We sat down to mix it up with Raymond Edwards, the Chief Brand Educator of the House of Angostura for some insight into his storied career. Over the years, Raymond has accumulated numerous accolades including winning the TTRHA National Bartending competition from 2007-2010, becoming “People’s Choice” at the 2009 Angostura Global Cocktail Challenge, and achieving the title of certified Master of World Spirits from the World Spirits Academy in Austria.
BBTT: You’ve been hailed as a ‘cocktail guru’ and have worked alongside some top mixologists, what spirit or blend in your opinion is the most versatile. What ingredients or spirit do you feel are under used?
Raymond: RUM! As a spirit category rum continues to grow despite being misunderstood. Rum should be the most celebrated spirit because of its layers, rich history and heritage.
BBTT: You recently attended the Bar Covent Brooklyn 2019, what can you tell our readers about the BCB?
Raymond: Bar Covent is a platform that allows industry personnel to learn about spirit brands from across the world. It focuses on new industry trends and their impact on consumers through seminars, tasting booths, events and guest bartending shifts.
BBTT: Are there any other annual international exhibitions, cocktail festivals or competitions that you participate in?
Raymond: The Tales of the Cocktail on Tour events; which takes place in Mexico, Puerto Rico and New Orleans, the Bar and Nightclub Convention Las Vegas; Bar Convent in Berlin; the International Bartending Championship; Kontiki Rum Festival; Peru; Rum Festival UK and Barra Mexico.
BBTT: Can you tell us about the growing trend of low and no alcohol by volume (ABV) cocktails in the bar and beverage industry?
Raymond: Low and No Abv cocktails aren’t new. They are popular in Central Europe, and are growing in the USA and UK because they offer a new way to imbibe. It allows for moderation of your alcohol consumption while trying new flavors and mixtures and most importantly, save room for another beverage.
BBTT: What’s your biggest pet peeve within the bartending industry?
Raymond: When bartenders don’t have the foundation for the craft for example, ice can add an unknown edge to a drink.
BBTT: In your view, how has the role of women in cocktail culture and mixology changed?
Raymond: The role of female bartenders has grown over the past decade. They have become leaders across the industry. Last year, Kanesha Rajaram won the Caribbean Bartender Title. At Angostura our female Blending Team continues to lead the way by blending spirits of the highest quality, and this is a worldwide phenomenon.
BBTT: Is your favorite cocktail in fact The Queen’s Park Swizzle, what else do you typically order at a bar?
Raymond: The Queens Park Swizzle is one of my favorites, but I am not picky when ordering cocktails. I usually view the menu then stick to what I know.
BBTT: If you weren’t a mixologist, what would you be and why?
Raymond: A professional footballer! I captained my school team a long time ago, but now I’m scoring goals in glasses!
BBTT: Who are some of your biggest inspirations in the business?
Raymond: Tony Abu Ganim, Dale de Groff, Jeff ‘Beachbum’ Berry, John Georges, and Julie Reiner are a few people who have influenced me in the business.
BBTT: What do you find most rewarding and most challenging about your profession?
Raymond: The most rewarding part is experiencing new people and cultures. I have learnt that we are more connected than we think we are. The most challenging is getting others to believe that this dream is possible. It takes a lot of hard work and determination. As Buju Banton once said: “Them ah see the glamor and glitter so them think it’s a bed of rose.” You have got to love what you do and believe in yourself.
BBTT: What are 3 things you would tell someone who wants to pursue a career in this industry?
Raymond: One: Follow your passion. Two: Ensure that you have knowledge of the basics of bartending and the history of cocktail making, mixology and spirit production. Three: Be humble.
BBTT: What are some things that you want to achieve within the next 10 years, personally and professionally?
Raymond: I want to educate and re-establish an appreciation for rum: its history, legacy and mixability. I would also like to promote Trinidad and Tobago and eventually the region through Imbibing Tourism. I also want to create the TTBG (Trinidad and Tobago Bartenders Guild) and set a standard for the industry. Last but not least, I would love to create my own line of classic cocktail Elixirs/mixers.