Digital Drinking Seminar Presentation for Tales of the Cocktail 2018

The video above is the animated version of the presentation for the Digital Drinking Seminar at Tales of the Cocktail 2018. Below is the seminar description as well as all of the moderator notes. Should you wish to view a static version of this presentation in conjunction with the moderator's notes, you may download it here.

Digital Drinking | Seminar Moderated by Jeremy JF Thompson | Presenter(s): David Kaplan, Jim Meehan, Jabin Troth, Pamela Wiznitzer

Sponsored by Tales of the Cocktail Foundation, WhistlePig Rye Whiskey


The future of the bar and spirit industry will be shaped and driven by digital drinks. Social Media has brought cocktail concepts and ideas to so many around the world who wouldn't have known about them otherwise. With resources like Instagram hashtags and Facebook Groups the online world has evolved into a marketplace for international exchange, where new ingredients and techniques are shared every minute. In this seminar, we'll tap into the mind of Jabin Troth, the man behind the world's largest online craft cocktail community, @licensed_to_distill. We'll explore the value of social networks with Pamela Wiznitzer, Bartender, Creative Director at Seamstress NY, and USBG President. We'll gain insight from industry legends, PDT founder and author, Jim Meehan, and Death & Co founder, and founder and creative lead for Proprietors LLC, David Kaplan.

How can social media extend hospitality beyond the brick and mortar?

How has social media helped establish craft cocktails as more approachable and desirable on a global scale?

How can bartenders, spirit producers and bar owners stand out in this new age of digital drinks?

Our panelists will address these questions and more. Note: this is not a "social media for bartenders" seminar; in the course of 90 minutes, attendees will gain an in-depth understanding of how and why social media is the most important force and tool in the next chapter of our industry. The insights gained from this seminar, if applied, will dramatically accelerate your success as a bartender, bar owner, supplier, distributor or any other industry professional.

Selected Moderator Notes used in conjunction with the above seminar presentation. 

  • There’s a common misconception that social media is the new form of marketing, but it’s actually the oldest form of marketing. Social Media is “word of mouth” on steroids.
  • "Drinkstagrammers are reinvigorating the craft and its community, bringing geographic diversity and homegrown enthusiasm, and posting thousands of cocktail images every day.” From Drinkstagrammers Are Transforming Cocktail Culture Without Stepping Behind the Bar in VinePair
  • Raise your hand if you’ve seen someone you’re out with, or a guest at your bar order a drink because they saw a bartender making it or a server carrying it to a table? 
  • Now imagine the size of that bar expanding to accommodate Instagram’s 800 million user base, not to mention Facebook’s Billion users.
  • On that note, I’d like to point out that in doing research for this seminar, it quickly became clear that if there is center of the bar and spirit world on social media, it’s Instagram. That’s not to say that Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and the myriad of others aren’t relevant… but none of them are nearly so effective at emerging their users in a visually submmersive space where engagement is abundant and constant. 

  • With more than 55 million posts tagged with #drink or #drinks, (not to mention the dozens of other drink-related hashtags), beverage photos and videos are easily one of the most popular types of content on Instagram.
  • If you haven’t seen how dramatically social media has been shaping our industry over the past decade, you haven’t been paying attention.
  • 88% of people state that they are influenced by conversations happening on social platforms when it comes to purchasing. 
  • Entrepreneur Magazine cites three ways in which Instagram is changing restaurants:
    • 1. Decor and design has become more important.
    • 2. Presentation of the food has become more important.
    • 3. Branded moments made for social sharing have become more important.
  • Jim and Dave, as long time bar operators and owners, what changes have you experienced as a result of the rise of Instagram. 
  • Jim, in Tasting Tables there was an article in one of these articles about technology changing the landscape of the industry, in which you said, “"While I miss my former role as a human utility app, I was inefficient and often wrong."
  • It seems you largely resisted adopting social media for yourself for quite some time, and yet, technology played a pivotal role in helping launch your career back in 2003. Would you mind sharing that story about how google image search played a part in getting you where you are today?
  • Jim, you’ve said that Bartenders aren’t artists, they’re craftspeople. Can you say more about that distinction? 
    It seems that some people build their social presence on their own identity while others focus on content outside of themselves. In other words, there are those focused on the lens on the back of their camera and others focused on the lens on the front. Pam and Jim, and the two people on this panel who represent themselves on social media (vs a brand or business), how do you determine what to post

  • Jim and Pam, you both have a fairly large number of followers on Instagram, and Pam, you’ve maxed out on the number of friends you can have on Facebook. How connected do you feel to your followers and friends, and what are your thoughts on the relationship between the words Follower and Friend?

