative presentation. This is particularly important in the world of social media when a picture is literally worth a thousand words. To create compelling stories, she has put a rice-based drink in a Chinese take-out box, a botanical daiquiri in a terrarium and a honey-based drink in a plastic honey bear.
“Gen Y’ers live vicariously via Instagram and FB,” she says, “and having something fun or visually interesting makes them more inclined to share their memories and experiences and get as many likes as possible. Plus, this equals added publicity for the restaurant, too.”
Aaron Melendrez, bartender at Salazar in L.A., always tries to make what he calls “impactful cocktails.” His Savila y Coco is a perfect example of this with its sea foam blue “ocean,” gummy sharks, and anemone – like marigold. “Breaking the Internet is always in the back of my mind. When creating drinks, I try and balance visual aesthetics and flavor profile. The greatest party of Savila y Coco is that it tastes just as good as it looks.”
And, at the super high volume Spare Room in the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, drinks like Bug Juice!, with its Airhead Extreme ribbon garnish, share Instagram space with Rat Pack shots of the bar’s bowling alley. The hashtags on each image can often number above 20 with familiar phrases repeated on all the bar’s posts (#livethelittlethings, #liveauthentic, #thatsdarling) balanced out by more generalized hit-worthy cocktail tags like #tiki, #craftcocktail, and #instacocktail.
For the Spare Room’s owners Marc Rose or Med Abrous, Instagram is a gateway to share experiences. “We are very visual people – we put a lot of thought into design, from our space to our cocktails – and that’s why Instagram is an ideal medium for us,” they say. “We use it to showcase our menu, when we’re out at community events, or to promote our ongoing programs like Beers, Brats, and Bingo on Sundays. We don’t rely on posting event flyers, but instead use beautiful images and compelling captions to share these stories. Our bar has a very specific personality, and everything we post captures its spirit.”
“Images of cocktails that look more visually wowing or interesting get a bigger response than cocktails with a clean, simple, classic presentation,” says Judith Ki, who handles all social media for Quinary in Hong Kong. “Tags like #quinary, #quinaryhk, #50bestbars, #molecularmixology, #bartenderschoice and #cocktailporn get a bigger response.”
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Mondays are not that bad if you have Earl Grey Caviar Martini 😋🙌❤️❤️❤️ . #quinaryhk #50bestbars #asias50bestbars #earlgreycaviarmartini #molecular #molecularmixology #cloud #martinitime #cocktailporn #cocktailtime #antoniolai #hkdrinkie #hkfoodie #hkfoodlover #hkfoodstagram #hkfoodblogger #hknightlife
As an example of a popular Instagram post, she cites the Earl Grey Caviar Martini, which she re-posts on a rotating basis. The bar sells upwards of 800 glasses per month of this signature cocktail that Ki calls “Insta-worthy.”
Like many bars, Nightjar in London uses its Instagram account to capture and sell their bar’s particular lifestyle, which is summed up as “From an age when live music was a customary part of a good night out, drinking was a connoisseur’s game, and hospitality was an art.” The photos on their page all share a similarly sexy, brooding aesthetic with warm tones and moody backgrounds.
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We’re getting pretty excited about The Woodford Alliance next week! We’ll be popping-up for one night only at the White Rabbit Studios along with @littlequarter to serve some tasty Woodford Reserve specials…it’s going to be pretty splendid. Tickets @drinkupldn – bit.ly/2cE0ma4 #woodfordreserve #popupbar #specialevent #londoncocktailweek #drinkuplondon #nightjar #cocktailhour #drinkstagram #cocktailoftheday #drinkoftheday
With social media constantly evolving, one needs a Darwinian strategy to excel. In the case of cocktails, survival of the fittest means making an impact in a heartbeat. While the goal of drink creation is and always will be to produce something that tastes delicious, now it is essential for it to look delicious – and whimsical, sexy, cool, or wacky — as well. It means asking, as Ki noted, is this drink “Insta-worthy”?