By Ryan Stevens On August 9, 2019

Tips for Capturing the Attention of Bartenders with Your Craft Spirits

Hint: Pull up a stool at your favorite bar. We know a distiller here in Portland who spends 4-5 nights per week in bars around the city. Coincidentally, his brand is on a lot of menus in Portland, and bartenders frequently highlight his product. Not to worry though, when you can’t frequent bars with this fervor there are other ways to get your craft spirits in front of bar managers and bartenders to increase your chance of a spot on the back bar. 

Community

Even though we just mentioned bellying up to the bar, landing your craft spirits in your favorite establishment means introducing bartenders and bar managers to your brand digitally and physically. Start with social media and move to in-person interactions in your local market. 

  • Social Media
    • Follow both bars and bartenders on social media. Instagram has become an effective platform for showcasing cocktails and signature drinks. Target specific bars and lounges that are a good fit for your product and interact with them when fitting. This will also give you clues to their bartenders’ accounts so you can build personal foundations directly with them. Following bartenders is an excellent way to keep up on cocktail trends.
    • Many bartender guilds have Facebook groups that allow anyone and everyone to join. Ask questions! What kind of spirits are they most excited about? What new products do they want to see that they can’t find? 
    • Figure out the hashtags that bartenders are using when they post, and follow those to stay in the know Instagram now allows you to follow hashtags, and will present them to you in your feed.
  • In-Person
    • Invite bartenders and bar managers to your distillery for a tour. Sure, you’re low-key selling to them but they’re used to it, and you’re providing valuable knowledge they can use in their day to day. 
    • Attend meetings of your local Bartenders’ Guild to build a direct connection with the people you want pouring your spirits. Offer to sponsor a meeting at your distillery. Many guilds have an option for educational courses once a month. 
    • Become a regular at your local bars even without reps accompanying you. The more facetime you have with owners, bar managers, and bartenders the more credibility your brand will have. 

Events

Creating situations where you are able to showcase your product, brand, and the story is key to generating interest and demand for your spirits. Hosting or sponsoring local events enables you to directly engage your bar community and network through sharing an experience with your desired demographic. This invests your audience in you product and brand by making them feel a part of your journey. Here are a few ideas: 

    • Sponsor or interact with industry projects. One example is Happy Hour History, a web documentary series that highlights bartenders and liquor brands while telling the history of cocktails. Distilleries often host viewing parties with guest lists that include bartenders.
    • Industry events like Camp Runamok, Art of the Cocktail, and Portland Cocktail Week are perfect recurring events that draw craft spirits industry into one location, making it the ideal spot to build your brand reputation. 
    • Are there industry events that we can get bartenders interested in attending? In Oregon, we have Toast Portland, which showcases distilleries through one night of tasting. Events like this are often overlooked by bartenders! Help promote the event by telling bartenders you know, and target them on social media. 

If you’re looking for some guidance, or need help taking that next step, contact us and we can help you come up with a plan for thoughtfully interacting with bar managers, and bartenders. 

Ryan Stevens

From his first sip of wine to the last Scotch tasting, Ryan has loved the craft and the journey behind the bottle. In between being a jungle-gym for his two kids, sneaking off for date time with his wife, and filling coffee cups full of bourbon, he finds time to detail the experience that goes into each libation. It’s the hidden nuances behind the bottle that fuels the passion for telling the stories that go into every glass, dram, and sip.

Along with running his own copywriting-focused agency, BlankGlass, he is a regular contributor for The Oregon Wine Press, Busted Wallet, Alcohol Professor and Sip Northwest. He has found his niche showcasing the nuances behind the vices that make life a celebration. Living in Oregon provides a rich canvas filled with vibrant flavor profiles and vivid fermented nuances that, with his family by his side, Ryan paints a picture of the delicious possibilities.
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