coca-cola signature mixers max venning

Max Venning

Coca-Cola Signature Mixers: Max Venning

22 August, 2019

Angel Brown caught up with co-creator of the Smoky Signature Mixer, Max Venning. 

Why do you think Coca-Cola has decided to embrace bartenders and why now?

When we first started on the workshop it wasn’t clear that there was going to be a product at the end of it. We thought it was just a market research thing - they wanted to engage with bartenders. I think with the project they had in mind it makes a lot of sense, if Coca-Cola did this internally by themselves it wouldn’t have the credibility that it has. It’s really exciting for the five that were selected – that they’ve chose us. I think there are a lot of unbelievably talented bartenders in the UK, Europe and the rest of the world that would have achieved a really great product but luckily it was us that got selected.

Having that external collaboration gives credibility and that’s important in this product. To launch it in the market and that’s the feedback that we’ve had. People ask us, 'did they just make the product and you signed it?,' but actually they asked us what they should do. I remember further down the line in my product Smoky, I was talking to the guys from Coca-Cola Atlanta and I said I want to have it with this specific bourbon that has an off note on the finish and they were like 'yes we feel that too. I asked what we should do and they said "no, what do you think we should do?". 

It was really exciting and refreshing to be handed so much responsibility even with the naming and the branding. I think it’s important that they engage with bartenders at this point, to release a product that is aimed at bartenders primarily and that talks to consumers – you have to have that association and relevance.

Some high-end cocktail bars might not stock Coca-Cola, do you think the Signature Mixers will change this perception?

They might not have it on the shelves but they definitely have it because that’s what the consumer wants. We finally have a product that is Coca-Cola that people want but it is more interesting and premium - it’s a bartender collaboration. They’ll be bars that don’t stock Coca-Cola and don’t want to but the beauty of our industry is that you have a place for those bars.

Will you be stocking the mixers and will it be on a menu?

Yes we will stock them. In Three Sheets it’s tiny so we struggle to get the products we have in anyway, we’ll probably stock them all but rotate them. We’ll maybe put it on the menu or have it as an up sell of a whisky and coke, one of the girls at Three Sheets that runs the bar – Rosie she’s helped develop a whisky with Compass Box so we’re going to do a whisky and coke – so that’s quite cool.

Are you looking to do any more collaborations with Coca Cola?

Look, we’ll see how it goes. We don’t know what the next stage is, it’s in discussions now and under embargo I keep saying too much. There will be another phase of the Signature Mixers, we don’t know exactly how that is going to look but from all the conversations we’ve had with Coca-Cola, Mark Shailer and Exposure has been that they want the core team - all five of us to be involved as the project develops. I think there will be another step, or two or ten you never know.

Did you know what you wanted to do from the offset?

I remember having a very clear idea in my head in the projects and the workshops, this is what I want to create, luckily from my history of work, I was used to working with flavour aromas.Adding a little bit of each of them and then creating a product rather than using fresh ingredients because obviously Coca-Cola is a global brand so there’s no way they could chuck some ginger in and send that out.

There are so many rules a regulations around how they produce them. I had a clear image in my head of what I wanted to create and then the key thing is team work. We all tasted each other products at every stage. We had all the finished products, we all sat in Dandelyan and were tasting them all with loads of different spirits and came up with the recommended serves. It hasn’t felt like work, it’s been very organic and natural, the workshop set a precedence for that and luckily, it’s a good group. We have a WhatsApp chat, with all five of us in there and we’re constantly chatting – like a new group of friends.

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