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Keeping pop-up bars special

Pop-up bars are now a core part of drinks marketing strategies, but as their use increases, companies need to ensure their pop-ups focus as strongly on the customer experience as they do on the brand

Nick Ford The Cocktail Service

The growing use of pop-ups at both trade and consumer events has seen some brands lose sight of the fundamental reason for their appeal  An effective pop-up bar needs to deliver the ‘wow factor’ for a brand quickly and effectively. It has to persuade customers to find out more about what makes the brand special, with bartenders who can professionally mix and serve signature drinks and engage with customers.

For example, at the Buffalo Bourbon Empire for Buffalo Trace, our  bar team served bespoke speakeasy-style cocktails in authentic 1920s costume, while at our Bloom Gin pop-up, bartenders dressed as farm labourers encouraged customers to pick the strawberries for their drink on route to the bar.

We’ve seen various pop-ups where the space is a bland, off-the-shelf bar unit manned by under-trained or badly briefed agency staff, and as a result the customer experience is poor.

As well as interesting, well-served drinks, you need to offer customers activity that fits the brand’s values and the bar’s theme, such as the craps table we operated at the Buffalo Bourbon Empire, and mini-croquet in the Bloom Gin Garden

Effective pop-ups can seem expensive, but in terms of the overall marketing it doesn’t make sense to cut corners at the point where the brand engages with its target customers.

The pop-up bar has moved into the mainstream of drinks marketing precisely because it’s such an effective way of showcasing a brand.  As consumers become more familiar with them, we all have to work that much harder to keep pop-ups special.

Event bar specialist The Cocktail Service has created pop-ups for events including London Cocktail Week, The Ashes, The Kent & Curwen Polo Cup, Henley Royal Regatta and the Aegon Tennis Championships, spotlighting brands including Bacardi, Balvenie Whisky, Bloom Gin, Bombay Sapphire, Buffalo Trace Bourbon, Greenall’s Gin and Grey Goose Vodka. To contact The Cocktail Service call 0845 4673798   or visit


3 January 2014