Drinkstagrammers Are Transforming Cocktail Culture Without Stepping Behind the Bar


6 minute Read

Instagram has changed the way people interact. It’s made stars out of everyday people, propped up an entire influencer market, and can even be used to detect when someone became clinically depressed.

Now it’s changing the way people think about cocktails. A host of influencers in the alcohol space have launched Instagram feeds devoted solely to cocktails. Established accounts like Beautiful Booze, Gastronomista, and Apartment Bartender have tens or even hundreds of thousands of followers. Some are paid to create recipes, or sent on trips around the world sponsored by liquor brands. Others are given free samples to feature in cocktail posts or Instagram stories.

The vast majority of “drinkstagrammers,” or home cocktail enthusiasts who regularly post their creations on Instagram, just do it out of love for cocktail culture. Serious cocktailing used to be limited to a hyper-niche community of professional mixologists in cult bars or speakeasies. Drinkstagrammers are reinvigorating the craft and its community, bringing geographic diversity and homegrown enthusiasm, and posting thousands of cocktail images every day. Many live in places that don’t have upscale cocktail bars, and they reach audiences who might not have the time, money, or inclination to go to leading cocktail bars.

Drinkstagrammers can demystify trends and ingredients and, in many cases, generate enthusiasm for new ones. In the future, it won’t be hyped bars or speakeasies in major cities changing the world of cocktails — it will be home cocktail enthusiasts on Instagram.

#OneBottleWeek w/ @redemptionwhiskey, Pt. 3 . Everyday this week I am posting a different cocktail recipe using rye whiskey as the base spirit 🥃 . About a month ago a few friends came over for drinks and one asked for a "Catcher in the Rye" 🤔 After some searching around on the internet, it appeared that several different people had thought of naming a cocktail after this 1950's novel (it was kinda destined to be a whiskey cocktail name anyway) so there are several varying recipes out there. This one sounded good to me, plus I just picked up a bottle of Cynar, so I went with it. Try it out for yourself and let me know your thoughts! . Catcher in the Rye . 2 oz @redemptionwhiskey Rye ¾ oz Dolin Dry Vermouth ¼ oz Cynar ¼ oz Walnut syrup (I subbed in Demerara) 2 dashes of Peychaud's bitters . Combine ingredients in a mixing glass and stir with ice. Strain into a chilled coupe and garnish with an orange peel ✌🏼 . #highproofpreacher #redemptionwhiskey

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One of the ways the Instagram community is taking the mystery from behind the bar is by making cocktails more accessible, according to Jordan Hughes, a former preacher who runs the cocktail account High-Proof Preacher. He recently decided to move into creating content for liquor companies and others full time.

“Most people think of making cocktails as a ‘fancy thing,’ but it’s really just a hospitality thing,” Hughes says. He has no professional bartending experience, but his Instagram account has given him access to an entirely new side of the beverage world.

“It’s interesting how much I’ve been able to interact with people in the industry,” Hughes says. “For cocktail Instagrammers like myself, who have other jobs, making drinks is more of a passion project.”

Hughes’s thoughts are echoed by other cocktail influencers. Jason Plummer, the man behind Barrel Aged Dad, started his account with the goal of making craft cocktails more approachable. As Plummer’s experience grew, so did his perception of what could be considered an approachable cocktail.

“It’s definitely evolved from the standard Old Fashioned,” Plummer says. “That’s how it goes, though. The craft cocktail world sucks you in deeper and deeper until the next thing you know your wife hates you because you’ve taken a third of her pantry space with liquor bottles and your fridge has five different bottles of homemade simple syrup in it.”

Both Hughes and Plummer credit Elliott Clark, who runs the account Apartment Bartender, for inspiring them and leading the way. Clark worked as a creative content producer when he took a Cocktail 101 class with some friends and started experimenting with drinks. In October 2015, he posted his first cocktail on Instagram. Today, he has a website, blog, and 37,000 followers.

Others started from the bar and went to Instagram, like Will and Kaitlyn, the couple behind Kale + Cocktail.

Will has worked as a professional bartender in the Charleston, South Carolina area since 2014. He met Kaitlyn, a designer, when he was working behind the bar. The couple combined Will’s bar experience with Kaitlyn’s photography and design expertise to start their drinks-centric Instagram account, Kale + Cocktail, in September 2017.

“I think Instagram is making craft cocktails seem much more approachable to home bartenders or cocktail enthusiasts,” Will says. “The menus at cocktail bars these days seem to be very intentionally cryptic, and before I started working in food and beverage I was afraid to order off the cocktail menu. Instagram has ‘lifted the shroud’ in a sense that may have been preventing less-experienced drinkers from trying new things.”

