Scrolling through your Instagram feed can make you thirsty. That’s because mixologists have flocked to the photo sharing service since it debuted in 2010, using it as a forum to showcase their most striking cocktails, share recipes, and give patrons a virtual peek behind the bar. Here are six top mixologists to follow on Instagram if you’re looking for inspiration on what to drink next.
Melisa Lapido, aka @melis_boozy_cure, of 31 Supper Club, Ormond Beach, Florida
“Garnishing is a passion for me,” says Lapido. “I treat it like adult arts and crafts.”
The results are wow-worthy and usually earn her hundreds of likes. She uses a broad array of techniques to add pop to her potables – from trimming a lemon peel with a ravioli cutter so it becomes lacey to creating unique ice components.
These eye-catching creations have translated into surging bar sales. “It’s amazing how many people come into the bar and tell me they saw something on Instagram that they want me to make,” she says. “Fresh fruit changes daily, so they might not get the exact same thing, but it gives me a sense of their palate.”
Pro Tip: “I like shooting against dark or black backgrounds, because it highlights the colors of the drink.”
Rhys Alvarado, aka @rhyseespieces, of Burritt Room + Tavern, San Francisco, California
Rhys Alvarado got on Instagram three years ago to find out what his fellow mixologists were doing and to promote his own work. “If you don’t publicize your stuff, you get lost,” he says. “It’s about keeping the bar relevant in such a dynamic scene with so many openings.”
He has a soft spot for showcasing vintage glassware in his photos, such as antique coupes, Collins glasses with frosted etching, and crystal Old Fashioned tumblers. He’s equally focused on his garnish game, which heavily focuses on fresh fruit. If it’s not perfect, he won’t bother posting the pic. “I saw on a Corona ad the other day featuring a lime with brown edges in it,” he says. “I would be peeved if that was in my Instagram shot.”
Pro Tip: “Don’t post after midnight because no one will see it. I don’t post in the morning either because people aren’t thinking about drinking unless they have a problem. Posting at one or two in the afternoon is great because that’s when people start making plans for the evening.”
Jose “Chuck” Rivera, aka @chucktending, of barmini, Washington, D.C.
“Every cocktail is a piece of art,” says Rivera. “People fall in love with a drink visually first.”
To ensure it’s love at first sight, he spends a lot of time working on his garnishes. He aims to use components that are “edible and beautiful,” such as a black olive wrapped in ibérico ham, lavender blossoms, and parsley ice.
Almost every cocktail pic is accompanied by the drink’s recipe because Rivera feels it’s important to share the craft and allow followers to try it at home if they’d like.
Pro Tip: “Playing with colors is really important. I don’t want a red cocktail with a red garnish on a red napkin. That’s too flat. Mix it up.”
Blake Pope, aka @mcblakewich, of Kindred, Davidson, North Carolina
Pope has amassed a following that includes plenty of patrons, which has its positives and negatives. “People will come in and say, ‘You’re Blake. I follow you on Instagram,’ he says. “It’s kinda cool. And a little creepy.”
He posts several times a week based on whatever is inspiring him. “It’s free-form,” he says. “There are no rules.”
When he posts cocktails, he finds it can dramatically drive sales. The restaurant’s Pimm’s Cup with a serpentine slice of cucumber curling around the inside of the glass not only inspired a slew of regrams when he first posted it, but now the bar sells 100 of them a night.
Pro Tip: “Snap a photo in a dark, dimly lit bar and it will look grainy and won’t provide the right love to the cocktail. Use natural light to your advantage by shooting during the daytime near a window.”
Christiaan Rollich, aka @christiaanrollich, of Lucques, West Hollywood, California
For the last five years, Rollich has posted photos that alternate between bar life and home life. “You see all of me,” he says.
He’s very particular about doing “hair and makeup” on his creations. “There should be no broken ice and your garnish has to be good,” he says. “Don’t take shortcuts.”
For him, this attention to detail carries over to every drink he makes. “You can’t half-ass any of your cocktails,” he says. “Anyone could put a shot of it on social media, so they all have to look great.”
Pro Tip: “I like to take cocktails out of their usual settings, so they’re not just on the bar next to a jigger. I think of them from a fashion perspective, as if they’re a model I can take anywhere.”
Brian Means, aka @myamericandram, of Dirty Habit, San Francisco
Bartending has recently taken Brian Means to Puerto Rico, Aspen, and Washington, D.C. “My friends call my Millennial Means because they think I travel all the time and never work,” he says.
As a result, his Instagrams oscillate between trip shots and cocktail photographs. The latter photographs have been a big boost to bar sales, especially when he posts unusual flavor combinations, such as his Scissor Over Comb featuring Jägermeister, cognac, coconut cream, egg whites, togarashi, and white sesame.
“It’s a nice way to show off your creative side,” he says of the social network. “Plus, it makes it easy for me to do PR for the bar – and all I need is my iPhone 6.”
Pro Tip: “I use menus to block the light and do shading on the cocktails. You can stand them up to prevent backlighting or you use it as a shade so a white egg foam doesn’t get too blown out.”
Nevin Martell is a Washington, D.C.-based food and travel writer and the author of several books, including Freak Show Without A Tent: Swimming with Piranhas, Getting Stoned in Fiji and Other Family Vacations. Find him on Twitter @nevinmartell and Instagram @nevinmartell.