Hefty Hold or Sleek Silhouette? The Design Decisions that Drive Spirit Sales

What is the shape of your spirit’s bottle worth to your consumer?  How about its weight? The length of the neck or the width of the body?

How much is it worth to have a spirit that is easy—even enjoyable—to pour?

The answer is: it depends on who is doing the pouring.

When Ford’s Gin wanted to release a spirit created specifically to be bartender-friendly, they didn’t stop at the spirit. They put in the time and research to create a unique liquor bottle design that made the gin an easy go-to for a bartender who spends their working life lifting, holding, and pouring.

Bartenders will tell you they make their living with their hands, their wrists, their arms, and their shoulders.  Even great spirits will suffer a lack of attention over time if their bottles cause the bartender short or long-term discomfort.  By the end of a long shift, when hands are tired, and wrists may be sore, it’s harder to keep a winning smile for the customer if crafting their cocktail is physically unpleasant.

Eventually, the negative repetitive experience will result in fewer pours and less enthusiasm for menu placement. Bartenders will, understandably, look for an alternative cocktail spirit—one that doesn’t cause discomfort or pain when they’re looking to create a great experience for their customers. It may not even be a conscious decision but merely a quick decision to use something else that will still please the customer.

So what did Ford’s Gin do to capitalize on these considerations?

Creating a (Bartender) User-Friendly Experience

First and foremost, Ford’s Gin was designed with intention. Their goal was to create an easy pour, so they went directly to bartenders for their feedback through the design process. The custom bottle design became part of the cocktail-creation promotion toolkit, boosting the brand’s on-premise appeal.

To support easier measurements for cocktail batching, measurement hash marks were incorporated into the design to be practical and useful while retaining visual and tactile appeal.

Considering that bartenders, like consumers, have a variety of hand sizes, they settled on body dimensions for the bottle that are easier to grip and hold. Going one step further, they ensured the neck, too, was designed to be gripped easily and that the weight was balanced to reduce wrist strain during the pour. Last but not least, the weight of the bottle was determined to ensure stability on the shelf to reduce the potential for tipping during a busy service behind the bar.

Form Follows Function: Smooth Pours for Both Bars and Homes

In another post, we discussed the importance of knowing your brand’s primary target market.  Ford’s Gin is an excellent example of completely engaging the target—in this case, the bartenders with immense influence over how often and how well the spirit will be presented to the consumer.

The key takeaway is not to produce a bottle just like theirs but to give your bottle the same investment at the design stage, and to keep in mind that a bottle that’s easy for a bartender to handle is also easy for the at-home consumer.

The easiest way to research is to spend an evening at your own favorite bar, where you can watch as drinks are being made.  Watch how your bartender handles the bottles from the well and the shelf; notice if the bottle shape and weight require the bartender to adjust their grip halfway through an average pour or—worse!—requires two hands.  If your bartender has a few moments, ask what they think of that lovely, oddly shaped, heavy bottle of a premium spirit.  (And do, of course, remember to tip them well for their time and information.)

To complete your own investigation, take the time to be hands-on in a liquor store.  Lift and rotate spirits packaged in a way similar to your own aspirations.  Does it work well for a pour or two but become uncomfortable if you need to hold and pour repeatedly?  Does that sharp-angled bottle with a heavy base work well in 750ml but become unwieldy when sized up to a liter?  When placed beside your on-premise and off-premise sales strategy, does the design still make the most sense?

Apply that same forethought and investigative mindset to all other packaging parts—closure, embellishments, labels, everything.  It’s as much a part of what your brand offers as the spirit itself. 

Working with packaging professionals immersed in the spirits industry gives your brand a sharper edge in its presentation. Are you ready to get started?