This is what makes the drinkstagram movement so intriguing. From ordering obscure ingredients off Amazon, to watching DIY videos on YouTube, digital access is democratizing aspects of food and beverage. People are able to participate in trends once only available in fine-dining establishments or certain cities. Once they have mastered (and, naturally, shared) a new recipe, other people build upon that recipe and collectively propel trends forward.

It’s 5 o’clock somewhere right? Well look at that, it’s 5 o’clock here! ⏰ . Joking aside, I honestly had no idea what time it was when I shot this as I was more focused on not dropping the glass while my other hand was holding/operating the camera. Still loving this classic @jordwatches in all it’s wooden glory, helping to remind me when it’s socially acceptable to start mixing. On my IG story last night I promised this recipe so here ya go, I highly recommend: . HORA DORADA 🌅 (Golden Hour) 1.5 oz anejo tequila .5 oz @soltadotequila (anejo that’s been infused with Serrano peppers and cinnamon) 1 oz @amaromonte .75 oz grapefruit juice .5 oz lime juice .5 oz agave nectar Shake Serrano pepper and grapefruit wheel . I guess #amaroweek is still on the mind because I wanted to play with one in a tequila cocktail. Monte does so very well because of it’s orange and floral notes (which mimic an orange liqueur like Cointreau). If a Paloma and a spicy Margarita hooked up in Italy, this would be the result. Salud! . . . . . #tequila #margarita #tequilacocktail #tequilatime #paloma #jordwatch #myjord #mensstyle #watch #esquire #quittintime #spicy #cocktails #cocktail #craftcocktails #happyhour #cocktailtime #imbibe #imbibegram #mixology #handcraftedcocktails #drink #drinking #liqpic #instagood #supercall #madewithmonte #amaro #barrelageddad

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A man named Mike Yoshioka, who runs the account mmydrinks, is an Instagram cocktail enthusiast pushing the limits of home bartending and, in many ways, creating and developing national drinks trends. He runs photo campaigns with some of the top cocktail creators that encourage people to explore classic drinks and ingredients. In 2017, Yoshioka launched #WeHaveTheLastWord, where people were asked to create variations on the Last Word cocktail. He also helped organize #CocktailRedux with Steve from @boxesandbooze, where people were asked to take a classic cocktail and upgrade it. The largest campaign Yoshioka has run is #AmaroWeek in the summer of 2017, in which he asked people for their favorite takes on amaro for a full week of amaro-based cocktail photos. #AmaroWeek had more than 2,500 submissions, many of which included original cocktails.

During Amaro Week, it was hard for anyone even vaguely associated with the drinkstagram community to open Instagram without feeling its influence. Scrolling through image after image of cocktails that look straight out of magazines can be addicting, and the urge to try all the recipes shared by people can get expensive. It gave people outside big cocktail cities like New York or San Francisco the chance to see how to make cocktails like an amaro-based Julep or countless iterations of the Negroni.

Cocktail influencers offer small craft distillers a unique opportunity — and vice versa. Big liquor brands hire public relations companies, advertising firms, and distribution networks to put their products in front of media companies and bar owners. (VinePair receives bottles from established liquor producers every day. For this we are exceedingly grateful.) It can be difficult for smaller craft and upstart distillers to generate mainstream media exposure on limited budgets. Sending samples directly to influencers can be an easier, more cost-effective way for smaller labels to spread brand awareness.

Meanwhile, Instagramming cocktail enthusiasts have a need for spirits. Creating drinks from scratch is expensive; each three-ingredient bottle means the person making the drink has to buy the bottles and spend time photographing each cocktail.

“Being a one-income family, I wear the ‘Dad’ hat first and I’m budget minded,” Plummer says. “I’ve got diapers to buy, so I can’t be dropping $75 on a bottle of Chartreuse every month.” Plummer doesn’t post about a product if he doesn’t like it, but he’s always eager to try new things without having to spend a lot of money.

“It’s supporting the people behind the spirit or product,” he adds. “I’ve been a small business owner and I’m a huge advocate for entrepreneurs that lay it all on the line to do what they love, so if I can support that via some exposure, it’s a win-win.”

The same is true for Hughes. He used to reach out to brands to offer a trade for content, but he says he stopped when making and photographing cocktails started to feel like work. He’s now more selective with the people he collaborates with, emphasizing authenticity in his account rather than working with every brand that reaches out to him.

