People

Meet the Man Behind Instagram's Fastest-Growing Cocktail Account

Jabin Troth is one humble guy. One might think that after skyrocketing to almost half a million followers, getting the attention of many notable names in the spirits industry, spearheading Whistle Pig's social media presence, and becoming a sought-after consultant to other liquor brands — all in less than two years — would give him a bit of an ego. But Troth is just a regular dude, married with two children, living in Southern California, and eternally grateful for every opportunity that comes his way. He also just happens to be a huge fan of incredible-looking cocktails, the people and techniques behind them, and telling their story via his Instagram account, Licensed to Distill.

So how'd you get into this whole cocktail Instagram thing?

A friend of mine had made reservations at Noble Experiment for us several years ago. That was my first experience to the craft cocktail scene. My wife and I went and it was like walking into the gates of Disneyland for the first time. The bartenders were amazing. We left blown away, and that kickstarted this obsession with the cocktail scene.

Fast-forward a couple of years, Troth was laid off from his job after working in sales for more than a decade. While on a road trip, he thought about what he wanted to do next. He disliked social media; he didn't have a Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram account. At this point, he'd spent hours reading and researching cocktails and seeking out well-respected bars in his travels, and wanted a way to showcase his passion and discoveries.

I decided to make an Instagram account, but I didn't want it to be about me. I'm a huge Beastie Boys fan. The name works out — younger people get the Beastie Boys reference, while older people think I'm referencing James Bond.

How do you find your content?

There were lots of cocktail photos out there on Instagram, but not a lot of videos. I honed in on things that interested me: smoked cocktails, ice carving, Japanese cocktail culture ... A huge part of my time is spent researching and looking for quality content.

In the beginning, I'd look for good videos that could perform better ... that may have been a missed opportunity the first time around. Then the more I grew, people started sending me content.

How did you get so many followers in such a short time?

Jabin Troth is the man behind Licensed to Distill.

It is 100 percent organic growth. I've never paid for advertising. I told my wife when I started this account, 'We're never going to pay for drinks again!' But then I realized, as I met more and more mixologists, that's not what this is going to be about. That's not what I wanted. I wanted it to be a platform about them.

And I figured out what content would be valuable to a brand and a consumer. We've been able to genuinely help some people and play a part in growing their audience. But Instagram is a moving target. One algorithm change and that's it. You constantly have to evolve.


It seems like you've harnessed user-generated content to a whole new level.

As a consumer, if I see another bottle shot, I'm going to go crazy. It's really important to me to credit accounts. You won't see me post on my page without credit. One of the biggest frustrations I see is when big pages don't credit people. If you're not going to help these bartenders, you're doing the industry a disservice.

How do you balance "real life" with a job that requires constant monitoring of social media?

I will admit to waking up in the middle of the night to check on a post and see how it's performing. But I'm working on it! I do post everything manually, but my brother is a big help as well.

What tips do you have for those wanting to start an engaging Instagram?

Video, for me, is better than pictures‚ unless the picture is out-of-this-world dynamite. Video-wise, wide screen doesn't do well on Instagram. And a good screen grab is massive.

What do you hope to accomplish with LTD?

it's on us as the larger pages to give people promotion and a platform. I wouldn't have LTD if it wasn't for the bartenders and mixologists doing drinks behind the bar.

Do you have a favorite post on LTD?

Recently, I saw a video from a bar in Japan about ice carving. I took the four videos, stitched them together, and posted it. That video is my highest viewed video of all time. I got a DM from the bar saying they had been following me forever. And that video now has 8.3 million views.



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