Shhh! Listen carefully and you’ll hear a buzz going around bartender circles. It’s the excitable chatter surrounding The Glasshouse Project. Devised by Bombay Sapphire and aimed squarely at the trade, what we love about it is, it’s pushing boundaries, challenging perceptions and ultimately bringing better drinking experiences to everyone.
We like to think of it as an incubator for brilliant activations and bright ideas. Marc Plumridge, Director of Advocacy for Northern Europe, Bacardí, is with us on this one. “Bombay Sapphire have always been forward thinking in the production of its gin and how it looks to educate and inspire people. The Glasshouse Project is an extension of that,” he explains. “For me, it’s a beautiful canvas to partner with people who inspire me and showcase their talent live on a stage.”
Shared mood boards for The Glasshouse
For The Glasshouse, the venture in question (yes, the dropping of the ‘Project’ here is deliberate), the stage was the recent Bar Convent Berlin. The brilliant minds engaged to make the magic happen were Monica Berg from Himkok in Olso, Matt Whiley from Peg + Patriot in London and Arnd Henning Heissen from Fragrances at Ritz-Carlton in Berlin. Why these three? “From a creative, aesthetic standpoint Monica is just a genius, she works in such a restrained manner. To me, she’s like the Noma of cocktails – I love that approach,” Marc enthuses. “Then there’s Matt. He’s one of the most positive, efficient bartenders around. He’s very organised and upbeat – a real joy to have around. As for Arnd, the way he works with fragrance and aroma is just incredible.”
It’s a given that bringing talents of such magnitude together would result in great drinks. But the aim of anything that comes under The Glasshouse Project umbrella is much more than that. “What’s exciting about collaborating at the cutting edge is it can result in something collectively great,” says Marc. He’s not kidding – in this instance the outcome was an awe-inspiring, interactive and imaginative experience that showcased the strengths of all three talents to perfection.
GCI of The Glasshouse at Bar Convent Berlin by Glock Design
Picture it: 65sqm of light, creative joy and wonderment adding drama to an otherwise cold, grey, austere trade show environment. On one side, all kinds of shiny scientific (read expensive) bartender kit; to the other, a living wall framing three temperature controlled tapped cocktails. In between was a craft-your-own gin station brimming with apothecary bottles. Centrestage was a handsome reclaimed wooden table and stools – very Elle Deco in looks but like the best kitchen party in purpose and feel. This was the pulse of the whole operation, where Monica, Matt, Arnd and the constant stream of guests congregated, either to contemplate the various works in progress or to learn how the bits of high-tech equipment and natural eau de vies could be used to best effect. On the parameters, two glass panes bearing handwritten formulas for the cocktail recipes and unfolding ideas. The purpose? To showcase the transparency of the whole exercise and encourage the sharing of ideas.
Like most of the best concepts, this one started with what marketeers like to call blue sky thinking. “The question I put to the team was if you were to take out all of the walls, barriers and parameters of your thinking; if you were to focus on just random creative ideas, what would you do?” explains Marc. “The main thing that came across was it had to reflect their thoughts, particularly on open source information, sustainability and the hidden complexity behind the production of Bombay Sapphire.” Monica picks up: “We knew we didn’t just want to come up with a bar, for us it was important for that the project resulted in something different, something really interesting and engaging. So we thought, what if we devised a space where we could create and be part of an end product?” Okay? “But what would the end product be? We wouldn’t know.” Confused? Don’t be. Take that as shorthand for setting out to achieve something that would be a learning experience, as much for them as for those stopping off at the stand. A work in progress where everyone contributes to the end result as it were.
Tending the living wall and tapped cocktails
After a visit to Laverstoke Mill, home of Bombay Sapphire, the trio worked with Glock Design and Lab 5 to echo the cutting-edge technology and ecological practices employed at the award-winning distillery. Monica focused on her tapped cocktails culture and the philosophy behind the drinks, Matt concentrated on the sustainable practices and science of drinking while Arnd zoned in on the raw botanical ingredients and how they affect the psyche.
Guests engaging in the wonders of The Glasshouse
It all came together in one of the most exciting stands of the whole event with visitors engaging in exactly the way the trio intended. The tapped cocktails (manned by Taptails from Norway natch) were an easy draw. Guests simply walked up to the wall and helped themselves to one of Monica, Matt and Arnd’s pre-batched, temperature-controlled drinks. As for the garnishes, they were snipped off the living wall. For everything that anyone wanted to know about bar tech but were too afraid to ask, or have access to, Monica and Matt were on hand to explain and demonstrate the processes and suggested uses for the sous vide machines and rotavaps – there was even a 3D printer busily producing bits of kit. Arnd meanwhile used his expertise to help guests blend their own gin and tonics in his specially curated ‘candy store for adults’.
Matt and Monica enjoying a well earned break
“Collectively we wanted to bring together good ingredients and come up with good ideas by speaking to likeminded people in a creative space,” says Matt when asked what they set out to achieve. “I believe we did it.” Monica concurs. “We’re really proud of how people interacted with the space. We wanted it to be a place where people could hang out and try things they might not have access to in their bars, we wanted to be generous with our collective knowledge. Ultimately, we hoped that people who visited The Glasshouse might take our ideas and make them better – that’s what it’s all about, it’s an ongoing project.” And what would she like to come out of it? “I’d love it if The Glasshouse became a pop-up,” she says excitedly. We’re keeping everything crossed.
To see The Glasshouse and Bacardí activities during Bar Convent Berlin (including Angel Share and the fab glitter ball that was the Switchel Disco), check Laura Knox’s video below: