Secrets of creativity revealed at Jigger Beaker Glass

Mark Ludmon

Mark Ludmon

23 January 2020

Industry experts speaking at the Bacardi Brown-Forman Brands event, which made its 2020 debut this week at Lyaness, unveiled their eight tips for success

1. Have a strategy

For creative thinking, it is useful to be strategic from the start. ‘You need to have some kind of purpose, some kind of why,’ according to Mark Shayler, a consultant who has helped brands such as Bombay Sapphire to move forward. ‘You need to build your innovation around something. You can’t just do something out of desperation that isn’t thought through.’

Bartender Joe Schofield (pictured) said his creativity came from having a clear initial concept. ‘Every single element inside your venue should be part of that overall picture of the concept. I think it’s always important you are actually developing drinks for the venue you work in rather than developing drinks for yourself or what you like to drink.’

The speakers

  • Joe Schofield, winner of international bartender of the year at Tales of the Cocktail’s Spirited Awards
  • Mark Shayler, consultant
  • Ambre Morin, UK ambassador for Grey Goose vodka
  • Renaud De Bosredon, Bombay Sapphire’s UK brand ambassador
  • Michael Brown, UK ambassador for Slane whiskey

2. Fail

The path to successful creativity is via failure and exposing your ideas to be challenged. ‘The only way to become a pro is by learning, trying, failing, repeating again, again and again,’ said Schofield. Specifically for him, it is about ‘Kaizen’ – a term for ‘continuous improvement’ which he discovered while working as a consultant in Japan. ‘I don’t think we should ever be resting on our laurels. I think we should be trying to strive forward to be better.’

3. Find a friend just to play devil’s advocate

After creating something new, it is useful to get ‘psychological distance’, according to Grey Goose ambassador, Ambre Morin. ‘You need to leave some time for your idea to blossom, to let it process in the back of your mind. You know it is hard to argue against yourself so find a friend just to play devil’s advocate, to ask you some questions and to put some holes into your idea that you will have to fill.’

It is also important to question who you are creating for, according to Renaud De Bosredon, Bombay Sapphire’s UK brand ambassador. ‘From the moment you decide to put a concept, an idea or an object in someone else’s life, your creative process has to purely focus on the centre of their universe, which is them.’

4. Move your body

Maintaining good physical and mental health is the foundation for creative thinking, Morin added. ‘Exercising is really important and sleeping well and eating healthily. Move your body – science proves that walking when you are thinking increases your creative output by 60%.’ Shayler recommends meditation: ‘When you shift from beta into alpha into theta brainwaves, you have better ideas. You don’t have to meditate by going “om”: you can also meditate by going for a walk, going for run, going for a swim, having a shower.’

5. Be brave

Never play it safe, Shayler insisted. ‘You can’t create by just looking at what other people are doing and then try to create by reaction.’ At the same time, bars would be mistaken to try to innovate ‘by increment’.

‘They look at what they did last time and make it a little bit better. That’s just not creativity.’ Schofield recalled how anxious he was when Tippling Club launched an edible menu consisting of differently flavoured, customised gummy bears that each matched a drink representing a dream or desire such as happiness and lust. ‘I think when you are being creative, it’s about taking risks.’

6. Be determined

Being creative requires calm determination, pointed out Ambre Morin, UK ambassador for Grey Goose vodka.

‘We have all faced the blank page and it is really hard to know where to start just because we have so many options. So what we do is to take the path of least resistance. This is human. We will re-use ideas that we already have but we need to generate new ones. So you need to get out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself. You will need to embrace the extreme and the ridiculous as that might be the best idea you have, even if right now it seems unachievable. It’s always easy to simplify rather than the opposite.’

7. Think like a graphic designer (or a flavour scientist)

At Tippling Club, Schofield found that a great source of inspiration was to look further afield. ‘It’s quite easy for us to get fixated on trying to work a little bit more like chefs but in reality there are so many different industries that we could be taking inspiration from.’ Perfumers, flavour scientists and graphic designers collaborated on Tippling Club’s Sensorium menu. For example, it was presented as a hawthorn strainer with a selection of fragrance sampling strips that each had an aroma that not only represented a drink but was designed to trigger a memory such as 'rain' and 'campfire'.

‘When you work with all these different people, it really helps to open up a different thought process that may never have even existed before. If you only ever do what’s already been done in the industry or in one other industry, you’re never going to innovate, you’re never really going to push the boundaries.’

8. Find the time

Many bartenders end up setting time aside to be creative between deliveries and the beginning of a shift but this might not be the right time for you, Morin said. ‘Identify your most creative time of day. Find that creative spot.’ Schofield admitted that his best moments were just before he fell asleep. ‘I’m forever writing things down on my phone.’ But he added: ‘Just set aside maybe 10 or 15 minutes a day to work on projects.’

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