so last night Mediation went along to the launch event for Bombay Sapphire's Dusk Bar at Somerset House. the pop-up – which will have residency at the site for the duration of the summer – is an explosion of illuminated blue plastic and metal, the brief of 'bring the iconic bottle to life' being more than met.
what's was more interesting though was the expression of the product intrinsics at the bar. all spirits are comprised of 'botanicals' – key flavours and ingredients that contribute to the spirits taste profile. Bombay Sapphire has ten – all of which were on display in various forms at the event.
the actual botanicals were there in bowls themselves, everything from the juniper berry (natch) to the Orris root and Grains of Paradise amongst others; but beyond this, Bombay Sapphire had asked ten leading mixologists from London's most fashionable bars to each create a cocktail from the bar. each cocktail is inspired by a botanical ie key product intrinsic (Mediation's favourite turned out to be the one with elderflower cordial but I can't remember it's name).
so the question of whether or not Bombay Sapphire and Co. can mix an awesome cocktail aside (they can) there's the bigger question of why do a pop-up bar in the first place? what's it adding? who is it for? and what's the payback?
I put this question to a few bar trade magazine editors who were present, and beyond "it get's Bombay Sapphire talked about" it was hard to track down more of a specific answer. presumably there's hard and soft measures for this kind of thing… hard ones along the lines of 'does the bar pay for itself?', how many people do we engage with an experience of the course of the summer?' etc. these and more like them should pay back in the immediate term.
as always though its the longer term softer effects that are harder to pin down. does the experience change people's attitude and perception of Bombay Sapphire? does it help increase their brand reputation scores? and crucially, will in increase the volume of Bombay Sapphire sold in bar and in future consumption thru supermarkets. the brand has a lot to do – gin consumption is in free-fall (down 14.5% year on year).
I can't answer any of those questions, but I hope Bombay Sapphire can. because an investment of this scale, even if it is paying back, should be aligned to a very specific long term strategy and objective. from my perspective, if it was to communicate the existence and balance of intrinsics, as well as change my perception of gin-based cocktails, it was a job well done. and that's not just the cocktails talking.
the Bombay Sapphire Dusk Bar is popping up at Somerset House until October 2009, for more details see their blog