Above and below: Raj Nagra, Global Brand Ambassador Bombay Sapphire

After a busy morning of activities – from pretending to be an intern in an advertising firm, to jumping into a car with a stranger and meeting a script writer in a bar – Raj Nagra is taking some time out to reflect on what he’s learnt from the experience. We are discussing The Glasshouse Project, a new three-day initiative from Bombay Sapphire, which the brand has set up to help inspire the world’s best bartenders with exciting thinking and fresh ideas.

“I jumped into a couple of the scenes [that were set up] around the place, and through doing those I’ve realised that having the opportunity to be able to say and behave how you like, and tell people what you really think, which you wouldn’t normally do, is great. I think I’m a little bit loopy at heart, and it brought back a lot of the fun and interactions that I like. It really unlocked all that creativity and kookiness that I have inside of me, just from this morning’s role playing session,” he says.

As Global Brand Ambassador for Bombay Sapphire, Nagra is used to being thrown into new and occasionally unexpected situations, but being a part of an immersive theatre experience like this, was something entirely different, he says. According to him, The Glasshouse Project is an idea that has been in development since last year, that partly came about when the team were analysing the brand’s own World’s Most Imaginative Bartender competition.

“When we look at [competitions], everyone competes, one person wins. And what is it that people get out of the competitions? It’s the camaraderie, it’s a lot of the educational pieces, the networking, the fun nights out – that type of thing. But we wondered if we could try something new, something more creative for bartenders, where there could be workshops to inspire the stuff [these guys] do, to push new boundaries – which is really the essence of competitions.”

The team decided to remove the competitive element and “have people here on more neutral terms, with people that we’ve selected, creating great dynamics, and lots of different group sessions led by experts in design, sound, food and theatre.”

Nagra’s role was to select a dozen of the world’s best bartenders, including some of the best up-and-coming names, those who, he explains, “I thought were really creative and would really get something out of this experience. It’s only year one for The Glasshouse Project, and the number of bartenders is limitless. So [for some] it’s quite aspirational, as they get to network with some of the biggest names from the industry, those people who are quite established.”

The hope from Bombay Sapphire is that having been part of this three-day experience at The Glasshouse Project, the bartenders will eventually go on to execute something with what they’ve learnt, “whether it’s at a trade-type event, like Art Basel, or London Cocktail Week which are both coming up”. That said, Nagra believes what makes it different from previous projects that Bombay Sapphire has set up – where in most cases a specific cocktail needed to be created, or a story told – is that “we haven’t gone into this knowing the output. We’ll just see what comes out. It sounds a bit risky but we were relying quite heavily on the people who are presenting, assuming that there will be some really rich content that these guys will draw from.”

Has Nagra enjoyed the experience? “Yes, definitely. I think the bartenders have a pretty good grasp on the flavour side of things but Dr. Rachel Edwards-Stuart is a food scientist, and obviously highly educated in that field, which was fascinating. Then there was the design piece by Jon Marshall at MAP Studio which brought up the idea of manufacturing. And co-founders Edward Barber and Jay Ogersby, who also designed the Olympic torch, did a session where we designed a glass. They took us through how the process would work, and how they would go about something like that. So we almost realised a concept which, who knows, maybe we’ll go away and design. I think that was one of the intentions – and it was incredible.”

Words by Victoria Stewart

For further details of The Glasshouse Project, please ask the Bombay Sapphire Brand Ambassador in your market.

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