Last week, I was catching up on my RSS feeds, when I saw a post by Helmut Adam, of the German magazine Mixology, about a series of viral ads the Bacardi company is running. The series begins with an ad called “The Samurai” (running time: 1m:59s). A man enters a Japanese bar, while a voiceover tells us, “There’s only one bartender in the world that I’d have mix me this drink. He’s so in tune with his surroundings, he knows your drink before you do.” The man approaches the bartender, who bows slightly and says only, “Daiquiri?” The man nods.
Now, watch the video and pay attention to the bartender’s tools and his technique. Both are, from what I’ve recently learned, common among the best Japanese bartenders. But just watch. We’ll talk more when you’re done:
[or click, to watch it in large HD video]
Look at those beautiful bar tools! The beaker-shaped mixing glass, the tall jigger, the spoon with the fork at the end. Lovely. (And by the way, you can buy this stuff at my friend Greg Boehm’s website, Cocktail Kingdom.) Watch how gracefully but precisely he mixes the drink. Lovely. That’s just the kind of bartender I could watch all day. And yet, he’s an actor, trained by bartender Marian Beke of London.
London, by the way, is the source of this ad, which was created by a marketing firm called Think Espionage. And if you’ve fully read Helmut’s blog post by now, you’ll know there are two more of these videos on the way. Now, I enjoyed the first enough that when I read that, I was intrigued and wanted to see them all. To my surprise, the very next day, I received a nice e-mail from a Think Espionage employee named Liana Wilson-Fricker. She described the purpose of these videos and offered to send me links and passwords to watch the next two. Liana told me the same thing she wrote to Helmut:
To give it a bit of context, they aren’t ads but pieces of film content aimed at and created for the world’s top bartenders. It’s about celebrating the unique skills that each bartender at the top of the game possess.
Now that I’ve seen the other videos, I don’t think Liana’s bullshitting me. I mean, obviously, the videos are about promoting the Bacardi brand, front and center. But once you accept that, it’s easy to see that Bacardi and Think Espionage chose to do so in a way that also highlights the skills of great bartenders. In video 2, “The Hummingbird” (1:48), the man enters a busy club. A bartender nods at him and without speaking, puts ice into a glass to chill. She slices and chunks fresh pineapple, straight from the fruit and drops that into a mixing tin with sugar. She muddles that and then (get the fuck out) hacks into a fresh coconut and pours its juice into the tin. (Helmut’s right; this just wouldn’t happen at a busy club, but it’s so damn cool to watch, I’m happy to suspend disbelief.) On goes rum, then ice. She shakes the drink and straw-tastes it before double-straining it into a chilled glass with a slice of pineapple. (Liana told Helmut that the actor was trained by Bacardi Global Ambassador David Cordoba.)
Video 3, “The Apothecary” (2:12) is set in a bar similar to PDT or Milk and Honey. As the camera pans the room, you see a shelf of vintage cocktail manuals. (I saw an old copy of the Savoy and the Esquire Handbook for Hosts, but I can’t place the rest. And one of the volumes isn’t even a cocktail manual, so I assume there’s other “filler” there.) Then you see jars of spices before the camera settles on a bartender grinding spices with a mortar and pestle. The man asks the bartender to surprise him, at which point the bartender brings out trays of fresh herbs. As he works, you see flashbacks of the bartender smelling herbs, tasting tinctures, and taking notes. He pulls down a jar of eucalyptus-infused sugar and then muddles it with mint and lemon verbena. Then ice, rum, and a splash of soda.
It’s only in this final video that you clearly see the Bacardi marque and logo. In the first two, you can make out that the bartenders are pouring from bottles of Bacardi, if you pay attention, and when The Samurai video hit the web, viewers figured out this was some sort of Bacardi viral even before Think Espionage confirmed it. That seems to be the hallmark of a successful campaign: you can figure out the source if you choose to. I think Bacardi and TE have succeeded in two ways here; one, they’re getting people talking about the brand. I don’t even normally like Bacardi, but here I am anyway. And that’s specifically because they chose to highlight good bartending and found a way to convey the skills and talents of good bartenders.
When the Hummingbird and Apothecary videos are publicly available, I’ll link out to them. They’re fun to watch.