Guest Experience of the Future: Diageo World Class Showcases Emerging Bar Tech

Simon Earley, Head of Diageo World Class, with Benjamin Lickfett, Diageo’s Head of Futures & Digital Innovation (Europe) at A Taste of the Future at the 2019 World Class Bartender of the Year Finals in Glasgow. Image: Diageo

This year’s Diageo World Class Bartender of the Year competition showcased more than just the top bartenders in the world, crowning one the best of the best.

First, congratulations to Singapore’s Bannie Kang, who beat 52 other competitors to become the 11th World Class champion. She crafts innovative cocktails behind the bar at Anti:dote inside the Fairmont Singapore, and is the first winner from the country.

But World Class featured more than some of the most ground-breaking and incredible bartenders from around the globe. Emerging tech that will alter and enhance the guest experience and cocktail future was also on display.

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Head vs. Heart

An electroencephalogram, or EEG, isn’t the first thing that likely comes to mind when asking a guest what they’d like to drink. However, Tanqueray showed off a headset that reads brain wave patterns to help craft personalized cocktails.

Called Head vs. Heart, this tech-driven guest experience involved placing the headset on a user’s head, providing them with various scented vials, and determining which they preferred via electrical impulses tracked and recorded by the EEG. Once the user’s report was generated, a bartender made them a drink based on their results.

Check this out: This Exciting New Bar Technique is Changing Everything

This tech takes pushes the personalized guest experience several steps further. While the World Class activation focused on Tanqueray 10, it should work for spirits of all types, along with wine and beer.

Diageo x Spotify

Music and sound play crucial roles in the guest experience. Music programming can affect a guest’s drink choice, enjoyment and order frequency. Sound and noise can affect a guest’s visit and overall perception of a brand.

Diageo partnered with Spotify and showcased the results of their collaboration at this year’s World Class championship. For their part, Diageo collected keywords and other points of information related to several of their Reserve cocktails. They provided Spotify with the social data they had collated, and they in turn created data-driven playlists that captured the spirit (pun semi-intended) and mood of each drink.

Check this out: What This Secret Cocktail Club Can Teach About Guest Experience

Spotify, the most popular audio streaming subscription service in the world, came up with an innovative way to identify types of music and specific tracks to create the Diageo Reserve playlists. The tracks selected to embody each signature cocktail were intended to enhance the drinking experience. Of particular note is the potential for those playlists—and future curated playlists—to put listeners around the world in the mood to try a particular cocktail.

Intriguing Machines

Located in London, Crucible is billed as “the first creative hub” for drink creators and flavor developers in our industry. At World Class, Stu Bale, director at Crucible, demonstrated machines not commonly found in bars today. These included centrifuges and rotavaps, equipment that may become more commonplace in the future.

Rotovaps

A rotavap—rotary evaporator—certainly doesn’t look like standard bar equipment. As the name suggests, the device uses evaporation. A rotavap can separate, for example, the juice from a lime to remove cloudiness but retain its flavor. Puree a hot chile, rotavap it, and the result may be a liquid with all the flavor and none of the heat.

Basically, a rotavap can gently separate liquids from solids. Experimenting with one can help bar teams create new flavors, enhance existing flavors, create clear liquids, and change a drink’s texture. Ranging in price from $3,000 to $17,000 currently, not every bar can afford a rotavap. Immersion circulators, which can produce similar results, occupy less space, and not break the bank, can be had from Polyscience for $250 to $2,500.

Centrifuges

A centrifuge uses—you guessed it—centrifugal force. Rotating at incredible speeds, centrifuges can remove liquids from solids. For bars, this can mean housemade clarified juices and oils.

Like a rotavap, centrifuges take up valuable space and can cost several thousand dollars. However, there is a centrifuge designed specifically for bars. The Spinzall has a smaller footprint, costs just $800, and can be purchased through Amazon (with free shipping for Prime members).

A cocktail destination we recently covered, HIDE in Dallas, utilizes centrifuges. Beverage director Scott Jenkins chooses to keep most of the bar’s specialized equipment out of sight from guests, with one exception being Perlini carbonating cocktail shakers.

Ultrasonics

Ultrasound waves can do some interesting things to liquids like spirits and wines. Ultrasonic devices can extract flavors, including hops from beer; alter the texture of liquids; infuse spirits, cocktails and tinctures with flavor; and even age and mature wine, whiskey and other spirits.

Hielscher, a company that specializes in ultrasonic technology and devices, manufactures an ultrasonic mixer designed specifically for bars. The Hielscher UP200Ht allows bartenders to create cocktails with unique or enhanced flavors, scents and textures in seconds. Of course, such devices require a hefty investment. The UP200Ht, for example, comes with a price tag a little over $3,000.

Check this out: A Deep Dive into HIDE, Part Three: Beverage Ops and Menu Changes

What each of these 2019 World Class Bartender of the Year demonstrations and activations had in common is their focus on enhancing the guest experience. Today’s guests—and most likely those of the future—wants not only what’s new and what’s next but an experience that’s personalized.

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