Mixology: Magazin fur Barkultur

True Originals: the Story behind the Bacardi "Samurai Viral"

Blog 11.11.2009

The recently voiced suspicion that the Samurai video circulating among bartenders stems from Bacardi has been confirmed. The British agency "Think Espionage" has given us a preview of the next scheduled releases.

Action: A Japanese bartender starts mixing a Daiquiri without requesting a drinks order, as soon as a mysterious customer steps up to his counter. While a deep male voice explaines his hard shaking technique, images of a samurai reaching for his sword are displayed. At the end of the video, the unknown guest leaves a simple coin with the colours black and red on the counter.

The video described above was enthusiastically posted and reposted by bartenders on Facebook. It was originally released, as already suspected in this blog entry, by the Bacardi company. Design and action of the video stem from British marketing agency "Think Espionage". When a mail from Espionage employee Liana Stricker-Wilson arrived, in which she confirmed the origin, I was very sceptical.

Unfortunately this is what viral marketing usually means for PR agencies: login to the Mixology website using a fake ID, then post some dodgy information about a product in cheesy language, trying to sound like you’re a bartender. Not this agency. Liana was refreshingly open about everything and allowed me to use all our communication in the public immediately. She wanted honest feedback on the next films they were planning to release.

The next Bacardi Virals

There’s two more True Originals videos in the pipeline. The films that we got a preview of (next to Paul Clarke, Jay Hepburn and Joerg Meyer) are titled "The Hummingbird" (see picture above) and "The Apothecary". The Hummingbird is a female bartender working in a club bar. When she sees the mysterious unknown customer, she immediately starts preparing a Pina Colada after the original recipe. To be precise, it is a modern interpretation of the original recipe, since she does not use an electric mixer. With impressive precision the bartender does even cut a fresh coconut in the film and uses the fresh juice as an ingredient.

The bartender moves around very professionally and the bar techniques used are up to date, as we’ve already seen it in the Samurai episode. However, in a modern club bar there’s hardly the space and the time to use these kind of ingredients. Modern day bartenders will probably fall more in love with the third video. The Apothecary is a bartender with British accent. He does create a mojito with a twist for the mysterious customer sorting through selected herbs, tinctures and the likes on bis backboard. This is the kind of Milk & Honey or PDT bar that is currently considered the ultimate classic bar experience. A detail Jörg Meyer pointed out to me is the use of mint. It’s obviously not "herba buena" as described in the film, but a different mint species.

Anyone who has ever been involved in the shoot of professional cocktail images, will see this only as a minor failure, as the missing special ingredient can be replaced visually. Nevertheless, it should be mentioned at this point. Another detail I didn’t like, although it is very authentic, is the fact that both bartenders do openly straw-taste their cocktails in front of the customer. Is it just me who finds this appalling? When I used this technique, I always covered up the procedure with my other hand, to not give the guest the impression that I "consume" his drink. But this is a subject for another seperate blog post.

Who are the bartenders?

Are the actors in the films actually professional bartenders working in existing places? No, they are just professional actors, as Liana from Think Espionage told us. That’s pretty impressive when you consider how fluid their movements are. Something that usually can only be obtained through years of hard work in real bartending life. However, the Apothecary did not step behind the stick for the first time: "(…) Liam (The Apothecary) has had quite a lot of experience working behind the bar but Layla (Hummingbird) was trained by Bacardi Global Ambassador David Cordoba."

Liana doesn’t see the films as classic commercials, as she explains:"(…) they aren’t ads but pieces of film content aimed at and created for the world’s top bartenders. It’s about celebrating the unique skills that each bartender at the top of the game possesses."
If one takes into account how far from the real bartending world Bacardi has been acting in a a number of markets just a few years ago, this is a very interesting and positive approach. The regular Bacardi commercials tend to be enormously popular among the public, while they send shivers down the spine of every bartender. Let me just remind you of the Miami bartender, who muddles his mint "in the air".

User "mellobri" dryly comments on this video in the discussion thread: "Notice, if you will…? a full club, the bartender is spending 30 seconds making ONE drink, and that’s about right. In reality, there’d be a 20 person line at the bar, all shouting their orders at once, with everybody ticked off that the bartender is making a mojito." The next film of the True Originals viral series, the Hummingbird, will be released in the next couple of days.

Update: Philip Duff (Door 74, Amsterdam) commented on Facebook: "Now the cat is out of the bag, I can reveal the actor for The Samurai was trained in the fine art of Japanese bartending by none other than Mr Marian Beke, door 74’s first ever Guest Bartender, all-around good guy and Slovakian of the highest order!" 


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