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Cocktail Curiosities: Capturing Your Creations

Join Jordan Hughes of @highproofpreacher for our final installment of Cocktail Curiosities: Capturing Your Creations!

Put your cocktail creations in the spotlight!

Step one: Build an exceptionally balanced cocktail. Step two: Carefully select the glassware. Step three: Add a perfectly-paired garnish. Step four…capture your creation!

In case you missed it, we’ve been answering your biggest cocktail curiosities over the past four weeks with the help of our talented friends. Before diving in to our final interview with Jordan of @highproofpreacher, take a peek at the first three editions below!

Meet Jordan hughes of @highproofpreacher:

Cocktail Photographer, Videographer, Recipe Developer, Educator, and more!

I tend to introduce myself as a “cocktail photographer” even though that’s a bit oversimplified. All of my work revolves around cocktails and spirits in some way, whether I’m working as a photographer, videographer, recipe developer, influencer, or working with bars, restaurants and brands as a media consultant. Then recently I’ve added the title “educator” as I launched an e-course designed to help photographers and creators more easily enter this niche. I get to do a lot of things, but at least they tend to all overlap in some way and it keeps things always interesting. I am never ever bored.

the inspiration

What about cocktails makes Jordan inspired to capture them?

I’m inspired by the nearly infinite possibilities. Even just one cocktail, like a Gin Sour, can be adjusted with different flavors and ingredients to make it a completely different cocktail. Whether you use Empress as the base spirit, or some other gin, that one change has the potential to drastically change the overall flavor profile of the drink and (in this case) how it looks. You can switch out what kind of citrus you use, or what kind of syrup, or add bitters. Then of course getting creative with garnishes is always fun, especially where photography is concerned. There is just so much room for experimentation and creative expression within cocktails.

bring your cocktails to life

“I always like showing the cocktail-making process vs. only showing the finished drink. Finished drinks are beautiful and all, but all the exciting movement and dynamism is in the process. Liquid itself is a fun subject to capture, and even simple movements like pouring a spirit from a bottle or jiggering it into a mixing glass can make for really engaging and beautiful images. I love “freezing” a movement: like capturing a liquid right when it pours over ice or hits the bottom of a mixing vessel. In-person, those moments are really quick– so being able to capture that moment and freeze it, allows us to stop and appreciate what’s happening in a different way.”

I love “freezing” a movement: like capturing a liquid right when it pours over ice or hits the bottom of a mixing vessel.


hit me with your zest shot!

Meet one of Jordan’s signature captures: the Zest Shot! Expressing citrus oils over your cocktail not only makes for delicious aromatics— the resulting images can be stunning. Read on for the basics below, or watch his full tutorial on YouTube.

1. backlighting

“Backlighting is key. Since you’re capturing very small drops of citrus oil, it’s difficult to make those small details show up in a photo. So it’s important to have really strong, almost harsh backlighting to properly illuminate those small droplets.”

2. contrast

“Similarly, contrast will help those small details stand out, so using a darker background is very helpful. Most “zest shot” images I capture are on a black or at least very dark background to help those oils pop.”

3. timing

Then of course, timing is everything. It takes some practice, but I like using my 10 second timer on my camera, so I can count down with it and squeeze the citrus right when the timer reaches zero.

3. citrus

Finally, have a lot of citrus on hand. Not every piece of citrus is “juicy” enough for a proper zest shot. Sometimes you just get some duds, so when attempting a shot like this, just be prepared with a good selection of oranges and lemons. You will likely need to try it a few times.

for the budding drink photographers

For those just delving into capturing your cocktails, Jordan shared his top tip (for the iPhone users to the semi-pros, and everyone in between!)

Good lighting really is everything, regardless of what device you are using to capture photos or videos. Look for different sources of light (it could be windows, lamps, or artificial lighting like a flash or LED light) and light your subject from different angles. I often light both people and cocktails from the side or even slightly backlit for a more dramatic look. Really large sources of light, like big windows or even really big soft boxes, tend to give you softer light. Soft light gives you really soft shadows, and is generally really pleasing to the eye. While smaller sources of light (like a small window, lamp, or small LED light) tend to be harsher– giving you harder shadows and a more dramatic look and feel. Both types of lighting can work for photos, but they will provide drastically different looks.

In need of some inspiration to get started? Check out a few of Jordan’s favourite Empress captures below!

“…Empress 1908 is obviously very fun to use for cocktail photos because of the striking color, so definitely lean into that. One of my favorite methods is using Empress 1908 as a “float” in various cocktails. I do this a lot in tropical drinks like Swizzles. It involves making a cocktail over crushed ice, then adding the Empress 1908 separately so that it floats on top of the drink. It’s always a really fun and striking look, and as the gin starts to mix into the rest of the cocktail it forms a cool gradient throughout the entire cocktail.”

And finally, meet Jordan’s favourite Empress 1908 cocktail!

Honestly, my go-to is an Empress Martini. I usually do 2½ oz (75 ml) Empress 1908 and ¾ oz (22 ml) Cocchi Americano. Stirred with a few dashes of grapefruit bitters and garnished with a lemon twist. The cocktail really highlights the various flavors of the gin well, and it’s strangely light and refreshing for such a spirit-forward cocktail.

Find the full recipe details here!

Keen to learn more from Jordan?

Check out cocktailcamera.com for resources like blog posts, e-courses and free tutorials. There is also the Cocktail Camera Instagram account and YouTube channel, where Jordan shares more practical tips and resources!

For all other insights (like cocktail recipes, and more!) be sure to check out Jordan’s Instagram page @highproofpreacher.

Thanks for tuning in!

Sip responsibly!