It’s a very important year for Lillet. But let’s start with you Jessie, how long have you worked in hospitality?
I grew up in hospitality. My family ran a countryside hotel near Cambridge, so from as young as I can remember, I would be polishing glasses, helping peel potatoes and answering the phone behind the desk, before eventually being trusted to serve guests. Then when I was old enough, I started making drinks behind the bar.
So it’s in your blood?
Yes. I already had a job in hospitality lined up when I went to university to study for my degree in biochemistry and in my final year, I worked as a brand ambassador for a gin brand.
And how long have you been working with Lillet?
After I graduated, I joined Pernod Ricard as a brand activation executive. I worked across the full portfolio but I moved into the Lillet brand ambassador role a year ago, almost to the day!
Congratulations and happy anniversary to you! And to Lillet of course. Since it launched, Lillet has been renowned for its long standing commitment to celebrating women. Is this one of the reasons that attracted you to working with the brand?
It was definitely something that attracted me to the role and this brand specifically. I’ve always been very passionate about equality in the workplace, with a focus on female empowerment. I was raised by and have been surrounded by very strong women all my life and I knew that in this role as a brand ambassador for Lillet, with its female empowerment focus, I could actually have the power to support and work with incredible women who are making waves in hospitality.
It’s been a real honour to get to work with some of the women that I do. But I think it’s even more of a privilege to get to work on a brand that has such a focus on celebrating women at its core – it makes my job so much easier.
Can you give us some examples of how Lillet has celebrated women in the past?
Ever since the Lillet brothers created Maison Lillet in 1872, Kina Lillet, which was the original name for what we now call Lillet Blanc, has always been a liquid that was targeted towards women. As you can imagine, this was pretty avant garde in the early 1900s, when most spirits on the market would have been aimed at men. We can see as early as 1907 and throughout history that women are featured in various Lillet advertising campaigns but more particularly, they’ve been centred around women expressing themselves.
As well as targeting women in its advertising, was the the liquid created with female palates in mind?
Absolutely. It’s scientifically recognised that on average, women have a more refined palate than men and as such, the liquid was delicately flavoured and definitely created with women in mind.
This year Lillet turns 150 which is definitely cause for huge celebrations, how is the the brand marking the occasion?
It feels very exciting to be in this role in the year that Lillet marks its 150th anniversary. Recently, we hosted a global celebration to mark the occasion at the Maison Lillet, in Podensac, a small village south of Bordeaux. We brought together press and influencers as well as the brand teams at Pernod Ricard from 11 Lillet markets around the world, including USA, UK, Netherlands and Germany and we marked the occasion by introducing our 150th anniversary campaign L Pour Elles. I was asked to host the event as Master of Ceremonies which was a real honour.
Tell us more about L Pour Elles?
As a brand that’s driven by purpose to celebrate, uplift and empower women, we knew that we had to celebrate this milestone with purpose also. So when we were researching the project and how we best wanted to celebrate Lillet’s 150 years, we came across a pretty startling statistic: globally, only 25% of senior management positions in hospitality and tourism are taken up by women.
While the hospitality industry has made huge leaps with more diverse and equal workplaces – particularly the last 20 years, it still shows how much more work is needed to create longevity in hospitality for women, so women see it as a much more stable and safe career option; a place where they’re respected, heard and empowered.
So that’s where the L Pour Elles [meaning Lillet For Her] campaign came from. Essentially, it’s made up of three key initiatives. Firstly, we created a map which is on the Lillet website and features restaurants and bars that are owned, managed, and run by women.
With this map, we’re aiming to drive footfall towards these venues, so that consumers can go and meet the incredible women that we’re featuring, as well as enjoy a Lillet cocktail. Importantly, it’s going to be an ever-changing map as we’re hoping to keep growing the number of venues on the list.
Will it just be running for Lillet’s 150th anniversary year?
Obviously, the main focus is around our 150th year, but it’s going to be an ongoing campaign because celebrating women isn’t something that you do for a day, a month or even a year. The idea is to raise awareness and drive footfall to these bars going forward.
In addition to driving footfall to the bars, are there any other ways that the ‘Elles’ benefit from being on the list?
As well as featuring the venues run by fantastic women, we’re also offering each of these venues a chance to take part in a bartending training course to gain a professional bartending qualification. Created in collaboration with Pernod Ricard and Strange Hill Hospitality, it’s the first-ever UK certified and globally recognised qualification for professional bartenders.
It’s a 70-hour course that either the women we’re featuring can undertake, or they can offer it to a newer, less experienced female member of the team so they can expand their knowledge and gain a formal qualification.
