Interview by Leila Namisango
With no shortage of booze brand ambassadors making their way to Kenya, it was refreshing to have this dynamic duo all the way from Havana. Pavel whose roles include being the Vice president of the ACC (Cuban bartenders Association) in Havana is a trained bar tender and Alfredo the Global Brand Ambassador for Havana Club ‘s biggest passion is spreading all the knowledge he has acquired while working as a rum specialist tour guide to other corners of the world.
We got a chance to hang out with them when they had a rum class and mixer at Park Inn last month. Read on for snippets from our in depth conversation on bartending and Havana Club rum.
Tell us a little more about the ACC (Cuban Bartenders Association) and your role…
Pavel: The association has been around since 1924 and is the oldest of such to exist. In Cuba, everyone who deals with cigars, wine and drinks is called a “cantinero”. ACC has around 400 cantineros from Havana only. Some of the projects include a bartender’s school where they learn languages and cocktail making. We also host and take part in several competitions such as the Grand Prix, Fabio Delgado Memorial and International Bartender competitions. One of my roles is to judge in these competitions.
What are some of the things you look out for when judging?
Pavel: I look out for the bartender’s charisma, their knowledge of how well the products they use blend together, bartending skills and the taste of the cocktails. It actually all stops with the taste.
Visited any bars in Nairobi yet?
Pavel: Yes, we had a meal at Nyama Mama and a lady bartender made us a delicious cocktail that had some ginger in it.
Alfredo: The Dawa …
Pavel: We even invited her to the master class the following day. We’ve had a training at J’s and Malessi one of the bar tender’s there stood out.
Alfredo: We have also heard of Brew bistro and we look forward to going there. I hear they have a Cuban themed night.
How has your interaction with our bartenders been?
Pavel: We have had a lot of fun during the training sessions and all the BT seem to love what they do.
Alfredo: We have
really enjoyed the master classes and even the bartenders have told us this has
been their best master class yet.
If you were to criticize what would you say?
Alfredo: Some of the younger bartenders need to study a little more and keep studying. A bartender like a doctor should never stop learning.Alfredo: Some of the younger bartenders need to study a little more and keep studying. A bartender like a doctor should never stop learning.
How are you finding Nairobi?
Alfredo: Nairobi is a very “particular city”
Particular, what do you mean?
Alfredo: For instance, why all this security checks every where? And you have bigger buildings which contrasts other areas that are bare and wild. There is also a lot of traffic. But the people are amazing and so is the food. That you have in common with Havana.
Pavel: True. The people of Nairobi are very hospitable. It is also great that we get to work with ingredients that are also readily available back home such as mangoes, melons, ginger and many others.
We know that you who worked as a rum specialist tour guide at the Havana Club Rum Museum. Tell us more about the museum?
Alfredo: It is an old building that has a bar, a store and a courtyard on one floor where people squeeze sugar cane juice to drink with rum and on the top floor there is a museum that is set up like a distillery. Visitors are usually taken round and told about the history and production of rum.
Are you a trained bar tender as well?
Alfredo: Not really, I am more involved in the communication part of the brand. My passion has always been telling people about Cuba’s history and that includes rum. Over the last years I have taken classes for bar tending, chocolates, cigars, sommelier, etc. When we travel we do so as a pair so I get to travel with a more qualified bartender like Pavel.
What are some of your highlights as a brand ambassador?
Pavel: This trip has been very special because of all the positive feedback we have received from the bartenders we have had training sessions with. We also always have a lot of fun being in Latin countries or during the annual BA summits.
Alfredo: One of my most special moments was when I got to the chance to meet the eight Cuban rum maestros and even having a one on one conversation with the main Maestro, José Pablo Navarro. He is the creator of Havana Club 7. He sounds like a poet talking about rum. That was inspirational.
Where did the Havana Club rum get the name?
Alfredo: The name was registered in 1934 and at the time the starters had a club called Havana Club
What words come to mind when you think about Havana Club Rum?
First, CUBA! Then, CELEBRATION, and the third one is CIGARS coz I love cigars.
How do you guys have
Neat! With Cigars.