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Kathrin Abels: “Be humble, curious, consider every day and every customer as an opportunity to learn.”

Intervju s Kathrin Abels, globalnom predstavnicom Sierra brenda destilata.

Kathrin Abels is the global ambassador for Sierra brand and we had the opportunity to meet her in Rijeka on one of her Masterclasses. After education we stayed in contact with Kathrin and asked her about new trends in bar industry, bartending and advice for beginner bartenders. Take a look.

Hi Kathrin, can you tell us more about your career. How did you get to be Sierra Tequila ambassador?

I was a bartender for about seven years. First it was while I was studying and later next to my main job in marketing. The company that founded and still owns the Sierra brand, Borco, was already supporting me during my bar times because back then there weren’t so many “serious” girls behind the bar. After working as a marketing manager in the IT and FinTech sector for few years, Borco approached me again and offered me a job as a brand activation manager for their vodka portfolio. After two years I got promoted to representative of the company’s luxury tequila range, their own brand Sierra Milenario. First as a Berlin based ambassador, and then gradually became the global ambassador for all of Borco’s agave spirits including mezcal.

I guess my tip for anyone aspiring a spirits industry career beyond the bar would be to network. Go to as many workshops, tastings and competitions as possible and be aware of your own USP (Unique selling preposition / unique selling point). Figure out what makes you stand out from the crowd of bartenders. Always keep learning, in other fields too. For me that was marketing and business development, which was a perfect preparation for my current job.

What are your favorite bars in Germany? And in the world?

That is very hard to narrow down. There are so many fantastic, inspiring places around now! In Berlin, I really like Amano Bar because they’re like my family and I briefly worked there, also Kantine Kohlmann, Velvet and Coda. In Germany, Chug Club is great for Tequila, One Trick Pony is both super ambitious yet a perfect party spot, The Kinly Bar, The High and Paul&George have a special place in my heart. Worldwide, I really enjoyed Alchemikas in Lithuania, The Doctor in Rotterdam, Raines Law Room in New York, Josef in Vienna – and I really want to visit my old buddy Philip Bischoff in the famous Manhattan Bar in Singapore.

What was the last bar that you worked in?

Soho House Berlin, which is also the place where I first encountered my current employer Borco. They are the Germany Distributeur for Chartreuse, and since I was selling copious amounts of that at Soho House, they couldn’t help but to notice me.

Can you tell us more about Sierra portfolio?

What’s really characteristic for the whole Sierra range is a very fruity and harmonious flavor profile. We use only agave from fields higher than 1750 meters, which makes the conditions for the agave more stressful, resulting in a higher concentration of natural sweetness and aroma. Also, we use a special strain of formerly wild, very fruity-tasting yeast from the garden of our distillery that we isolated and have been regrowing since the 70s. We call it the pineapple yeast for it’s flavor!

Many people think that Sierra must be owned by a large corporation because we are market leader in many countries, but in fact Sierra is made by two small family-owned companies with less than 200 employees each. One is Borco, in Hamburg, and the other one is our producer, Rodolfo Gonzalez-Gonzalez with his Destileria Sierra Unidas in Guadalajara, Mexico, who hails from a 150-year-old dynasty of  Tequileros. Where ever we can  go for quality over quantity, we do. For example, using only pot-still distillation for all of our tequilas.

What do you think about future trends in bar industry?

I think sustainability will remain the most important part of development, and its not a trend but a necessity. That ties in nicely with the trend to go local and artisan. Many local bar tenders rediscover the traditional spirits and techniques from their areas, while becoming more appreciative for products like tequila and mezcal, which are inadvertently handmade and regional, due to their denomination of origin.

Also, a better work-life balance, reduced or no alcohol coktails, or those with health boosting ingredients like essential oils and medicinal herbs will be big. Or should I say big again? Really, medicinal purpose use is where our modern spirits come from. Chartreuse would be just one example of that.
Another movement will be crowd-sourced product development. Spirits companies letting their consumers design products the way they want them via social media, and then bringing them to market within a couple of weeks.

We know that you were in Croatia, what did you like best here?

What‘s not to like here?! I really enjoyed my trip – the open, generous and warm-hearted people I met, the remarkable differences between the different cities and regions, the bar culture, the food, nature, and also the way people deal with their history and the neighboring countries, which of course is not naturally an easy task.

What would you advise to beginner bartenders?

Be humble, curious, consider every day and every customer as an opportunity to learn. Learn to really listen. Read a lot, and try every spirit, herb, spice, botanical you can get your hands on. Of course, in moderation though! And make sure you sleep enough 😉

What is your favorite cocktail and why?

We have a saying in Germany, all good things are threefold. So, a (Tommy‘s) Margarita for its beautiful simplicity and because it pays my salary. Last Word variations because they used to be my signature cocktail way back. Tequila Negroni, because I love everything with Amaro and the aperitivo culture in general, and because it‘s much more intriguing with Reposado Tequila than with Gin.

Do you have favorite bartender book?

Not really, I prefer books about the history of spirits, agriculture and cooking techniques, and cook books in general.


Thank you Kathrin, it was a pleasure talking to you.

Thank you guys, hope to see you soon.