  • Pernod Ricard is even launching a program teaching consumers how to make cocktails look good on Instagram
  • This year, Courvoisier announced that their annual “Toast of Paris” cocktail competition would now include a judging category focused on “how their (bartender’s) cocktails would look on Instagram.”
  • It’s been said that the Bar is a stage, and that stage extends into the digital space. The person creating the content can be the actor, the producer, the director, or even the audience. And the roles we play in these spaces impact the story line in real life. In fact, it’s all real life. 
  • Before working with you, brands and business want to know who your audience is, what your reach is, etc. They quantify your audience. This applies to bartenders as much as it does to media partners.
  • More and more, businesses are working to behave like people on social media and people working to behave like businesses
  • Jabin, I know you’ve had one experience where you found yourself playing the role of Licensed to Distill (vs Jabin Troth) while riding in an uber. Can you tell us about that?
  • Instagram is the number one social media app for engagement with restaurant brands (Track Maven).
  • Over 1 billion restaurant visits by consumers are influenced by online marketing (Monetate).
  • Out of all industries, consumers read restaurant reviews more than any other industry (Bright Local).
  • 71% of consumers say they’re more likely to recommend a bar, restaurant or brand that responds quickly to them on social media (Forbes).
  • Instagram marketing wins for restaurants because close to 93% of consumers say the visual appearance of a product influences their purchasing decision (Kissmetrics).
  • Posting attractive food & drink pics goes a long way because the brain processes visuals 60,000 times faster than text (Business 2 Community).
  • According to research by Zizzi, 18-35-year-olds spend five whole days a year browsing food images on Instagram, and 30 per cent would avoid a restaurant if their Instagram presence was weak.
  • 50% of US people surveyed say they’ve tried drinks that friends and family posted about on Facebook. (Facebook IQ)
  • Over 1 in 3 US diners enjoy taking pictures of what they’re eating and drinking. (Mintel)
  • 76% of people surveyed in the US say they use their smartphones to get recommendations for bars or restaurants. (Facebook IQ)
  • Seven in ten of adults respondents (71%) discovered a new beverage on social media and considered buying it, and more than half (56%) actually went on to buy it. (Ipsos MORI)
  • 44% of people surveyed tend to use a smartphone while in a bar. (Ipsos MORI)
  • 65% of US alcohol consumers (21+) use mobile to check cocktail ingredients or recipes. (Facebook IQ)
  • 85% of people surveyed in the US say they discover new alcoholic beverages through a friend’s recommendation. (Facebook IQ)
  • Your Bar is a tourist attraction, a destination. 
  • And weve reached a point where some Bars are promoting their menus with well-produced movie trailers, reinforcing that the guest experience has already begun for guests who’ve never entered your bar.
  • Dave, Death and Company has an outstanding, clearly defined, well loved social media presence. Tell us about what building out your social presence has been like, what challenges you faced?

  • Do guests ever show up and Death & Co, point to a cocktail on their Instagram feed, and ask the bartender if it’s available?
  • It’s often been said that great cocktails become great cocktails because they tell a story. Would you say that for many of your guests, the story of D&C’s quality cocktails begins on social media?
  • Do you spend much time viewing the posts D&C and your other bars are tagged in, as well as posts where guests have geotagged the bars?

  • Taking time to look at post your bar has been tagged in (geo & hashtags) is as important as athletes watching playback videos after a game. 
  • Look at the geo-tagged posts. Guest geotag posts simply to convey where they are. But the fact is, by doing so, they’ve just included whatever they posted in a unique group of posts that can forever be searched by geotag. Even though the images are small, you can see how dramatically different their smartphone, low-light photographs are compared to the those posted by Death and Co. So there’s what a bar puts out there, and then there’s also what guests put out there, both of which now represent the bar. 
  • All panelists: Bars can’t necessarily regulate which photos their guests posts. Bars can ban the use of phones or cameras, I suppose, but that also does away with a ton of potential organic promotion that guests are doing for bars free of charge. So what else can be done? 
  • Jim, PDT doesn’t do social media, which seems to be in keeping with it’s Please Don’t Tell roots of discretion and secrecy. But nearly all social media platforms still allow users to geotag a business, even if that business doesn’t have an account. How often do you look at the geotagged PDT posts? 

  • In the article "THE CRAFT COCKTAIL REVOLUTION IS OVER. NOW WHAT?” Published by Thrillist in 2017, Neil Bodenheimer is quoted stating, "At the beginning, there were a lot of great original ideas, but it's become harder and harder to find them," says Bodenheimer. "It's a hard truth to confront, but you can only have so much creativity before you hit a quieter time. And I think the cocktail bar industry is currently in its Baroque period.”
  • Is #DrinkPorn a good thing?
  • Cocktail bars now have to drive interest with extravagant displays, without interrupting ordinary bar culture altogether.
  • technology is helping to demystify the cocktail for better or worse
  • What is your bar about? What’s that cocktail about?
  • Dave, what is Death and Company’s social media trying to say about itself? How much thought is put into each post, into who it’s for or what it has to offer?
  • The D&C Way: Educational, never condescending, transparent and welcoming
  • Don’t hate the player, hate the game. (In terms of awards, opportunities, etc). Don’t believe the hype. Social media is a hype machine.  They understand the game and just have learned to play it better.
  • Bartenders are role models. What you say or do on social media matters.
  • Advocacy creates a foundation for Authenticity
  • Followers vs Friends
  • What is the consequence of every type of post? What’s the story they are telling? What are the values that are evident? Are brand and personal values aligned.
  • As industry professionals, do you see social media as a place where consumers can get to know you better? Pam and Jim, are their guests you met at the bar that now follow you on social media? 
  • Jabin, you’re something of an anomaly, having created the larges craft cocktail social media account in the world simply out of a desire to shine a light on awesome cocktails, and there are thousands of other accounts run by consumers who are aiming to do the same thing. Now you’ve got brands knocking on your door, your run Whistle Pigs digital marketing, and you’re here on a panel at Tales of the Cocktail! You started LTD just a couple of years ago right? What has that journey been like?

  • Jabin, I know you’ve spent a fair amount of time engaging with (or attempting to engage with) spirit brands on social media. Can you give us a couple examples of how that went down?
  • As a result of the craft cocktail movement, many spirit brands have become very engaged with bartenders on and off social media. Is there anything you think they could do better or that they should stop doing? 
  • Jim, Dave and Pam, do you have any particular protocol or etiquette you ask your bartenders to follow on social media? 
  • Aside from that, do you encourage them to post content while at work (drink specials, behind the scenes, etc)?
  • For the bar owners are on the panel, how often do you spend looking at posts from other bars? Do you see an opportunity to learn from what they’re doing? Do you feel competitive in the digital space? 
  • What is the voice of your bar? How do you get around to coming up with that?