We spoke to Ray Letoa, global winner and Dan Gregory, Australian winner of the Angostura Global Cocktail Challenge about what life’s been like since winning two years ago. For each of them, it meant taking on an Angostura brand ambassador role, so we asked them to shed some light on what the job entails.
How do you think winning helped your career?
DG: It’s one of those competitions that gives you a good profile straight up. You make so many connections along the way and it opens up loads of avenues. You get noticed fast and quickly become a recognised face.
With that higher profile, your chances of working at bars you’ve always wanted to are greater, both here and overseas. For me personally, it really helped to keep me relevant after moving to Hobart.
RL: It’s thrown my name internationally in ways I couldn’t have achieved myself. It’s opened networks and talking channels to high profile individuals in the industry who I could imagine are inundated with requests.
In my own town and community, it’s encouraged many to respect hospitality as a valid career choice rather than an ‘in-between job’. It’s offered many once-in-a-lifetime opportunities and collaborations which have now become highlights in my life.
What’s it like being the Angostura Brand Ambassador?
DG: It’s great fun. There are a lot of events and there’s a heap of travel. You meet a lot of new people and get to catch up with old friends.
But it’s hard work too. You can be on the road for two weeks at a time and that means you need to have a boss that’s understanding if you’re working for a bar at the same time. It’s a great intro into what it’s like to be a brand ambassador if you’re considering being one full time in the future.
RL: Being the Global Brand Ambassador for the House of Angostura is a literal dream come true. I get to work for a brand I truly love and respect and that makes every day delicious. I ask myself when I do presentations and guests shifts using our beautiful products, ‘Is this really work?’. I LOVE THIS OPPORTUNITY.
I’ve been to places I had only heard of and never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be able to say ‘I’ve been there’.
I’ve been exposed to the different styles and approaches different countries take; I’ve seen the produce they have access to and how countries incorporate their culture into bartending. I’ve found the language barriers in many countries challenging, but those barriers were quickly broken down as soon as we started making drinks and we all understood one another.
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to be a brand ambassador?
DG: It’s not for everyone. Prepare for a lot of travel. You need to be comfortable talking to crowds of people and teaching them about the brand.
You’re representing a brand so you have to completely immerse yourself in the history of that brand and the category as a whole. You need to be passionate about what you’re promoting. You need to live and breathe the brand; don’t do it if you don’t believe in it 100%.
You need to be good at social media and promoting yourself.
But most of all you need to be a decent bartender, so get as much experience as you can now to build your knowledge-base for later.
RL: As a brand ambassador you’re effectively representing a brand so you have to carry yourself professionally in all you say and do publicly.
You have to really love the brand. Don’t just take the opportunity for the title, but rather for the passion of the responsibility. Become a Brand Ambassador for a brand you genuinely love because you can’t get away with faking it.
When you’re an ambassador, you’re teaching bartenders in presentations and masterclasses or at events, so you’re behind the bar less and less. You have to be prepared for that.
Overall, I believe the best ambassadors are also great bartenders, as they can relate and can talk the talk as well as walk the walk.
What would you say to anyone thinking of entering this year?
RL: I would say, STOP THINKING AND DO IT. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain from the process. I’m asked nearly every day by bartenders globally if I think they are ready to enter and I answer that being ready comes from confidence and confidence comes from experience and experience is the result of taking that first step of entering.
I’m always a message away for any questions and queries and will happily support all who are nervous. Whether it’s a bartender’s first cocktail competition or they’ve competed in many, I’m here for anyone entering that needs support every step of the way.
You can contact Ray at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook.
Entries for the ANZ regional final of the Angostura Global Cocktail Challenge are open now.
Visit https://angosturaglobalcocktailchallenge.com/ to enter.