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Top Ways Liquor Websites Fail

Nearly all liquor websites are terrible for those of us looking for product information, brand history, or recipes. 

These things, you would think, would be their prime focus. As I spend a lot of time looking for product information, I have to deal with these sites all the time. 

Without realizing it, I have switched to an operating mode where I won't go to the website but will hunt down the PR contacts for the brand to send me information. Sometimes the PR contacts literally copy and paste the information from the website into my email, but you'd be surprised at how often the website information differs from the press information. 

Most liquor websites are so bad they are unusable despite spending thousands of dollars on them. Here's why. 

The Top Annoying Liquor Website Traits

  • Having the 21+ check on the intro page be anything more than a yes/no question. (I understand it may be corporate policy, but it's one that cuts down on visits.)
  • Having to put in the day/month/year of the 21+ check by erasing the values preset in the boxes ("mm/dd/yyyy") - so that's about 20 keys clicks before you can get into the site.
  • Having to also include the country of origin in the age check. (If the age is over 21, isn't it legal in every country?)
  • In the country of origin age check,  the top markets like USA/UK aren't the top selections- so you have to scroll down past Uganda to select them. 
  • No "remember this" option for the age check
  • A "remember this" option for age check that does not automatically forward you past it, so "remembering" it only does any good if you've bookmarked an internal page.
  • The website is an all-lifestyle site with music and happy people drinking the product, with no product information.
  • The website is only commercials that you can see on television. 
  • No clear "music off" button on every page.
  • The "music off" button resets to "on" when you switch pages.  
  • A flash welcome screen or site, so it doesn't work on many cell phones. 
  • All text is images or flash, so you cannot copy and paste the information. 
  • Especially recipes, which you may want to copy and paste to print out and have somewhere near the bar, rather than the desktop computer in the office.
  • All recipes are video demos.
  • A "creative" recipe database like a kaleidoscope or blob that lets you only find random recipes rather than specific ones you want.
  • A general misunderstanding of making things "fun to explore" vs. "hard to find".
  • A zillion recipes with no search function.
  • All the information/history/product information in a tiny little textbox with a scroll wheel. What about the other 80% of the page space? 
  • Not up-to-date for months after new products launch.
  • Auto-resizing your browser.

Top Good Things Few Liquor Websites Do

  • Have a "media" section with shareable product/bottle/drink images
  • Link to your official Facebook and Twitter and YouTube accounts
  • Have contact information: an email that someone answers or a referral to your Facebook/Twitter accounts if someone answers that
  • Rich information - the site offers deep research, tours of the distillery, geeky specifics for those who want it. 
  • Have a lifestyle section, but it is launched from a "launch the site" button rather than being the entire site. Then go ahead and resize the browser. 


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DJ HawaiianShirt

Frankly, I think the first half of your list is really nitpicky.

But more importantly, you pointed out for me that MOST liquor sites focus on lifestyle and flashiness to sell their products, and not the product itself.

This isn't a big revelation for me in terms of some of the more commercial brands like Bacardi, Captain Morgan, Remy Martin... but you just made me realize that for even the better brands that people like us respect, it's still the same old strategy.


Camper English

I can't tell you how many websites I've not seen past the front page. Every keystroke or click doubles the chance I'm not going to use the site.


Great list, Camper. Giving consumers the opportunity to locate a local liquor store carrying the product is another function that I have not found brand websites utilizing enough.

Camper English

I agree- for new brands it's really important to have a product locator.


I would add fancy flash or shockwave where it takes a long time to navigate. Cabana Cachaca, for example, has you wandering through the jungle for a bit in between each screen? Wasted time that deters me from clicking on more parts of the site.

Perhaps this is what you meant by "fun to explore".

And yes, any recipe that requires me to watch a 3-5 minute video to get the proportions and ingredients gets nixed. Especially when the bartender has more flare than bartending skills.

You need to work this into a $$ gig as a web site adviser. Include in that restaurant web pages to help them avoid PDF menus, websites that don't work on mobile devices, and not clearly listing the hours and address.


Bluecoat Gin did this expertly. You enter your city and state and it listed every store in the area that stocked it.


Camper, do you have an example of a brand/site that manages to avoid the majority of these issues?

Camper English

Oh yeah, many restaurant websites are a mess too. As you say, so many of them don't list their address or hours that Yelp has better information most of the time.

I'm not totally opposed to PDF menus, though they certainly slow down the process of viewing them.

The thing about all of these sites is that if you link to a blog or facebook page, people can check there for the information. Unlike a fancy web page, it can be updated as need be and answer questions. You could upload the daily menus to Facebook or a blog easy enough.

