Catering News caught up with Sailor Jerry global brand ambassador Paul Monahan during his recent trip to Dubai to find out why the emirate is becoming an important port of call for the beverage brand
How did you get into your role as Sailor Jerry global brand ambassador?
Since university, all I did was work in bars until almost six years ago. In New York I worked with Morgans Hotel Group where I was in charge of re-doing their F&B outlets; we did New York and a couple of hotels in Miami. I like travelling, exploring what people eat and drink and why people order the way they do in other cities outside of New York. I was asked to be the spokesperson for Sailor Jerry Spiced and I moved to London in November last year, but I travel all over.
What is your opinion of Dubai’s F&B scene?
This is my first trip to Dubai, although I’ve been to the airport about a dozen times. A lot of people working in the spirits world have recently started talking about Dubai and I came here to see how business has been going for the past two years. It’s amazing for someone like me who spends a lot of time in major cities to come and see growth here and meet the people that love working with the brand, and then I try to teach them a few things here and there. My job wherever I go, is that when I leave, people say, “that kid’s alright – we should do something more with Sailor Jerry Spiced”.
What have you been doing on your trip to Dubai?
I talked to 100 bartenders yesterday; I gave four seminars, spoke to some bloggers and guest bartended for a while. I’ve also been meeting with the sales team from African + Eastern to discuss how business is going. I gave an in-depth seminar on the history of rum, which was interesting because a lot of people think they don’t like it, but they don’t know anything about it.
What is your opinion of Dubai’s bartending talent?
Everyone is very eager to learn. If you’re looking to succeed you have to steer yourself in the right direction on an educational level. If customers aren’t asking you the right questions you could just stand on your phone pouring draft beers and no-one would care, but it seems like everyone is very interested in learning. Hopefully this means consumers are showing interest too.
Have you seen growth in demand for the Sailor Jerry brand in the UAE?
We have, and a lot of that will come from the expats – everyone from the UK, the US and Australia where our business has been growing for almost 10 years. And a lot of that will also come from the Eastern European bartenders and consumers; we’ve been in Russia for almost four years and our business is doing really well there. Russians despite what you might think have a strong taste for the product. They are the second largest spirit market in the world, right behind the US.
Why is the UAE an important location for your business?
Someone once told me that 80% of the world’s wealth is within eight hours of Dubai. In the spirits business you want to be in that world. We’re lucky that here the bartenders seem young, excited; they’ve worked in other places before and they are super eclectic.
What is your vision for the brand in the Dubai market?
Apparently there’s been a rise in Tiki culture, which is extremely relevant for Sailor Jerry, so I get asked to come and explain the culture and drinks. Moving forward with that business, we need an incredible back story and some authenticity, so that’s why I put together these couple of days surrounding that goal. Our partners here see a lot of opportunity for out growth.
What else are you doing to promote the brand in Dubai?
Liquid to lips or trial and error is the only way to make friends with bartenders and consumers. If you came and sat at my bar that has over 500 bottles, you’d pick whatever you want. But if I pick one and give you an in-depth story with brand knowledge and steer you toward that, you’d hopefully go home and remember what you drank and tasted. Education is massively important; brand stories and how to differentiate between Sailor Jerry and other spice categories. You only know what you like if you’ve been able to taste it, so as far as I’m concerned it’s making friends with bartenders, making sure they understand the story and getting them to play with it and make sure consumers are tasting it.