Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Brands want YOU, to learn about cocktail making

Consumer reviews of restaurants online isn't all that new. You've got your local version of Citysearch, Yelp or even discussion boards like Chowhound. You might go to New York Magazine's site to look up a restaurant then skim through readers' ratings and evaluations of the place. Bars are no exception.

Zagat's went one-step further in the consumer-rated world by teaming up with Diageo to present a its semi-standalone drinks and nightlife site called idrinkwell. The ratings site covers restaurants as well so that food establishments with a bar program can have their drinks, service and pricing rated next to other bars and cocktail lounges in their area.

Another point of interest is the Drinkwell Academy tied to idrinkwell. It's an accreditation program that teaches several categories such as mixology, white spirits, brown spirits, menus and service. You have to be accredited before being featured on Drinkwell. Being on a whole learning about cocktails kick, I've been poking around on the the learning modules (full disclosure: I got a login thing because I'm press). The whole thing is online and lessons come with tests with randomized questions (so no cheating). The video lessons on the site features well-known names and faces such as Dale DeGroff, Steve Olson and Dave Wondrich. Sound familiar? Yep, these are some of the guys that brought you Beverage Alcohol Resource.

Jumping off of that note, brands seem to be wanting to get in on the education action since Pernod Ricard has their BarSmarts program as well, also involving partners from BAR.

You have to admit that it's a pretty smart thing for brands to do because yea, you're providing training, but marketing-wise it familiarizes bartenders with your products. On the same token, for bartenders and the beverage market in general, educational opportunities coming out nowadays with a nod to mixology. You could argue whether its marketing fueling the demand or demand fueling the marketing many times over, but in the end we're talking about customers' increased expectations as more people are becoming familiar with the idea of an almost culinary-style for creating mixed drinks. They might not be cocktail nerds who decide to run out and buy a copy of Wondrich's Imbibe! or make their own bitters at home, but at the least people are hearing about cocktail lounges, visiting them and trying out new things.

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