All it takes is a look at the 60-plus bourbon distilleries across America to know that distilling culture is growing. There are more than 1,300 active craft spirits producers in the U.S., and publications like Fortune have declared that craft spirits are the next big thing in alcohol. These independent companies can look to the craft beer movement before them to see that social media is a huge part of transforming from a local pit stop to a full-blown sensation.

That’s part of the reason that the next big craft cocktail movement will happen on Instagram, not in cocktail bars. Producers will continue to send innovative products, while scrappy drinkstagrammers will use what they have to make new drinks. The top influencers will continue to build out content, brands will share that content, and more people will see the brands and drinks.

As spirits gain market share on wine and beer, drinkstagrammers are doing their part to develop and diversify cocktail culture. Instagram won’t be your next favorite bar in the future, but it could be where you find your next favorite drink.

17 Top Cocktail Instagram Accounts to Follow

@mmydrinks

So my friend Matt @theamateurmixologist came up with #peacepours for #worldpeaceday No fancy cocktail for me just a simple glass of whiskey which was my dad's favorite drink. You'll understand a little later. • First a little family background. Both my parents are from Hiroshima. My mother as a little girl witness the mushroom cloud from the atomic bomb. If she was closer to ground zero I would not be here today. I lost an uncle from the radiation poisoning. He lived until his 30's but his body was slowly deteriorating year after year. My cousin lost his dad at a young age. So this concept of World Peace isn't a word or a thought to my family but something we strive to actively achieve. • I dedicate this post to my father, my mother and my mentor. Three people who have shown and taught my what it means to fight for World Peace. They have taught me World Peace is not something we think about one day out of the year but something we need to strive to achieve each and everyday. They taught me World Peace begins we me. How can we talk about World Peace is we don't have that at home, at our workplace, at school, with our families, with our friends. They have shown me what it means to listen to someone, to respect someone, to care for someone. To help someone become happy and create these bonds of friendship. They have challenged me to think what am I doing today to help achieve World Peace? Yes, today is World Peace Day but the fight for World Peace does not end at midnight. • Thank you to my father, my mother and my mentor for dedicating your lives for World Peace. I promise to follow in your footsteps and carry on the fight for World Peace.

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@apartment_bartender

@shannonshootscocktails

It’s a two twists kind of day. 🍸

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@beautifulbooze

Today I am sharing my #PeacePours Cocktail for #InternationalDayofPeace. ✌🌎The inspiration for my "Olive Branch Cocktail " comes from my friends/followers on here and experience travelling for the past two years. In every destination I have visited there has always been someone that has extended their helping hand to me. A lot of these giving people I have met as Insta-friends and then been able to meet them in real life. These people have given me inspiration to live my life and help others. Recipe: Olive Branch Sour 2 ounces of Gin macerated with Olive Leaf 1 ounce of Lemon Juice 1/2 ounce of Simple Syrup Egg White Directions: Add all ingredients to a shaker and shake then add ice and shake again Strain into serving glass Thank you @theamateurmixologist for organizing☺ #BeautifulBooze #21Sept #WorldPeaceDay #Gin #OliveBranch

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@gastronomista_ 

Some Fridays you just need a mini watermelon filled with watermelon mint Frozé, amirite? 🍉🌱🥂

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@barfaith

This is a cocktail from the 1888 Bartender's Manual by Theodore Proulx, and it is quite fantastic. It's a low sugar cocktail that is not lacking flavor in any way and absolutely delicious. If you like gin #martinis, this takes it up a notch and adds some herbal complexity without the sweetness you often get from many herbal-forward concoctions. Since this limited Old Tom #gin here is no longer available, and I definitely plan on making this again, let me know 👇🏼 if there are any Old Tom gins you'd recommend. Otherwise, I will probably just be adding a barspoon/tsp of simple syrup (1:1 sugar/water) to my classic London dry gin to approximate, and I encourage you guys to try this out! . Phoenix Cocktail • 1.5oz Old Tom Gin (I used @tanqueraygin, but you can sub with London Dry gin plus a barspoon of simple syrup) • Barspoon of Benedictine • Couple dashes of orange bitters (I used Regan's no.6) Stir with ice and strain into a coupe. Express the oils from a lemon peel over the top and rim of the glass . #oldtomgin #ginlovers #benedictine #martini #ginstagram #BarFaithLiteLibations #BarFaithPhoenix

