Thursday 22 March 2018

Insider Life: Alan Kavanagh, Bacardi brand manager

Alan Kavanagh.
Alan Kavanagh.

Alan Kavanagh is Brand Ambassador at Edward Dillon & Co Ltd who work closely with rum brand Bacardi.

"Sometimes, the night before runs into the next morning. But if not, I like to start my morning with a quick glance through emails and social media with Sky News running in the background and, if possible, a quick cycle. I haven't had a 9-5 day since I was in school; there's no such thing as a 9-5 day when you work in the hospitality industry. Every week differs from the next (including lots of travel), but in general my morning and afternoon hours are spent talking to brand managers and publicans discussing and debating unique selling points. In the evening the hospitality foot soldiers come to life, with calls and texts from bartenders to catch up and discuss new creations they have come up with.

I love what I do, I think I have the best job in the world. I have managed to evolve a career from something I have always had a passion about. Every day is different and exciting and always involves meeting and speaking to new people. In any given day, I could host training and tasting sessions all over the country, ranging from future bartenders to professional career-driven bartenders who are keen to discuss drinking trends, unique techniques and the never-ending debate 'is the customer always right?'

I also host international guests, run events, create cocktail menus, build relationships, and keep a close eye on trends by visiting bars and international bar shows. I also, somehow, find the time to manage my own cocktail company. Every year the Bacardi team and I select and hire the best of Irish bartending talent to work at festivals all over the country. Events are an essential part of the role and there is a lot of hard work behind the scenes.

I started my career from the ground up as a lounge boy in 1995 in my local pub. After successfully completing my apprenticeship I knew the industry was the right fit for me. I worked my way through every style of venue including nightclubs, five-star hotels and popular suburban bars. I was delighted that all of my hard work paid off as 10 years later I won Irish Bartender of the Year, twice. I then started to compete in international competitions, representing Ireland, where I learned from colleagues around the world. At that time, Celtic Tiger Ireland was looking for something more exciting to drink and so I started researching and studying as much as I could about cocktails, so that I could offer my customers something that no one else could.

Dublin's mixology scene has been steadily growing over the past 10 years. It's great to see that consumers are choosing good quality drinks as their palates are changing – there is a definite interest in creativity and mixology, as much as there is in food. Also, history and heritage have become vital to our cocktail scene. A lot of classic cocktails are now widely available, which is a credit to the ongoing research by current bartenders and mixologists. International competitions have helped to put Ireland on the map in the mixology world and we are increasingly becoming known for great bars and not just pints and late night renditions of Riverdance.

The key to creating a new cocktail is finding a balance between being new and exciting enough that a customer wants to try it, and not overwhelming them with ingredients and flavours they haven't heard of. A good cocktail menu must appeal to all types of customers and especially put smiles on customers' faces.

My involvement with the trade goes beyond a job. Most of my friends work in the industry. I suppose I'm quite lucky that something I have always had a passion for is now my career. I love being a brand ambassador and it could be very easy to not switch off; however, my downtime is important. I relax by putting on my headphones and going for a cycle or spending time with my partner. I have a keen interest in Irish film and love to travel. Also, someday I plan on beating TV3's The Cube!

Sometimes people may think bartending is a way of getting yourself through college, but it's so much more than that. I've made drinks in some of world's top bars; met presidents and Hollywood actors, been at parties in celebrities' homes and visited the most stunning places on earth, all because I started my career as a bartender."

Bacardi have just launched their #TryStopMe campaign searching for the best creative talents in the country (

First published in INSIDER Magazine, exclusive to Thursday's Irish Independent

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