CREATING A SENSORY COCKTAIL EXPERIENCE
The taste, the fizz, the cold touch of the glass. What do these sensory touchpoints have in common? All five of your guests’ senses are put to the test when tasting a cocktail. Diageo Bar Academy gets the lowdown from Terry Cashman from Nine Lives and Thomas Aske – together they share their tips on experiential serves, plus recipes for their best multi-sensory cocktails.
WHAT ARE SENSORY COCKTAILS?
When we talk about cocktails, we tend to focus on taste and flavour, but there’s a lot more going on. You don’t just enjoy a drink because it tastes nice, you enjoy it because of:
- its colour
- the feel of the glass
- the very quiet fizzing of a carbonated beverage
Even if you don’t try to engage all the senses with every cocktail you serve, make sure you’ve considered all the ways your guests can experience it, beyond the flavour or taste. How can you play with your guests’ senses and create a full experience with your drinks? Check out these trending sensory cocktail top tips and prepare to get creative!
1. TASTE: WHAT MAKES A GOOD COCKTAIL?
Building cocktails is often like an interconnected machine of different cogs and parts. None of these parts work alone, they are all affected by every other part to a greater or lesser degree.
But, if you have basic cocktail knowledge or are a fan of Diageo Bar Academy, you’ll know that taste and flavour are super important when it comes to making a world-class drink
Taste is always going to be the core sense needed to enjoy a good cocktail, so here are some tips and tricks to optimise flavours.
- Balancing a cocktail
- How to focus an experiment on a singular flavour
- Exploring acids and salinity
- Creating a show-stopping server
- Try conducting a taste test with the team
Remember: Your palate is personal, and while balance is pretty universal, experience isn’t. Flavours are learned, so a fresh pair of eyes (or lips) on your drinks may open up different avenues of flavour pairing that you may never have thought of.
2. SMELL: SHOULD COCKTAILS HAVE A SCENT?
Short answer: yes, of course! Why? Because smell is the sense connected to memory and emotion. You want customers to remember their great experience at your bar, right?
Smoking cocktails is a cool, sensory trend used to create theatre and drama at the bar. A great tip is to use smoke in a subtle, controlled way by smoking your glassware before service or – even better – smoking an ingredient to be used in your cocktail menu. This is a great way to engage your guests’ sense of smell and evoke memories of firesides, bonfires and campfires.
While the scent of the drink is important, other aromas in the bar (good and bad) also play a role. Consider the following:
- Do you have incense or essential oil diffusers?
- If so, are they working in harmony or against the cocktail list?
- Have the bins been taken out yet?
- Is there a table placed too close to the toilet?
For some really cool inspiration on creating the best smelling cocktails, check out what these bars are up to!
3. TOUCH: WHY GLASSWARE IS SO IMPORTANT
When thinking about touch, consider the texture and feel of your glass. Is it completely smooth, or can a little bit of texture give the guest a more pleasant, tactile experience? Also, the height or width of your glass can impact taste and experience.
For example, if a serve needs warmth and depth, then a rocks glass is ideal. The touch from your customer and the rim of the glass will allow for a deeper, warmer taste experience.
For a more delicate tasting cocktail, a long stemmed martini or coupe glass will have a larger surface area – the long stem will keep your serve cool and heighten any natural sweeteners and aromas.
The tall highball glass on the other hand works well for enjoying longer drinks which combine spirits with mixers.
There’s a wealth of choice with glassware, so play around with different types and see what works best for your serve to enhance touch and overall experience.
4. SOUND: THE ROLE IT PLAYS IN COCKTAILS
So, now we have taste, touch and smell covered, how can we use sound to improve a good cocktail further? Hearing is a super powerful sense that can dramatically impact how we taste a drink. Here are some things to consider when it comes to this fourth sense.
- Think of tables as little pools of sound; guests should be able to hear each other’s conversation, but not the conversation at the next table.
- Background music:
- Is it too loud?
- Is it too quiet?
- Is it in keeping with the mood you’re aiming for?
- Are there playlists which suit different times of the day? Music shouldn’t be a one size fits all approach!
- Bar Acoustics: Are there any unwanted acoustics? For instance, if your bar doesn’t have enough décor or furniture, sounds can reverberate, causing the delicate tinkling of an ice shaker to potentially become the loud retort of a machine gun! (Well, almost.)
- Layout: Ensure this ties in with the sound. For example, if any area is too sparse, it may come across as clinical and uninviting for your guests – you want them to be comfortable!
Top Tip: Take the time to sit in every part of your bar during service to see it from your guests’ perspective. It might be perfect as it is, but the likelihood is you’ll be inspired to add, subtract, or change something very small to fit the room, layout and mood.
5. SIGHT: GETTING THE LIGHTING RIGHT
As the old saying goes, “the first bite is with the eye.” But did you know, surrounding lighting also affects this? Lighting in your venue is very important. Ask yourself:
- Are the lights down low enough?
- Are they of a similar brightness?
- How will the lighting make your guests feel?
- Drinks are made of interconnected parts, think about how they work as a whole when it comes to flavour
- Smell is connected to memory and emotion, make sure you take this sense into consideration
- Sight doesn’t just include what the cocktail looks like, you need to think about the lighting of your bar too
- Background noise creates ambience in the bar, but there’s nothing worse than a venue where you can’t hear yourself think!
- Make the most of glassware to enhance the texture and optimise the sense of touch in the guest experience
In sum, the lighting, music, aromas and a hundred other sensory inputs can change the way we experience cocktails. Also, what tastes great in the lab, kitchen, or bar during the day, might feel totally different in the evening – so try your drinks in different environments and adapt accordingly!
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