Recently I was approached by a global spirits manufacturer on the verge of launching a new variant from one of the worlds’ most famous brands. Specifically, they wanted to understand how cocktail barmen make decisions about which drinks to recommend to customers at the bar.

Whilst discussions with some of London’s finest cocktail barmen were useful, I also carried out some observational research in a one of the London’s high-end cocktail bars, watching and listening to investigate what the barmen did and said when serving customers. As any anthropologist will tell you, what people tell you about what they do is often different from what they actually do.

The research revealed the some of the essential ‘markers’ a new product must possess in order to make it into the cocktail barman’s sophisticated repertoire – the whole ‘story’ of a new product needed to somehow chime with the barman’s identity before it made an appearance in that moment of talking to a customer. A short film revealing highlights of the core findings has since been used to brief the client’s entire global innovation and marketing teams.