Camper English

Offhand I can't think of one, though I know I've seen one or two. I don't have the time to wade through 40 websites to find a good one at the moment...

is one of the better ones. On the surface it looks like a mess but it's got nearly everything I mentioned.

Nicolas Palazzi

Loved it. Specially the happy people & Uganda part.

Now it also depends on how much money one can invest: often times, when one does not want to go for 100K (which is a real quote i once received...), going for the cheap option makes things a little less user-friendly. Then you want to modify a little something but did not go for the $1,000 monthly maintenance fee, well, you gotta figure it out yourself. Good luck with that (that's what I did, it was stupid...).

My fav though is 100% French websites with a spinning logo indicating the loading status of the page: 5%...9%...12%..hmmmm 15% already??.....21....
Get a kick out of it every time...

Camper English

And after it all loads, it's just an intro video that takes you to the next page.


Hello, a friend of mine (Dr. Adam Elmegirab)just sent me your blog. I have to say I agree with your points and although these issues are common sense most websites do get carried away with flash, intrusive music and complexity...

I am by no means a web designer and i'm open to constructive criticism but for i tried to avoid said points but keep it informative, interesting but simple - what do you think?


Amen! I was just gritting my teeth about this last night when, to view a liquor website I've been to *many* times before, I once again had to go through the painful process of entering my birthdate via a drop-down menu of years that started in 1915. Seriously? I couldn't just type a date in?

I actually find that money doesn't necessarily have a lot to do with it. There are plenty of websites (if not in the liquor world) that don't blow the development and design budget but are still beautiful, informative, and utterly useful, and plenty of sites that have clearly had tons of cash thrown at them to little effect.

Here's hoping more liquor (and wine and beer) producers take your words to heart, Camper.

Jacob P.

Working for a brand (yep, not impartial here), and being responsible for digital, I totally understand what you're saying here. I launched a completely rebuilt in April that I think covers everything you mention above... with the exception of age verification. We had to have that format for age verification, as demanded by the parent company.
But since moving away from an entirely flash site to zero-flash, our bounce rate has dropped from 25-30% to about 5%. And I made age verification work for us - you get different content depending on the country you select when you log in.
Working on a few enhancements, like all those lovely CWC recipes being included, and an outlet finder - harder than you'd think as it means collating a lot of data that can't be imported automatically.
I'm probably a bit light on rich history. We found most of our consumers didn't care. Not ideal for the drinks trade, so I'm looking to improve that a bit. Esp since we appeared the other night on "Rescue Me" and they mistakenly said 5x distilled. Not sure where they got their info from.
Hope this doesn't sound like the shameless plug it now reads as inside my head, but I'm actually rather proud of the site and think it's one of the best booze sites out there.

Camper English

Yes, the 42Below site is another pretty good one. And I think the age gate works a little better than it used to if I recall correctly.

Jacob P.

Yeah Flash had some problems, and wouldn't allow deep linking. Not sure what my predecessors were thinking!

Greg Lindgren

I'm with you on this Camper. I will add that the age verification stuff is bogus when you consider that any 10 year old who wants to check out a site can enter a fake age. Everyone knows this. Furthermore, why is it a bad thing if a kid wants to learn about Angostura or Laphroig on the internet? I'll bet you anything they are fixated on the information gathering of location and age data that tells the brand what demographic is interested in their booze. End of story.

Clay Parker Jones


Long time reader, first time commenter.

I dig all your points, and as a strategist working with DonQ Rum (another slightly biased comment), I'd like to humbly submit the work we've done with them as a deviation from the liquor industry norm. Over the last year-ish, we've tried to continually update and improve our presence to match what the brand is really all about, and I think our most recent iteration hits the spot.

I do dig Leblon's's nice when a site recognizes that people do actually scroll, and that people do really like to read things about brands they like.

Also, @Jacob P.: nice stuff! Always been a fan of your group's work.

Steve Raye

Great post. We've been advocating many of the points you make to our clients, but there is a tendency to evaluate site design based on "coolness" and an ad message vs. looking at functionality first.

In fact, it's surprising how many supplier don't use Google analytics at its basic level to see what content people are visiting.

In any case, I'd like to reprint your post on my blog...can I have permission to do so?



Camper English

Hi Steve- Thanks! I'd prefer it if you'd pick a few tips or salient points to repost and link back to the original post here on Alcademics. Thanks!

Dejan /Lounge Area

"(If the age is over 21, isn't it legal in every country?)"
You're looking at this from your own angle. But here in Europe legal age for drinking is 18 in most countries (if not all). So if age-check doesn't include these country checks, basically we, Europeans, would have to wait another 3 years to enter the site? :) :)

But, yeah, I totally agree that simple YES/NO choice is enough. Even a child can do the math and trick "more complicated" checks by entering false information, so why bother installing those checks anyway? :)

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