Currently the drinks blogosphere and other channels are abuzz with complaints about Brand Ambassadors, those jammy buggers who get to not just drink for a living but travel the world enjoying a rock star life as they promote the USPs of their respective brands. The criticism ranges from jibes about their professionalism to serious questions as to just how important a Brand Ambassador is anyway.
Most brand ambassadors are former bartenders who have found a way of working on the other side of the bar whilst still remaining part of an exciting global industry. In essence their job is to reflect the personality of a brand, working with the trade and consumers to educate, establish good relationships and present their products in an interesting and creative way. (For an excellent well-balanced piece on the value of a Brand Ambassador go to www.bittersandtwisted.com).
At Gintime we’re lucky enough to come across some of the best Brand Ambassadors in the business on a daily basis. Far from enjoying an easy life these guys work hard. One of our favourite people is the ever charming Dan Warner, and we caught up with him to get an insight into the Brand Ambassador’s role.
GT: So Dan, tell us about a typical day, it’s not all glamour is it?
DW: There really is no typical day but the role includes conducting training sessions, cocktail demonstrations, communicating with the trade and media, hosting Beefeater visitors to London, creating cocktails, working with the brand team on all kind of projects, being a visible face for the brand and generally spreading the gin love. This can take place in London, elsewhere in the UK and overseas. Tim Stones (UK Beefeater Brand Ambassador) and myself also look after visitors to the Beefeater Distillery in Kennington and provide hospitality in our bar there.
GT: What are the best things about your job?
DW: That there is no typical day
GT: And the worst?
DW: My job is fantastic I’m not going to complain about any of it but sometimes keeping both bartender and office hours can be challenging.
GT: What was your route into the world of brand ambassadorship?
DW: I spent 12 years working in bars and restaurants, the last few of which were actually spent taking the business seriously (as opposed to the FIRST few, where I certainly didn’t). During that time I got involved in industry events, cocktail competitions and the like and got my face known. When Pernod Ricard acquired Beefeater, Nick Blacknell, Brand Director at the time, wanted to introduce a brand ambassador and I was one of the candidates invited to apply.
GT: How did you get interested in cocktails in the first place?
DW: For the first few years of my bartending career I had no special interest in cocktails and was just as happy serving a pint as I was a Sex on the Beach (that’s the kind of cocktail bar I started out in!) In 1999 I started working in the bar at the ICA (Institute of Contemporary Art) with a young, energetic, fun bar team that were into cocktails. Also a certain Dick Bradsell had a cocktail show on late night TV that I watched and recorded (on VHS) religiously. I caught the bug and it rolled from there
GT: Who were important influences on you in the early years?
DW: I’ve already mentioned the team at the ICA and they were definitely a big influence. After that I worked for Bank Restaurant Group for 3½ years based at Zander and a few people there contributed to my development. The group bar manager at the time was Grant Collins (now in Sydney) and he made me realise that it was possible to make a professional career out of the bar business. The GM, Paul Tocher, took no prisoners and made a point of making sure I knew how to run a business, not just serve drinks. Tough times at the beginning but Paul and I became, and remain, friends.
GT: What advice would you have for anyone starting out?
DW: Don’t go into the job with the intention of becoming a brand ambassador. It doesn’t and shouldn’t work that way.
GT: What in the gin world excites you right now?
DW: Bartenders’ enthusiasm for gin. Most bartenders I ask these days say that they are serving more gin than ever before. Some even talk of selling more gin martinis than vodka martinis these days! Certainly not the case when I started bartending
GT: And what’s your favourite bar?
DW: Too many to single out just one but am a big fan of any bar that manages to marry good drinks with good times. Bramble in Edinburgh and The Portobello Star in London both tick these boxes for me.
GT: We always ask our guests this question – how do you like your G&T?
GT: And your favourite cocktail
DW: I’m generally a Martini and Negroni drinker. That’s a Beefeater 24 Martini, wet, no garnish and a Beefeater Original Negroni, equal parts gin Campari and vermouth with an orange wedge.