So this is a first of its kind?
Yes. I was surprised that no such qualification exists formally. Of course, we have fantastic qualifications that are offered by the Wine & Spirit Education Trust but it’s important to note that this course is entirely virtual so the candidates can study around their own schedules. This is a really important factor as research has shown that women are often deterred from secondary education as they might be carers or mothers. The final part of the campaign is a limited-edition bottle.
What’s special about the bottle and how does it align with L Pour Elles?
On the label we’ve featured three of our ‘Elles’ and asked them to share their stories. We have Natasha David, owner of the former US bar Nitecap, and also author of Drink Lightly, Zana Möhlmann, head bartender at Super Lyan in Amsterdam and Faye Chetelat, owner of Juleps Cocktail Concept in Switzerland.
All very inspiring, all very different and all at various stages of their impressive careers, was this the intention?
Exactly. All three are featured on the label because we wanted this to be something that we could offer to our global markets. If you head over to the Lillet website, you can see some of the videos and Lillet cocktails that we’ve created. There’s also a QR code that syncs to the map and lets consumers know where they can try the Lillet cocktails.
Speaking of Lillet cocktails, tell us about some of the UK bars that you’re partnering with?
Some of the accounts that we are featuring in London include the Artesian, headed up by Gulia Cuccullo and Lorenza Perretta, the wonderful Happiness Forgets, which is led by Chelsie Bailey and the recently opened The Flower House, from Jo Jackson. This venue is run, owned and built from the ground up by women – they even used female contractors in the decoration process. We’ll be adding more to the list and I’d love to feature more venues around the UK as well, not just in London. (See details of UK L Pour Elles list to date below).
Going back to the course, do you have some examples of what’s covered and how it’s been put together?
The course follows three key pillars around drinks production, customer service skills, and then legislation in licensed venues. The aim is to provide specific sections that are obviously relevant to general hospitality service, but even more relevant to senior management positions where we want to see an increase in that percentile of women who are taking up those senior management positions. There’s also a key focus around sustainability in the bar, which of course is incredibly important and a section on developing non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverages.
Is this initiative taking place in other cities around the world? And if so, where?
So far, we’re at nearly 100 venues taking part globally including the UK, France, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Australia, Switzerland, South Korea and Mexico. But like I said, we’re hoping to include more markets and the number of venues on the list is only going to keep going up.
Okay, so we’ve talked a bit about the Lillet Rosé Spritz but now let’s talk about the drink and how people can enjoy it?
Now I might be a little bit biased but the Little Rosé Spritz is an incredibly balanced and delicious drink whilst also being incredibly simple. It’s 50mls of Lillet Rosé, 100mls of a premium tonic water and just garnished with a nice little slice of grapefruit, a sprig of thyme, served over ice in a wine glass. To me, it really represents the delicacy of the liquid and its lightly zesty, very floral, natural berry flavour profile.
Lastly, please tell us five things that people may not know about the brand as it celebrates its 150th anniversary.
1. At the heart, my favourite facts are that Lillet is a 17% ABV French wine-based aperitif with a truly secret recipe. It has nine botanicals and there are only four people in the world who know that true and final recipe.
Of the 12 million bottles that we made last year, every single drop was made by those four people and each bottle was made at the tiny brand home, Maison Lillet in Podensac.
2. The iconic Vesper Martini: two parts gin, one part vodka, and half a part Kina Lillet – shaken not stirred, included in Ian Fleming’s original James Bond novel, Casino Royale, is a real pop culture reference.
3. This is to do with our sustainability side, which I’ve been learning about recently. For instance, all of the fine wine that goes into Lillet comes from no more than two hours away from the brand home in Podensac; the peels and botanicals that go into making the liquid are composted and all of the oak barrels we use to age Lillet Blanc and Lillet Rouge are made entirely in France and sourced from a sustainably managed forests.
4. The barrels we use to age Lillet are 40,000 litres each – they’re absolutely huge!
5. Diane Keaton, the late Duchess of Windsor and Sir Ian Fleming are among Lillet’s celebrity fans!
UK L Pour Elles and their bars
Roisin Stimpson – Oriole, Farringdon
Giulia Cuccurullo – Artesian, The Langham Hotel
Samantha Duerr – LPM, Mayfair
Chelsie Bailey – Happiness Forgets, Shoreditch
Jo Jackson – The Flowerhouse Pub, Marylebone
Mia Johansson – Swift, Soho and Shoreditch
Alice Wakley – Balthazar, Covent Garden