Andrea Montague

Words by Jane Ryan

Profession: Brand ambassador
At: London

Andrea Montague is famed for her days behind the bar at Callooh Callay, known for her phenomenal menus and outstanding drinks but, after ten years as a bartender, she's moved on to the world of whisky and is intent on smashing the halo around single malts.

Diageo approached me. But if I had of been looking for an ambassador role it would have been in whisky, I'm a massive fan whether it be bourbon or Scotch.

Initially going around talking about the products was hard. But I thought what would I want to know, what would I ask me. And you get over it, talking to peers and friends, just make sure you learn everything and you have to be honest, if I don't know then I'll find out.

When I first moved to London to become a bartender I don't know if people really understood what I was doing. There was definitely a few times at LAB we'd get asked what our real job was but the community is always growing with publications and accolades. My mum collects clippings when I'm featured and my family understand that it's a real job.

I think bartenders going into the profession have more opportunities to have a viable career and to be respected. There is a lot of room to grow and options outside the bar. But the profession could perhaps suffer because everyone wants to be a brand ambassador immediately. People just need to be a bartender first for at least five to six years first - learn your craft.

I want to get malts off the back bar and into the speed rail. My main focus is breaking that halo to show the diverse categories and to focus on flavour profiles rather than age. Colin Dunn has been my main inspiration. Years ago he asked me to make cocktails with Lagavulin and Talisker when people weren't using such strong flavoured malts in drinks.

Every day is like a training session with Colin. He is so passionate about whisky and he imparts that to people very easily. I haven't done Diageo's super intensive Malt Advocacy course but I've had plenty of lessons on the intricacies of whisky. Women are no longer under-represented in this industry either. There are fantastic women in whisky and a lot more who drink it and really enjoy it, slowly we're breaking the conceived idea of what whisky is.

I've been bartending for a decade and I needed progress. It's a lot of hard work opening your own bar. I've seen so many friends do it and you end up giving away the creative part of your job, the part you love, to deal with taxes, licensing, stock and you watch other people do the fun bits. It's not for me.

So now my day revolves around the office at St James and bars. I keep my head above water with the emails, do training sessions and work closely with the marketing teams. There is so much going on this year with World Class that it's increasingly busy.

I wouldn't say I miss the bar. I have a decade of memories from behind it. When I worked in bars I got to travel the world over, there aren't many places I haven't been to but there are places in my home country I've never seen so I'm excited to be based here. I've rediscovered weekends now, and I look forward to them.

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