t.richman Here’s a little liquor industry quiz – name the roles and key players in the biz. Top of mind is the bartender/mixologist creating and serving you your drinks, and, of course the bar owners. These are the folks we, as consumers, interact with the most. Then there’s also the spirits we drink loyally – you’ve got the distiller, or the parent company of your favorite spirit brand. But as a consumer, you may not be aware of one of hardest working and most influential roles out there – the brand ambassador – at once elusive and mysterious. Maybe you’ve seen this person at an event or quoted in a magazine article highlighting some stellar cocktails.  It’s time for us to shine the light on the folks many in the industry consider the popular kids at school. What better way to learn all you can about a brand ambassador than to interview Todd Richman, who was recently named Best American Brand Ambassador at this year’s Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Awards.

First off, a little background. Todd is Corporate Mixologist with Sidney Frank Importing Co. for one of the most iconic spirits brands, Jägermeister, as well as Gekkeikan Sake, American Harvest Organic Spirit, Michael Collins Irish Whiskey, Bärenjäger Honey Liqueur and VnC Cocktails. For the past three “fantastic” years with Sidney Frank, Todd has led the bartender loyalty program for Jägermeister in the U.S. and developed cocktail recipes and strategies for their portfolio. In addition, he trains and educates internal staff, trade and consumers while serving as a teacher, mentor and an ambassador for the brands.

Seems like a pretty cool job, no? Todd is the first to tell you that it definitely is and recently, I was able to chat with him to find out how he got into the industry, the benefits, as well as the challenges of a brand ambassador, and what he sees as a trend towards mindful drinking.  And, of course, I was able to snag some of Todd’s favorite cocktail recipes for all our readers.

MM: How did you get started as a Brand Ambassador?

TR: I come from a culinary background and worked in wine sales for a previous supplier and found myself gravitating towards the spirits side of our industry.

MM: What drew you to the spirits industry?

TR: The history of the products, the relationships and the dynamic nature of this business. With trends changing all the time, there’s always an opportunity to help sell, be it with cocktail creations or training.

MM: What’s one misconception people might have of a brand ambassador?

TR: That the position is a frivolous one. Some think that all we do is fly around the country, guest bartend and party on the company dime.

MM: What’s the biggest challenge as a brand ambassador? And what’s the best thing about being a brand ambassador?

TR: That’s a very expansive question, so here’s the short answer. The biggest challenge I’d say is making sure all my ducks are in a row every day – this is not a job for the 9-5 mentality. There’s a lot of ground to cover and it’s a big country out there! Sidney Frank Importing trusts me to get the job done, so staying organized is a major part of this job, which is a challenge I relish.

The best part about being a brand ambassador? There are always a lot of moving parts and I have obligations to make sure everything I do is in the best interest of the brands; it’s not about me, but my contribution to the Sidney Frank team. Whether it is planning the liquid logistics for events, trade shows and trainings, showcasing Jägermeister’s rich history and heritage, introducing American Harvest into a competitive vodka market, working with the trade on Sake education or encouraging bartenders to use Bärenjäger in their cocktails, these are all wonderful challenges that I look forward to every day.

MM: What trends to do you see right now in the cocktail/spirits world?

TR: I am seeing a lot of discussion on flavors and where the spirits and ingredients are coming from, as well as a quest for simplicity and great hospitality.

Drinks are tasting complex, but they’re being made with great ingredients and techniques. People are mindful about what they are drinking, so both the trade and consumers (pardon the pun) thirst for education. In my personal case it could be about Jägermeister’s secret recipe of 56 different herbs, roots, blooms and fruits, what single farm we get the wheat from that is used in American Harvest Organic Spirit, where Bärenjäger gets the honey from, etc. Even the sweetening agents in cocktails and the juices are topics of conversations. Mindful drinking would be one way to put it. Also fun is a trend that should never, and will never, go anywhere. This is a fun industry and our job is to make everyone feel welcome to ask questions and enjoy themselves, responsibly of course.

A few of Todd’s favorite cocktails:

The Smash of '56, courtesy Sidney Frank Importing Co.

The Smash of ’56, courtesy Sidney Frank Importing Co.

The Smash of ’56

In a shaker combine

2 oz. Jägermeister

1 heaping bar spoon of Concord grape preserves

3 lemon wedges

10 mint leaves

Add ice, shake with a smile and strain into a rocks glass full of fresh ice. Garnish with a mint sprig and a lemon wedge.

 

The Kyoto Cobbler

In a shaker combine

1.5 oz. Gekkeikan Traditional Plum Wine

1.5 oz. amontillado sherry

.25 oz. light agave nectar

Then, add assorted seasonal fruits. In the fall I like a few apple slices, a lemon slice, an orange slice and some red grapes.

Gently muddle the fruits in the agave, add the plum wine and sherry and shake briefly with a couple ice cubes. Strain the entire drink into a wine glass full of crushed ice (if possible) and garnish with an apple slice and an orange slice.

Keep up with Todd Richman’s work with Sidney Frank, including all his travels and cocktails, on Twitter.