Looking to up your cocktail making game this Christmas? The BEAT team at Pernod Ricard UK are here to help with a series of fun, informative and easy-to-follow online masterclasses. Here, Brand Engagement and Advocacy Manager John Wayte tells us all about them.
Let’s start with you – how and why did drinks become a career and more than a way of socialising?
I’ve always loved making drinks for my friends, organising parties and hosting summer barbecues. I was a classic home-tender – that person at the party sorting out the rum punch and what not. When it came to leaving university, I really wanted to start a bottled cocktail brand but my father gave me some wise words: “You know nothing about this – you should at least go and work for the industry first.” So I took his advice and started to look out for work that was available brand-side.
We first met when you were Chivas Brand Ambassador in Poland. Tell us about your journey in drinks since then.
Yes, I was lucky enough to be chosen to be on the Chivas Graduate Programme. It was a dream job as they were looking for people to work in gin or whisky and I was offered the chance to represent Chivas in Poland. I’ve always enjoyed meeting people and making new friends, so working as a Brand Ambassador was such a good fit, it suits my character and skills.
I spent two years in Poland, then came back to the UK and worked on the global Chivas team building advocacy in four key markets for a year, before moving to Monkey Shoulder where I represented the brand for four years. Now I’ve come full circle, back at Pernod Ricard managing the UK BEAT team. I’ve been in my current role as Brand Engagement and Advocacy Manager for two months and I couldn’t be happier, it’s wonderful to be working across all categories rather than one particular brand.
What does the role entail?
We have a team of six great ambassadors covering almost the entire Pernod Ricard portfolio, and my role is to support them succeed in bringing our spirits to life amongst bartenders and cocktail lovers alike. I’m also responsible for raising the profile of the team as a whole.
Before we get on to your latest initiatives, let’s talk Christmas… With your professional hat on what, if any, are the key differences in the way that people drink during the festive period and the rest of the year?
I think at this time of year people are looking to treat themselves, they’re much more indulgent with their flavour choices: chocolate, butterscotch and delicious flavours like that become more prominent. There’s also a penchant for hot serves. Of course, Irish coffee is delicious all year round but it really comes into its own at Christmas.
This is also the time when you’ll find people batching up hot toddies. Our Scotch whisky ambassador David Robinson has come up with a really delicious Mulled Apple Hot Toddy using The Glenlivet 12 – it’s like Christmas in a glass and so easy to make.
And personally, what are your favourite tipples to enjoy at this time of year and why?
That’s a difficult one. I love everything from a classic Beefeater London Dry Gin and tonic to something like the Jameson Orange Dark Chocolate Espresso Martini that our Irish whiskies ambassador Janice Sowden recently introduced me to. It’s a real winner, it’s everything you want in a Christmas cocktail: whisky, chocolate, orange – delicious!
Now on to the Christmas Cocktail Masterclasses that the UK BEAT team have set up, tell us a bit about them.
There’s definitely been a rise in the home-tender in the past 18 months, making cocktails at home is something people are definitely getting behind. With this in mind, we’ve created 75 cocktail masterclasses – all super easy to follow and available through our online portal.
How are they structured?
Each class features three cocktail recipes based around one spirit, such as Beefeater Gin, Havana Club Rum, or Absolut Vodka. They’re all hosted by one of our ambassadors and as well as giving step-by-step instructions on how to create the drinks and providing plenty of helpful tips and tricks for making your cocktails extra special, they include festive home hacks such as Christmas cracker and wreath making and bauble painting workshops. You can even ask questions live via your phone, tablet or desktop.
Can you give us examples of some the recipes on offer?
Sure. For example with The Glenlivet there are recipes for The Glenlivet Pineapple Highball, The Glenlivet Tartan Tiki and The Glenlivet Old Fashioned – three very different but very tasty drinks.
We have some really exciting headline masterclasses coming up. There’s the Ultimate Christmas Party, where we show you how to make lots of tasty seasonal drinks with Absolut, Beefeater and Malibu, and A Very Italian Christmas featuring Malfy Gin as a base. This one includes drinks like La Dolce Vita Spritz, the Malfy Sgroppino (above) and a delicious Malfy G&T and we also include recipes for a range of canapés to serve alongside them.