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@highproofpreacher

@kaleandcocktail

You can't go wrong with the classics – especially when they contain Cocchi Americano.👌🏻⠀ ⠀ Apparently Cocchi Americano can be tricky to find sometimes, and you'll want to Google how to pronounce it before talking to someone at the liquor store. This is why Lillet is commonly used in this classic, and that's cool too.⠀ ⠀ Corpse Revivers actually have their own theme of cocktails from the good-ole pre-prohibition days, the No. 2 version being the most popular. The Savoy Cocktail book recommends the following in regard to drinking Corpse Revivers:⠀ ⠀ "To be taken before 11 a.m., or whenever steam and energy are needed"🤓😴⠀ ⠀ I'm not sure if anyone is sipping Corpse Revivers with their corn flakes these days, but, this drink was created to snap you instantly out of your hangover.⠀ ⠀ Being an equal ingredient cocktail, it would be pretty easy to whip up if you're in a hungover daze. I have not yet used it in such an application, but it is a very tasty drink with a pretty simple recipe.⠀ ⠀ Corpse Reviver No. 2:⠀ ⠀ • .75oz Gin⠀ • .75oz Cocchi Americano -or- Lillet Blanc⠀ • .75oz Lemon juice⠀ • .75oz Cointreau⠀ • .25oz Absinthe (for rinse)⠀ ⠀ Shake all ingredients and double strain into chilled, absinthe rinsed coupe, garnish with an orange peel⠀ ⠀ -W⠀ ⠀ What do you reach for "whenever steam and energy are needed"? (Don't say a vodka-redbull…)👇🏻

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@holycityhandcraft

@theamateurmixologist

'Sixes & Sevens' Today is #nationalbeerday 🍻 apparently, I have no idea in which country or if the prefix should be 'international', but let's roll with it. . I'm mixing up an original 'Sixes & Sevens', the drink I invented to celebrate 6k followers and named by @linzipee (thanks). I was really pleased with the drink, but here I'm stripping the recipe right back and using gin in the base, creating an 'original 6&7' as if my first one was a twist on these bare components. . The basic idea was a cross between a Summer Cup & Beer in a highball with ice, so what better day to pull this one out than #intergalacticbeerday in a more refined coupé experience. — • 25ml gin: @caorunngin • 25ml triple sec: @gabrielboudier • 25ml sweet vermouth: @belsazar_vermouth • 2 dashes bitters: @angosturauk •15ml fruit liqueur* •100ml IPA* *if making your own choose your liqueur and IPA to complement each others' flavours. I'm using @mothersruine17 rhubarb & @brewdogofficial Punk IPA. 👉 Shake all ingredients except IPA with ice and pour into glass (highball with ice OR chilled cocktail glass), top with IPA then garnish with cucumber.

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@afabulousfete

@littlelibations

@barrelageddad

Lazy Sunday afternoons are perfect for tiki drinks in my humble opinion. Here’s a new one I whipped up for the #FloatDiplomatico challenge, using one of my favorite rums as a floater. . SUNDAY AFTERNOON DELIGHT🍹 1 oz @diplomaticorum Planas rum 1.5 oz pineapple juice 1.25 oz orange juice .25 oz cinnamon syrup .5 lime juice .5 oz @pierreferrandcognac Dry Curacao 3 dashes @bittermens Elemakule Tiki bitters Top with 1 oz @diplomaticorum Reserva Exclusiva . Add all ingredients to a shaker (save for floater), shake with ice and strain into your glass. Slowly top with floater over the back of a spoon to ensure proper layering. Garnish with orange slice, pineapple fronds and @luxardousa cherry. Happy weekend friends!

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@theweekendmixologist

@coqtale

@w_aaron

@tippleandnosh

We ❤️ California. ☀️ Home to some of the best wine 🍇 and, now, amari. Amari is 🔥 hot these days (ICYMI, 👉 @amaroweek) and we’re excited about the newly released Fernet Cannella. It’s got the characteristic menthol and bitter flavors with a touch of sweetness—super balanced and not astringent like some others that skew way medicinal. It’s great served neat, but of course we couldn’t help ourselves and had to mix with it. This is our take on the Toronto cocktail. . 1.5 oz Rye whiskey 1/2 oz Fernet Cannella 1 barspoon Spiced simple syrup* 2 dashes Angostura bitters Orange peel Mint . Stir/strain/up. Express and discard orange peel. Garnish with mint and orange peel. 🌱🍊 . *We made a brown sugar simple syrup that included cinnamon, star anise, clove, and vanilla bean. . . . #cocktail #cocktails #drinks #cocktailporn #drinkporn #cocktailhour #craftcocktails #craftcocktail #craftspirits #whiskey #rye #fernet #amaro #bitters #diycocktails #eatercocktails #mixology #bartending #imbibe #homebar #homebartender #cocktailsathome #cocktailoftheday #cocktailsofinstagram #drinkstagram #instadrinks #imbibegram #feedfeed #california #cannellaspirits @cannellaspirits

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