Drinkable perfume? Strange as this may seem, that's exactly what Victoria Chow, founder of hip cocktail bar The Woods, did for Dior's fragrance launch party. Chow created a delicious cocktail that smelt like the newly-launched Savage cologne by Dior.
This approach is not unusual as prestigious brands are customising alcoholic drinks at VIP events to deliver personal and intimate experiences for their customers.
"Two years ago, people walked around with trays of Champagne, sparkling water and orange juice. It was never centre stage," Chow says. "Now, it is part of the event. [Brands] want the beverage to tell the story as well."
Award winning-mixologist Antonio Lai, of Quinary and Origin fame, agrees: "It's about the experience nowadays - how we can make the guests remember the event."
Chow considers three key factors while creating a drink: the flavour profile, target audience and the brand's expectations.
For Dior, she paid close attention to the star of the evening - the cologne - and designed the taste of the cocktail to match the fragrance. She chose to serve the drink in a masculine rock glass to complement the look and feel of the men's cologne.
Chow was also the mastermind behind custom-designed cocktails for the houseware brand L'OBJET, launched by Lane Crawford.
To match the aesthetics of the brand, Chow sought inspiration from the products. The sparkling cocktail reflected a high-end, medieval feast-like brand image and characteristics of L'OBJET. "We made a Champagne cocktail and sprayed edible gold inside the glass. When the Champagne is poured … you can see the edible gold in the bubbles," Chow explains.
Lai shares similar experiences. He offered hands-on experience for guests to make their own cocktails with shakers in Salvatore Ferragamo's VIP event at Pacific Place.
Drinking is a universal language, Lai says, adding that it's a tool brands are using in a bid to create conversation with clients.
That is the reason so many brands are requesting creations that carry "different, interesting and Asian influences". He collaborated with Moët Hennessy Diageo, where he pieced together four cocktails in a menu for the launch of Haig Club, the whisky developed in collaboration between Diageo, David Beckham and Simon Fuller.
Comprising Yuzu Hour, Hait-a-Horlick, Clubman's Soda and Haig Bartender, which Antonio plays with the pronunciation of "Hey Bartender", the list catered to a diverse audience from avant-garde to conservatives with something strong, mild and also in between.
Some brands are taking it a step further, opening concept restaurants to build a dialogue with customers. Mercedes Me Hong Kong is one example. Upholding its brand concept, drinking experience at the store leaves you with a strong impression and happy taste buds.
The head mixologist of Mercedes Me, Héktor Monroy, says that customers come to look for a personal "Me" experience. Unlike ordinary bars and restaurants, this restaurant provides food and beverage, and a lifestyle encounter that caters to different needs of every person's needs.
One of the highlights on the cocktail menu is a list of eight choices, each inspired by a country. All drinks are designed to pair with the fresh ingredients and food from the restaurant. For example, "sake" is sour and spicy with a hint of wasabi reminiscent of Japanese cuisine.
Mercedes Me has also has an extensive wine list. Julien Peros, sommelier for Mercedes Me, spent two months narrowing down the second wine menu selections to exquisite productions from small estates in France, Italy and Spain. He says the idea is to choose wines that will really express something - reflecting the personality, identity and style of Mercedes Benz, and Mercedes Me.
He says, "wine is different, because we work with the final product. So my job is more to create an experience for guests with wine, and then with wine and food".
The concept is the same. Ultimately, the goal is to create an overall ambience which leaves guests wanting more and good vibes associated with the brand.
Another service is the Mercedes' tailor-made cocktails. Depending on their tastes, moods and fresh ingredients available at the store, a just-made-for-you drink is dedicated to your own personal experience. During the making, mixology professionals tell you all about the process and why such ingredients are added to enhance flavours. So, when customers leave the house, they are taking more than just a happy belly home.
Go to a wine consultant if you have doubts about what to go for
Do you need advice when picking wine for a special occasion? Here are a few things you should prepare before approaching a wine consultant. The basic task is to state your personal taste, budget, venue and purpose of the event. Some people may show a preference for a particular brand or type of wine such as Bordeaux. One example could be a client requesting the whole collection of the first growth of Bordeaux like Château Latour, Lafite or Margaux. The scale of the event is another important question related to budget - the amount of drinks and price per bottle should be considered. "Depending on how high-end [the occasion is], we have to make sure they've got the right quantity. Perhaps the wine they would like does not fit within the budget. Then our role would be to suggest alternatives that would meet their requirements," suggests Amanda Longworth, head of marketing and wine services of Berry Bros and Rudd (BBR). Looking to their extensive wine stocks and balancing the client's cost with their taste and objectives, these experts can then offer a solution with the best value. "It's [very much] our own experience of talking to our clients and getting an idea of what doesn't work. That is just as important as what does," says BBR's head of wholesale Josh Rubenstein. The experts also have an innovative solution for those who are less exacting with the specific vintage but more concerned with offering their guests a keepsake of the event: hosts may opt to purchase a whole cask of wine for the momentous occasion and personalise the labels on the bottle. It seems whether you're more interested in what's inside or outside the bottle, there's something for you.
Red, white and cru
Choose the right wine for the special occasion
You do not have to spend a thousand dollars on a good wine, but always choose the best for value. At some point, you may want to enjoy a fancy fine wine with your significant other. Josh Rubenstein, head of wholesale at Berry Bros & Rudd, selects wine for five different occasions.
1) Birthday party of 50 guests
Berry's United Kingdom Cuvée, Grand Cru, Mailly HK$268
2) HEN's NIGHT
2014 Moscato d'Asti, Canelli, Cerutti, Cassinasco, Piedmont HK$108
3) Dinner with friends
(Magnum white) 2008 Mirum, Verdicchio di Matelica Riserva, La Monacesca, Marche HK$320
4) Formal business lunch meeting
1989 Latricieres Chambertin, Grand Cru, Domaine Louis Remy HK$1,038
5) A couple's anniversary dinner
1998 Chateau Lafleur, Pomerol HK$4,650
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