The Alchemist will be at the “forefront of an interesting cocktail movement” in Berlin, where it recently opened its début international site, CEO Simon Potts told MCA’s Pub Conference. 

Potts explained that a laser focus on innovation and experience helped inform the creative cocktail bar brand’s thinking when it came to opening its first European site.

Backed by some heavy-duty data research, and what Potts described as a certain level of “serendipity”, The Alchemist settled on Berlin. He said the city’s international appeal and wealth of English speakers helped when it came to making the decision to try and replicate the brand’s success in a new country.

“When an opportunity in Germany came up, that inherent bravery, ambition and idea to create experience really came to the fore, there was a bit of method in the madness,” Potts said, speaking on a panel showcasing brands and businesses with a focus on experiences, games, entertainment and theatre. 

 “Obviously a lot of beer is drunk in Germany, but there are people who are interested in other things besides that.”  

Potts commented on the commitment necessary to nurture a truly experiential brand. “You have to be very careful that it doesn’t become a throwaway phrase that is just part of your lexicon. We’re innovative. We’re experiential. You actually have to work at it.

“We make sure that we keep those two points as part of very specific agendas in our structured meetings that we have on a daily, weekly, monthly basis”.

Meanwhile Inception Group MD Duncan Sterling took the audience back to the beginning of the company’s journey, when limited access to visible high street real estate made creative online engagement absolutely vital.

“The plan was if we were going to take a subterranean basement site situated down some back alley with very little on street presence, we were going to have to work hard on a strong hook,” he explained. 

He described the group’s “blue sky thinking”, including sending a cocktail into space, building a mechanical mixology machine and teasing a cocktail bar for dogs, with the social media-shareable ideas meaning consumers often do the marketing for them.

Darwin & Wallace founder Mel Marriott described taking inspiration from local neighbourhoods to create a customer experience that is “unique and distinct”, and tapping into the “joy of of discovering something incredible on your doorstep”, such as a sunny terrace or a secret courtyard.

“We coined the phrase ’more home than high street’ early on, since it felt like the perfect way to describe our ambition to curate peaceful spaces that would resonate with our digitally, well-travelled audience,” she said. 

These spaces serve as a “backdrop for their own personal content creation”, and are enhanced by live music, brunch parties or curated date nights.

Meanwhile Gavin George, CEO of Laine Pub Company, argued that despite the endless possibilities presented by new media, many new experiential leisure concepts have always been part of the British pub’s cultural legacy.

As well as being places of celebration, belonging and community, he described the pub as a place of fun, games and entertainment. “What Laine has done is bring this up to date,” he said.

“The song really remains the same. At the heart of it is the Great British pub, and what that means to all of us.” 

Laine has successfully used comedy, cabaret, circus, bingo, karaoke and immersive gaming across its pub estate, with many of these showcased under one canvass roof at Brighton’s Spiegeltent, part of the city’s Fringe Festival. 

“I think we’ve only just hit the tip of the iceberg with what we’re doing,” George added. “I’m really excited about the future not only for pubs, but for Laine, as we harness technology and other ways of entertaining people.”