Today in the Village Voice, I explore the rise of Panamanian rum. In tandem, I interviewed the brand ambassador of Ron Abuelo, Cristóbal Srokowski, whom I met over a couple of ginger and passion fruit daiquiris in burgeoning Panama City.
Brand ambassadors, whether for spirits or wine, lead seemingly glamorous lives. They mingle with celebrities, host events, give seminars on booze, and regularly travel the world meeting new people. It would seem life is a full-time, professional party for these lucky individuals.
Cristóbal Srokowski hails from Spain where he was “discovered” by the Ron Abuelo team while bartending in Barcelona. He now serves as the brand’s global ambassador. Does he think he has the best job in the world? His answer: most of the time.
How did you get the gig with Ron Abuelo?
Four years ago, I found Ron Abuelo in one of the biggest beverage fairs in Barcelona. After tasting it, I immediately acquired it for my venue, Harry’s Bar Barcelona. A few days later, a Latin American gentleman appeared in the bar asking to drink rum. I offered him a “new” one that I just discovered: Ron Abuelo from Panama. After mixing him a few daiquiris with Ron Abuelo 7 and passion fruit, the guy asked if I would like to collaborate with Varela Hermanos (parent company of Ron Abuelo) as the bartender for some events. It turns out, he was Alexis Guerrero, European area manager of Ron Abuelo! Next, I met the Abuelo export director who decided to give me a chance as the brand ambassador. One month after signing the contract, I was traveling for my first time to China!
Is serving as a brand ambassador the best job in the world?
Being a brand ambassador is amazing, I cannot complain but…everything has a price in life. Traveling all the time and changing your home country every six months, gets tiring. It is not an easy job; you have to be the “Mr. Happy” and “Mr. Perfect” all the time. Remember: you’re the face of the brand so you cannot afford mistakes. But if you’re open-minded and hungry for adventure and love meeting new people, being a brand ambassador is a dream job.
What are your responsibilities?
For me, there are generally five components to ambassadorship:
- Public relations and marketing, social media developing, brand building ideas, and brand development;
- Mixology: Developing drink recipes and rum applications in gastronomy;
- Events creation and organization; and
- Education: preparing masterclasses for consumers, sales teams, bartenders, and wholesalers.
On top of this, I must always have a good attitude and put forth a positive image, be willing to meet different people, listen to everyone, and be able to adapt to any kind of situation.
What are the drawbacks to the job?
Being far from my beloved Barcelona and my friends, and of course changing time zones and countries four times every month.
What do you like about Ron Abuelo?
This question can be answered in one word or thousands! In short, I would say that the most important part of my product and my company is that we are a family business. My boss, Luis J. Varela, has a certain charisma; he absorbs you and makes you feel part of the family. He falls between a scientist and a magician in the way he assesses the rum blends. And the rum itself has a unique profile and taste. All of the expressions have their own character and beautiful notes!
Clearly ambassadorship has its perks and pitfalls, and it’s probably not the career choice for someone who is married or has children. To read more about the rums and story of Ron Abuelo, visit the Village Voice.
Below, Srokowski shares two of his favorite Ron Abuelo recipes, including the cocktail that earned him the job.
San Isidro (long drink)
1 ½ oz Abuelo 7
1 oz passion fruit liquer (Giffard brand, if available)
¾ oz lime juice
Directions: Add all ingredients to cocktail shaker, shake. Top with Fever Tree ginger beer. Garnish with mint sprig and fresh ginger.
2 oz Ron Abuelo 7 years
1 oz Passion fruit juice
4/5 oz Cinnamon syrup (Giffard brand, if available)
Dash of curry powder
Directions: Add all ingredients to cocktail shaker, shake. Pour into martini glass and garnish with half a passion fruit of strawberry.