Interview with Ally Martin - Hendrick’s Gin Global Brand Ambassador

By: Leilah Namisango (@leylurr)

Ally describes his job and life as a whirlwind and is at pains when we ask him to tell us the most unusual experience his had so far. I guess they are too many to pick from. We caught up with the global Hendrick’s Gin ambassador at J’s Fresh Kitchen and Bar in Westlands where he was taking select bartenders from bars across Nairobi through a Hendricks Gin crash course.

Although the cool, calm and collected Scotsman is a little shy to namedrop as we talk to him about the most unusual gin and bars; we are not. The former bartender has worked at some of Britain’s finest establishments, such as the award-winning Peg + Patriot and the world-famous Bramble Bar in Edinburgh. It was at Peg + Patriot that Ally uncovered his passion for creativity and love for travel, as he found himself winning several major cocktail competitions.

Being a global Hendrick’s brand ambassador we know a little bit of your backstory, but could you tell us in your own words?

I started bartending when I was 19. I was in university and wanted to earn some money. Working in bars seemed like an exciting and fun way to do that. The more I did it, the more I fell in love with it. I l wanted to try make a career out of it. Bartending is a real craft and skill and you can build a wonderful career in this industry.

How long were you a bartender for?

I worked as a bartender for 9 years. I earlier worked in Edinburgh and Glasgow in Scotland and later moved to work in London where I was lucky to work in some great bars.

How did you get to work for Hendrick’s?

This happened after moving to London. I won some cocktail competitions and I became the U.K. ambassador. I toured all over the country and it was incredible. Six months ago, I became the global ambassador. I took over the world and I get to visit more amazing places like Nairobi!

What are some of the things you wish someone would have told you before you undertook this role?

This would mostly be stuff about hotel rooms and flights. Like how to sleep on a plane better, I am so bad at it. I just sit up all night and sometimes have to go to a meeting or a presentation just after landing. Another one would be how hot it gets in some countries. I’m from Scotland and I’m not designed for this kind of heat.

Three words to describe what it feels like to be the Hendrick’s global brand ambassador!

Unusual, fascinating and boozy!

You are here to officially launch Hendricks Gin to the Kenyan consumers; how well do you think it will be received?

From the bartender’s session we just had, I can tell everyone was interested in It. Although Kenya is a warm county and most people drink whiskey, there’s a big opportunity for us to engage with the bartenders community in Kenya in the same way we have in other countries. What’s been a big cornerstone in the Hendricks success in the past is the way we’ve worked closely with bartenders and held events that were beyond anything they would have expected an event to be.

The beautiful thing about gin is its versatility. So it’s able to cut across all genders and demographics.

What ways are you trying to make people to more experimental when it comes to having gin?

In bars, I am confident that Kenyan bartenders have that covered. Judging from those here today, I can tell how curious and ready they are to make all kinds of different drinks and pushing the bars industry further. When you try a delicious gin cocktail at a bar you are likely to keep experimenting even at home.

In bars, I am confident that Kenyan bartenders have that covered. Judging from those here today, I can tell how curious and ready they are to make all kinds of different drinks and pushing the bar industry further.

Hendrick’s unique taste comes from roses and cucumbers among other botanicals, is this a British or Scottish thing?

Gin uses a lot of botanicals that come from all over the world and despite it being wrapped up in British cultures, none of those botanicals were linked to Britain. Leslie Gracey, the master distiller wanted to create a uniquely British gin. She wanted to create a gin with two things that were uniquely or unusually British. She thought of rose gardens and cucumber sandwiches! This is why they were used, but the gin still had to taste good. Turns out that the roses brought out an incredible unique floral note and the cucumbers add some freshness to the traditional Juniper infusion.

Are there specific areas that these roses or cucumbers come from?

The roses are from Bulgaria.

What has your most interesting or unusual experience been so far as the Hendricks brand ambassador

(Thinks) My life is a whirlwind. I did a pretty awesome five city tour in the U.S in twelve days that we set up with a group of people called the “Turtle Necks” club. They hold parties where you need to come dressed in Turtle Necks and so many interesting things happened during the tour.

What is your favourite gin cocktail?

A Martini or a Corpse Survivor that’s been made since the 1920’s (gin, lemon juice, cointreau and a little bit of vermouth).

Who would you love to have a drink with?

Ian Fleming who wrote the James Bond books was a big booze aficionado and a huge gin fan. I am sure he’d be a fascinating character to speak to.