A Q&A with Don Julio Global Brand Ambassador Deano Moncrieffe

A Q&A with Don Julio Global Brand Ambassador Deano Moncrieffe

By Leila Namisango

In a world where everyone seems to be forced into finding their lane and sticking to it; Deano is certainly not sipping on this “cocktail”. The first thing that strikes me when I meet Deano is his look. As our conversation ensues, I find out he is a shoe-holic and confesses to owning dozens of pairs. The former poet turned hotelier and bartender was recently in town, where among other activities, got to bartend at the Africa Nouveau festival.

Thank you for this sitting down with us. When did you arrive in Nairobi?

I arrived very late on Sunday night so I have only had two full days here. Nairobi reminds me a lot of Jamaica where my parents are from. I am staying in Karen which has the same vibe as a place called St. Catherine. They both have a particular type of greenery you only find in some countries, and even the soil is similar.

Were you born and raised in Jamaica?

I was born in the U.K but we always went back home to visit. London is my home.

How did you get started in this industry?

I will try give you the condensed version because it has been a long journey. I started out working in Paris because I had written a poetry book and thought I would go live there as a successful writer but quickly realized I was not going to be able to sell enough books to survive. That is how I started working in a bar.

What kept you motivated to keep at it?

I just fell in love with working behind the bar and decided to move around Europe. I worked in Prague, Vienna, Budapest for 18 months then went back to London; where I started managing bigger restaurants with up to 50 staff members. I was also an area manager and a chef. I just wanted to do it all and that kept me motivated.

Was the move from the hotel industry to being a brand ambassador intentional?

Well, after a while I realized I could not keep up with the hours any more and I started doing events. A Jamaican rum brand I was working with approached me to be their ambassador. It was a rum that was very close to my heart; as growing up my parents always had it when they hosted parties and on other occasions.

Have you worked with many different brands since then?

Yes, I have worked with other beer and wine brands too.

And of course Don Julio now…

I first worked with Don Julio 9 years ago through a marketing agency and wanted to join Diageo. I did. I started out with Ketel One Vodka; then became a mixologist across the whole portfolio. I was put back on Don Julio 7 years ago.

What are some of your favourite or interesting things about Tequila in general and Don Julio in particular?

1. Tequila is the most versatile spirit amongst them all. I can match each of our varieties to your other preferred taste in spirits.

2. Tequila is not just supposed to be had only in shots. You can sip it neat as well. In Mexico, you will not even see people having it with salt and lime.

3. Most people also do not realize that the salt and lime aspect was introduced in America to mask the taste of inexpensive tequila.

What have been some of your highlights?

Being in Nairobi is a massive highlight because it is a different market from Europe or even the US. It is a great learning experience. Another reason is, there are so many amazing natural ingredients here and one of the things that Don Julio is big on is sustainability and the use of locally sourced ingredients.

What local ingredients have you used so far?

I just made this delicious tree tomato margarita…

You must meet a lot of cool people in your profession…

Yes! I got to go to Mexico where I met one of the master distillers and he is now one of my best friends. Enrique de Colsa. He is a mentor and idle for me and he knows that. But I have to say, Don Julio passed away four years ago so I never got a chance to meet him. He is still an inspiration and an icon to me because I have analyzed the few interviews that he did. He was so passionate and knowledgeable. He dedicated his life to tequila.

What advice would you give to young bartenders starting off their careers?

I met this amazing bartender who taught me a lot and gave me the best advice. He told me, if I wanted to be a good bartender I had to be ready to do a bit of everything in the industry. Work in a restaurant; both serving and in the kitchen. This gives you a better understanding of what it means to be a bartender. You understand the customers more. For example, what cocktails go well after a three course meal or a certain desert?

What in your opinion makes a work trip such as this one, a success for you?

Hopefully, that the people who have interviewed me leave thinking that, that was very educational and they have learnt something new about tequila. The other thing is that I connect with the bartenders. I like to have mini brand ambassadors everywhere. For them to understand, love and experience the brand in a unique way. Lastly, for the customers that I interact with to also have a luxurious introduction or reintroduction to the brand.

Now for some fun quickfire questions…

If you had a super power what would it be?

Time travel would be great. I could go back in time to meet my different idols or see what was happening at various different places and times.

Who or what’s your spirit animal?

I will describe my personality then let you decide. I am very calm and relaxed. I also always want to make sure that people around me are comfortable. What animal would I be?

If you could have one drink for the rest of your life what would it be?

That is a tough one because this varies, depending on the time of the year for me. I would say a margarita because you can change it up.

Are you a morning or a night person?

I am not a morning person. There is no point in mornings. It takes me so long to start feeling active and it is probably because I don’t always sleep so well. This could be as a result of the job. Being used to working late.

What’s the first thing you do when you get up?

I am always thinking of what to eat. So I will probably be looking at what fruit I have so that I can make myself a smoothie.

Lastly, you are pretty stylish! Is your Instagram fashion goals?
I probably share more on Facebook than Instagram but I massively into art, fashion and literature.