Walk into any reputable bar, visit a spirits trade show or scour the high profile Instagram accounts of the booze world, and one accessory reigns supreme on the denim jackets of bar folk—enamel pins.
In recent months, this cute and collectible statement piece has become the marketing tool of choice among spirits brands, bars and bartenders alike. And if Meg Moorhouse didn’t singlehandedly start the craze, she was certainly a critical catalyst for the trend.
Moorhouse is a Brooklyn-based designer, mother, activist and the mastermind behind Love & Victory, a company she founded nearly 10 years ago that has since carved out a niche for itself as a purveyor of intricately designed, cocktail-themed pins.
“Hers was the first one I saw,” Nick Hogan, Co-Founder of Mover & Shaker Co., says. Hogan created Jacksonville, Florida-based Mover & Shaker Co. in 2017, and it’s developed into another dominant player in the spirits pin space, albeit with a different tone. Where Moorhouse has made a name for herself crafting detailed miniature interpretations of classic cocktails, branded bottles and political calls to action, Hogan’s pins take a more tongue-in-cheek approach, catering to the geekiest of craft bartenders with industry-related puns and parodies. “There were no bartender-centric pins except for Love & Victory, and at the time, she just had the one,” he says.
Hogan is, of course, referring to Moorhouse’s iconic Negroni pin, a simple, elegant rendering of the bitter Italian drink, which Moorhouse initially created on a whim in 2016. “I thought it would be fun, but I did question whether everybody was already over enamel pins,” she says. “I thought, ‘Will people want this? Should I even do this?’ Thank God I did!”
At the time, pins were having a moment beyond the spirits world with everyone from wrestling fans and avid concert goers to Instagram fashionistas. Love & Victory’s offerings, which now include glassware, apparel and more, did not yet have a spirits focus. But food and drink were growing personal interests of Moorhouse’s, who was managing No. 7 Restaurant in Brooklyn.
“Love & Victory was just something I did on the side,” Moorehouse, who was a former handbag designer, says. “It always sold, so I wasn’t gonna stop. But then, about four years ago, I started making it my focus. With the Negroni, I told myself ‘I’m making these little things and I want to sell them and raise money for charity.’ So I did them as a Negroni Week item.”
When that idea became a reality, the Negroni pin—with its shiny gold trim and vibrant red and orange color palette—was an instant success. The design itself is now among the most recognizable icons in the drinks space. Since its creation, Moorhouse has spotted her Negroni pinned on the aprons of world-renowned bartenders, has entered a large scale partnership with Campari, and has even seen her cocktail illustrations tattooed on enthusiasts throughout the country. “Someone even got it on their neck,” Moorehouse says. “That’s intense, I wouldn’t do that!”
The tattooed designer speaks of her work with confidence that’s free of arrogance, proud of each piece she designs and yet notably warm in her tone. Both she and Hogan are humble when discussing their influence in the bar community, stressing that despite running recognized small businesses, they’re everyday people, just like their customers.
“Behind the scenes, I think Love & Victory and us, we do a ton of custom work, so it’s cool to see those pop up,” Hogan says. “We’ve definitely helped create that culture. From the beginning, our main source of community was Instagram. Anyone that reaches out to us on Instagram or email, they’re talking to me, and I try to treat our company like a bar, where hospitality is number one.”
Love & Victory operates much in the same way. “Anytime somebody buys a pin, it goes through my email, I see it,” Moorhouse says. “I feel a sense of gratification every time somebody decides ‘I’m going to pick this one—I’m going to spend my money on this thing that she created.” It’s super cool.”
Ultimately, the motivating factor driving those pin purchases is a desire among bartenders, spirits personalities and cocktail enthusiasts to express themselves. Where “pieces of flair” were a tacky annoyance for Jennifer Anniston’s Office Space character in 1999, 20 years later, they have evolved into a coveted status symbol.
“There’s something kind of teenage about it,” Moorhouse says. “It’s a mini representation of something you’re super into, like safety pinning patches to your bag. When you wear a pin, you’re telling people ‘I’m into this!’”
She’s spot on in her analogy. Much like the hippie and punk rock movements of the 60s and 70s, the modern cocktail circuit is something of a counterculture all its own, made up of enthusiastic, passionate young bar personalities who are using their platforms to establish and convey an individual brand identity. Not only are these clever pins a fun way to express personal interests, but collecting them comes naturally to spirits and cocktail fans, many of whom are already in the habit of seeking out and storing rare bottles, bar tools and vintage glassware from around the world.
“For me, pins have always been an advertisement for your culture when you’re behind the bar,” Hogan says. “When I thought about building the brand, I thought about how skateboarding has its own culture. [Same with] punk music, rock music, they all have their own cultures, and people wear those things. Why not hospitality? Why don’t bartenders have something they can claim? I’ve always wanted Mover & Shaker to be the bartender’s brand.”
For the time being, both Mover & Shaker and Love & Victory have earned their place as sources of spirits-centric self-expression. Each with their own distinct style, these two poster children of the pin movement have helped bring the spirits community together with a new form of coveted yet accessible industry currency. Though stylistically the pins themselves range from original designs that mirror their own personalities to commissioned pieces created on behalf of like-minded spirits brands, each pin undoubtedly tells a story about the individual wearing it.