How long is each session?
The standard masterclasses are 30-minutes and the headline slots are extended to 45-minutes.
What if people can’t follow along at the time?
That’s no problem at all, you can watch on demand and dip back in for inspiration at your leisure.
And how do people sign up?
Simple. Just go onto the ukchristmascocktails.com website, pick a session and once registered, you’ll be sent a shopping list of all the ingredients needed to make the drinks. To simplify things, we’ve added a facility so you can add the items needed straight into the online shopping basket of your supermarket of choice.
Fantastic! When are they running?
There are three sessions every Wednesday through to Saturday until the New Year: the times are 6.30pm, 7.30pm and 8.30pm, with the headline slots airing every Friday and Saturday at 7.30pm.
They’re all free, just sign up through the website, choose your class or classes and you’ll be sent a reminder email when it’s near the time of your class.
Aside from the Christmas Cocktail Masterclasses, as this will be the first Christmas we’ll have shared with family and friends for two years, there’s perhaps even more importance on making every moment special. With this in mind, which key spirits would you recommend having in our drinks cabinet and why?
When it comes to that perfect drinks cabinet, it’s all about have a good range to cover all the bases. A really nice whisk(e)y like The Glenlivet or Jameson is a must, as is a good bottle of gin such as Beefeater London Dry or something more experimental like Malfy. A delicious rum always goes down well, like the new Havana Club Cuban Spiced. Serve it with some cola, a slice of pineapple and pinch of salt for a super tasty tipple. And of course, Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without a nice bottle of fizz. My pick is Perrier Joüet.
What about low abv/non-alcoholic options?
There’s an expectation that spritzes are just for summer but a Lillet Rosé with tonic, served in a wine glass works really well at this time of year. Just mix up your garnishes to make it more seasonal. For instance, redcurrants or cranberries are ideal.
For non-alcoholic serves, I recommend Ceder’s Crisp with tonic and a pear and thyme garnish.
Lastly, what are your recommendations/recipes for:
a) Festive tipples throughout the festive season
A Sour is a great option, we like to make one with Malfy which we call the Panettone Sour, as it brings together the orange notes in Con Arancia and Amaretto in a classic gin sour. Serve it alongside some real Panettone and you’re on to a real winner!
40ml Malfy con Arancia
20ml lemon juice
20ml egg white
Dash Angostura Bitters
Star anise to garnish
Shake ingredients over ice, double strain into your chosen glass. Garnish with a star anise.
b) Cocktails on Christmas Day
On Christmas Day I think you want to keep it really simple. We make a drink with Plymouth Gin called Three Wise Monks. It’s a simple Highball made with gin, ginger beer and dry cider. You could even batch it up into a big jug to make it easier to serve. It’s light and refreshing and will really set you up for the feasting ahead.
Three Wise Monks
35ml Plymouth Original
50ml ginger beer
100ml dry cider
Sliced apple to garnish
Pour ingredients over ice in a Highball glass, stir gently to combine. Garnish with a sliced apple fan.
c) Christmas parties at home
We’re already spoken about the Jameson Orange & Dark Chocolate Espresso Martini, which would be a great option but a classic Espresso Martini with Absolut Vodka and Kahlua would be great. You could even get a few glitter drops to surprise your mates. Sparkly drinks – why not, it’s Christmas!
25ml Absolut Vodka
5ml butterscotch liqueur
2ml All That Glitters Colour Drops (optional)
1 Werther’s Original sweet to garnish
Shake ingredients over ice, double strain into a chilled Martini glass and garnish with the Werther’s Original. Tip: Add a pinch of salt to the shaker for a hint of salted caramel.
d) New Year’s Eve
Champagne is a hit year-round, but it’s definitely what you want to have in hand for the countdown to midnight. Our Champagne Ambassador Jonny Simms always pulls out the Perrier Joüet and I think this year I’ll be doing the same!
Lastly, any gifting suggestions for the discerning drinker/cocktail lovers in our lives?
Any bottle of spirit will go down a storm, alternatively, think about some beautiful glassware or specialist ice cube trays. For someone really special, splash out on a drinks trolley, In fact, everyone who joins our classes can enter to win a fully stocked drinks trolley worth £800. For details see ukchristmascocktails.com