A clear tumbler glass filled with liquid surrounded by smoke.

Building a 4D Sensory Cocktail

Learn the key components of 4D cocktail making as you understand how to excite all the senses with your drinks.  

Author: Thomas Aske, Sensory Cocktail Innovator 

Terry Cashman, Senior Drinks Strategist  

Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

Offer More With 4D Cocktails

A lot goes into crafting an award-worthy cocktail, with taste just being one aspect of cocktail making.

To really wow and inspire your guests, you need to think in 4D. Consider how to engage your customers' other senses – sight, sound, smell and touch - as well as taste, to create memorable experiences.

With insight from sensory cocktail innovator Thomas Aske, and Drinks strategist Terry Cashman, better understand what makes a fantastic, well-rounded 4D cocktail worthy of celebration.

Discover tips and aspects to give more attention to turn run-of-the-mill serves into showstoppers. Become a member of Diageo Bar Academy for free to learn more about these types of cocktails and find unique sensory cocktail recipes to inspire you.

What are 4D Cocktails?

Also known as sensory cocktails, these drinks include additional elements other than the taste to create an enthralling and exciting serve.

Stimulating all five of your customers' senses, 4D cocktails aren't just focused on the drink's flavour and aim to give a full-body experience.

When creating a successful new drink, the taste is just one component, and studies suggest that it may not even be the most important. It's been found that the visuals of a drink play a massive role in the overall enjoyment, in addition to:

  • The colour of the drink  
  • The feel of the glass  
  • The fizzing and the audio of a drink 

An accomplished mixologist will consider how to play with all their guest's senses when building a cocktail. Get inspired by these tips to create something unique. 

Creating a Sensory Cocktail Experience

Join Emanuele Balestra, luxury hotel bar manager and mixologist, in this swift four-minute video. Learn some tips and tricks to add new dimensions to your drinks easily. Watch for easy-to-implement insight to help you create better, memorable sensory cocktails

The Five Parts of 4D Cocktails

To make a 4D cocktail that captivates your guests, you must consider all five senses 

All of these parts work together and influence the overall feel of the drink. Focus on building a well-balanced sensory cocktail that explores all five senses.

1. Taste

To make a world-class 4D quality cocktail, taste is still significant and is something that you shouldn't overlook. 

Many inexperienced mixologists make the mistake of adding intense aromas, sounds, or visuals to their drinks without first questioning how that may impact the flavour of their cocktail. 

  Taste is always at the core of your cocktail, so to optimise the flavours, try to:  

  • Balance the cocktail with the golden ratio (2:1:1)
  • Focus on showcasing a single flavour.  
  • Explore acids and salinity in your drink.  
  • Conduct a taste test with your team to find a universally adored recipe.

2. Smell

Smell is connected to memory and emotion, so if you want your drink to leave a lasting impression, adding fragrance or aromas can help you do that.

Smoking your cocktail or roasting a herby garnish can add a warming, complex scent. This also adds a visual element and can subtly alter the overall flavour profile of your serve.

You can also add scent with fragranced sprays to top your cocktails, which works great if you want a more delicate floral experience.

Also, consider the overall smell of your entire venue. If you're using oil diffusers or incense, make sure the scent complements the cocktails on your menu.

3. Touch

The glassware you use for your cocktails can be an ingenious way to add more complexity to your 4D cocktail serves. The texture and feel of your glass can help build a more tactile experience and influence how guests interpret the drink.

A smooth glass suits crisp, refreshing drinks, while textured glasses add more showmanship to the serve. Plus, the size and shape of your glass play a massive role, too.

The same drink will feel and taste differently depending on the glass it's served in.

For example, a rocks glass will help add warmth and depth to your drink, as the drink will be slightly heated by the guest's hand. In contrast, a stemmed glass will help keep your drinks cool, heightening sweetness.

Play around with your glassware to find the perfect fit. 

 4. Sound

Sound is a powerful sense that helps evoke moods, so be conscious of your venue's audio landscape.

When building a 4D cocktail, consider adding a nice fizz to the drink akin to a cat's purr or a satisfying clink of ice against glass as the guest sips. These audio experiences improve the overall experience.

The wider environment also contributes to the quality of your cocktails. Think about the music you're playing and the acoustics of the venue. Too little decor can allow sounds to reverberate, causing a cocktail shaker behind the bar to cut into the venue's soundscape.

If you're striving for elegant cocktails, choose playlists filled with jazz and relaxed swing music. For a more vibrant experience, go with funk or low-fi dance, or if you're looking for a renegade vibe, some 80s rock can suit your style.

Play around to find what works for you.

5. Sight

The visuals of your cocktail play a massive part in the 4D experience. The colours of your drink imply a lot about the taste, with richer colours suggesting a deeper, more enjoyable tasting experience.

When playing with sight, set up your venue to enhance the looks of your drinks.

Find the right lighting balance to allow your drinks to pop. Small table lights can help drinks stand out once served, and mellow background lighting can help create a relaxed atmosphere, helping guests enjoy their drinks more.

Key Takeaways

  • 4D or sensory cocktails combine all the senses to create exciting, more memorable serves.  
  • To build excellent 4D cocktails, add elements that stimulate taste, sight, smell, touch, and sound.  
  • Your venue can add to the experience of your cocktail, too. The smell, lighting, and playlist used in your bar can impact the overall cocktail experience.