Six Barrel Soda Co. was borne from bar owners Joseph Slater and Mike Stewart’s desire to provide interesting non-alcoholic options to the public. Their flavoured sodas, made in house from scratch with local ingredients, were so popular that they started to distribute their syrups wholesale to restaurants, bars, and cafes in New Zealand and overseas. The bar (Monterey in Newtown) has long been in someone else’s possession but the syrups are still handcrafted with real fruits, vegetables, flowers and spices – in the cutest little HQ a company has ever had. Six Barrel is now a well known name throughout the country and intrigued by this name, I hit up Joseph to ask him the hard questions about how the brand came to be and what motivated them to give their bottles a new look.
How many other contenders were there for names before Six Barrel Soda Co., why didn’t you choose them, and why did you choose Six Barrel over them all? We had a pretty long list, but knew we wanted ‘Soda Co.’ on the end. Me and Mike together with our designers narrowed it down to a top few and we went with Six Barrel Soda Co. because we liked that it’s a bit obscure and reflects the creativity aspect of our drinks. A sixth barrel is a small barrel wine makers and distillers use for experimental batches but sixth barrel soda co is too hard to say.
What do you think of when you hear the name Six Barrel and what do you hope your clientele/customers think? We want it to stand for quality and creativity. Everything we put our name to should reflect that and so I hope that’s what people think when they hear it.
Do you have a behind the scenes nick name for Six Barrel Soda Co when talking about the business with your team or friends/family? Sometimes we call it Six Baz, but usually just ‘the sodas’.
What is the story behind the classical style of illustration that was part of your branding and what made you decide to change to a cleaner style? The illustrations are still there, but we have stopped the hand stamping for a few reasons. One is that it took ages and as we have grown it was a waste of staff time to be stamping labels. We don’t want to have uni grads stamping labels for 2-3 hours a day! Two, we wanted the syrups to stand out more and to have the flavours and information more visible. Sometimes stamps would be half stamped and you couldn’t read the flavours. Also it’s really hard to find good stamp ink, we used this Japanese stuff but the supplier was always out of stock.
What made you decide to change the design of the syrup labels overall? What was the thought process in deciding to add the additional seal over the lid of the bottle? The seal sticker is because we need a tamper proof opening for retail, and also a part of the sticker stays on the lid so in a busy bar/café/restaurant you can see the flavours from above. Before we found people would write the flavour on the lids with vivid so we thought we would make it easier. Now we have a back label with nutritional and other info to replace the hanging neck tags we used to use, the tags were messy and fell off all the time and no-one read them.
How did you come to choose the shape of the syrup bottles? Was the choice to use brown bottles for the syrups and sodas an aesthetic one or a practical one? We looked at a lot of different bottles, but settled on our current ones because they have a nice classic look and were quite different to the bottles other companies were using. We use amber bottles because they look great but also to protect the syrups from light damage. We don’t add preservatives or colourings so the colours do degrade over time but it’s slower with amber.
What does the cross behind the name in the Six Barrel logo represent? Are they swizzle sticks?? They are stylised bar spoons but swizzle sticks works too.
How did you come to choose the font and colours for your logo and branding? How do you feel these details represent your brand? With the label fonts, we wanted them to be clean and modern to offset the classic style bottle. With the branding in general we were trying to avoid looking fake old-timey.
How important are fonts to you and how do you feel about comic sans? Fonts are important for sure but I’m not a font expert. We have a font we use for our branding and info but it’s not a custom font or anything. Comic sans is underrated, one of my suppliers sends emails in comic sans, it’s great.