The Millennial drinker loves experimenting and trying new things. But there’s often another motivation for them ordering flashy, rainbow-colored cocktails: their Instagram feeds.

For liquor brands, suggesting cocktails that can make a customer’s Instagram feed pop can benefit your sales and referral business. Instagram is a new way to reach, and market, to a larger audience.

After all, when young people post about alcohol they do so in a positive, social context 97% of the time, according to a study conducted by the Journal of Medical Internet Research. In these posts, people are holding drinks 67.2% of the time.

The pretty cocktails help give the evolving consumer  both a good-tasting drink and a great experience.

23.6 million tags

If you open up your Instagram app and search “cocktails” under tags, 23.6 million posts will come up with the #cocktails hashtag in the caption.

The pictures range from a grapefruit mezcal cocktail poured into an etched glass tumbler with a purple flower, to two people cheering glasses of their Aperol Spritzes.

With this type of attention being given to cocktails on a platform that has 1 billion users, it’s turning a bartender’s work into a work of art– and a bit of a challenge.

Catching a user’s eye can still be challenging. Users typically scroll by each post so quickly that even crazy colors and over-the-top garnishes might not be enough.

“Cocktails aren’t like food. When you see a hamburger, you know what a hamburger tastes like. With photos of cocktails, it’s a little different,” said Cody Goldstein, founder of Muddling Memories, a hospitality group specializing in beverage experiences. “Even if you have a great looking drink—say, it’s red with a mint garnish—nobody is going to know what’s inside that drink. No one knows what it tastes like. No one will relate to it. The visuals are important, but it’s also about telling a story so an onlooker has an idea what they’re looking at.”

Goldstein pointed out that what makes Instagram work for brands is a user’s FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). “Seeing an amazing drink, especially of the flashy viral sort, makes drinkers want to have (and, more importantly, share) that special experience themselves,” he noted.

Restaurants can encourage customers to post their drinks by creating giveaways or promotions.

For example, The Catch Of The Pelican based in Naples, Florida, has a mimosa and Bloody Mary bar on the weekend that has more than a few unusual toppings for customer’s drinks. Each customer can build their own cocktail, and create a drink that has a mozzarella stick, chicken wing, or even a donut. Each week, whichever customer posts the most creative drink creation wins a free brunch at the restaurant.

Instagram rules for brands

Crafting colorful cocktails will motivate your customers to post on Instagram, which is a great tool for your business considering the rules and regulations around alcohol and the social media platform.

Facebook, Instagram’s parent company, created a policy in July that prohibited all private sales, trades, transfers, and gifting of alcohol and tobacco products on the brand’s social media platforms. For brands that want to post content related to the sale of alcohol, they must restrict the content to those 18 years and older — even though the drinking age is 21.

However, using influencers to post content about a brand’s alcoholic product will not be censored, however. Leaning on these influencers and users with strong followings can help elevate your product to customers who are always looking down at their phones.

For brands that do not have relationships with influencers, colorful cocktails can help generate the buzz. If it’s pretty enough, the masses will post.

What brands can do to leverage Instagram

If you sell hard alcohol that can be used in a fancy cocktail, brands can suggest cocktail recipes to restaurants and bars. They can offer training and marketing materials to help promote the sale of the cocktails. Be sure to suggest a fun, but catchy hashtag to help the drink go viral. Brands can also put cocktail recipes on display or as takeaways in liquor stores. To take it a step further, sales representatives can do in-store tastings to allow customers to experience the cocktail and possibly learn to make it at home.

For restaurants and bars, allow your bartender’s creativity to shine through and create something that patrons are going to want to drink and share. Then, make sure you promote it on your own social media feed and in the restaurant.

Meredith Galante