Anna Sebastian says brand trips are about creating lasting memories and, whether you work for a brand or a bar, make sure they’re the right ones.

It feels like a lifetime ago I went on my first brand trip. At the time I had no idea what to expect, I hadn’t even been on a group holiday before, so this was completely new territory. I remember my boss telling me that I had been chosen to go on this trip and as he explained the details, he told me two things that would stay with me forever. One: don’t be the drunkest person in the group, and two: don’t get arrested.

The trip will forever hold a fond place in my memories – it was fun, it felt like a holiday, we drank at breakfast, went on yacht trips, had hungover trips around a distillery and farms. I left with new lifelong friends and promises of meeting up with the whole group again for a reunion. Spoiler alert – reunions almost never happen.

Over the past 15 years brand trips have changed. Those legendary jaunts that were heady, chaotic and alcohol-centric are making way for more meaningful experiences, with more purpose and consideration placed not only on the what but the why. Brand trips have changed because the world has changed – bartenders included. Here’s my guide to putting on and attending brands trip in 2024.


Safety can’t be an afterthought on either side of the organiserguest divide. I would always say that safety starts with you and the choices you make. You are representing your bar and you are a guest of a brand – however much fun you’re having, don’t ever lose sight of that.

The brand can’t foresee every eventuality, but brand ambassadors, brand managers and PRs on the trip should be mindful that they are both the entertainers and the grown-ups in the room. You can never plan ahead too much and that starts with an itinerary that details the hotel, contacts, emergency numbers, information about local laws and customs. This creates reassurance and trust in a trip and its organisers. For all the positive vibes, a badly organised trip can live just as long in the memory. Having that itinerary early means bartenders can also communicate concerns or health information, which is key for brands to be able to accommodate any requests in advance. It’s important that rules and restrictions are communicated pre, not during, the trip, but unforeseen changes should also be communicated formally mid-trip.

So what makes a good trip?

Brand trips usually take place over the course of two days to a week, which for the bartender can mean taking holiday days to attend. Why is that important? If bartenders are taking time off, the experience needs to be special. “They need to be an experience you can’t buy or do yourself," says Gareth Evans, who over the years has hosted many brand trips all over the world and now is the global beverage director for Ennismore. “We had a bar we built in the woods in Sweden which you could only get to by horse-drawn carriage, a tasting room on the seventh floor of the distillery that was closed off to the public, and a brand home that was a mansion in the Hollywood hills where our chief executive lived.” Evans also incisively notes that a brand trip has to be “interesting to guests rather than what the brand wants to be interesting”.

For me it is about building a memorable 360° experience, making connections, creating memories – that is what builds brand connection and loyalty, not death by Powerpoint. Incorporating all the key touchpoints of the brand in a fun and meaningful way. Emmy Pip Knight, a bartender at the American Bar, participated in the latest programme for Courvoisier hosted by UK brand ambassador Beckie Sullivan. The trip explored the key tasting notes with an activity to “represent each, going to Cordon Bleu to make pastries, a floral sculpture class, a perfume class, all leading to a trip to Cognac to get to know the people involved”.

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Who’s on the trip?

As the host it’s so important that you know something of the bartenders you invite before you invite them. A mix of personalities and backgrounds is always good – too many alphas, for example, and you can lose control quickly. From the bartender’s point of view, these trips are the best opportunity you have to make new connections in the bar industry. Networking is putting yourself out there, talking to people you wouldn’t ordinarily have the opportunity to – expanding your horizons.

What happens on brand trips, stays on social media

Long gone are the days when what happened on brand trips stayed there, so embracing it by proactively providing content opportunities for attendees creates natural imagery aligned with the brand. Capturing moments, vibes, the lifestyle around the experience without focusing too much on the products allows the trip to feel more experience-led. Bartenders too are much more likely to want to post this sort of material, rather than explicitly branded content.


Late nights and early starts sandwiching long, action-packed days may feel like the most effective route to getting the most out of the trip, but brands should also consider wellbeing. Substantial food, water, alcohol-free options and sleep are so key for the success of a trip. Carefully picked flights and built-in down time – bartenders and their phones need substantial recharging. Guests too should take responsibility here – don’t go too big and ruin your trip on the first night. Avoid the herd mentality, operate within your limits and make the right decisions for you.

Brands can’t ever lose sight of the fact that trips allow you to learn through the eyes of the brand’s creators, but there is also so much more you can do to create an immersive environment. The real “pinch me” moments probably aren’t tastings or distillery tours, they are the memories that live with bartenders longest. For bartenders taking their first trip, the two pieces of advice I was given all those years ago still stand. Bad memories last even longer