Drinks with Hebe & Anna Mclaughlin
Our homes (Our interview was conducted over the phone)
Anna is a breath of fresh air. Based in Nottingham, she brings light to what the industry is like outside of London, revealing a passionate & driven bar world. We can learn a lot from what the rest of the country is up to.
Tell us a bit about yourself…
I’m Anna, Anna Mclaughlin. I’m the Jameson brand ambassador covering the Midlands, Wales and the Southwest of England. There are actually four other Jameson ambassadors here in the UK. One is based in London, one’s based in the Midlands (obviously me), one based in Manchester and one in Newcastle. I’m in a graduate scheme. The Jameson graduate programme is an International graduate scheme, which is three years long. I’m currently in my first year. You spend one year in one market, learn all about the role, understand what a brand ambassador role is and then you put yourself forward for international markets for your second and third year. Currently, I’m based here in Nottingham. I’d never been here before I moved. I’m from Belfast.
How long have you been working in hospitality?
I’ve worked in hospitality pretty much as soon as I was able to have a job when I was 16.
What got you into hospitality?
My Dad is a manager of a bar in Belfast and my Uncle owns a few bars (Irish Whiskey specific bars), so that’s where I got my passion for Whiskey, especially Irish Whiskey. The Jameson graduate programme fits really well into what I enjoyed doing. So once I graduated from University I applied for the role, with the hope that I would get it. They decided to me here, into the Midlands. It’s a really cool patch. It’s huge. I cover all of the major cities within there (Nottingham, Leicester, Derby, Birmingham, Coventry, Cardiff, Bristol, Bath, Plymouth, Cornwall).
What does your typical working week entail?
I’m 100% field based. So our office is based in London, so I work fully independently here. I do travel to London maybe once or twice a month. But for day to day, mostly I get up, do admin. I like to go into town to do my admin. There are some weeks where I can be away for 4 days and I don’t feel like I actually spend any time in Nottingham. Nottingham is quite small, so I do know most of the people in the independent coffee shops. Nottingham has one of the highest numbers of independent venues per capita in the UK. There are loads and they’re really into supporting local and independent venues.
When I moved to England I found loads of bars don’t open until maybe 2 pm, after 12 pm anyway. Whereas at home every bar in Ireland is open at like 11 am. So I do all of my admin before bars open and then, for example, will call into bars. For me, bartender advocacy and relationships are really important. Because I did work in a bar for 6 years I’ve come into contact with brand ambassadors, except I was the bartender. There were reps I adored and really looked up to and then there were others who I felt…they’d just come in and tell us what we were doing wrong and didn’t understand what life was like, being a bartender. So that was my main focus when I moved here. I wanted them to be my friend before anything else.
My main focus is calling into all the bars, just seeing what they have on if they have anything they’d like to collaborate on. I do a lot of collaborations. I like to be creative, but it’s a good way to help bars as well. They’ll want to do something and they’ll need a little bit of support, maybe in stock or even just promotion. That’s something I can then do on my end. It’s not just with bars, I’ve done a few events with barber shops, we work with cool and creative venues.
What’s your favourite part of working in hospitality?
When I moved here I was blown away by the community that the bartenders have. I was just blown away by how they all knew each other. So when I first moved to Nottingham, I didn’t know one person, didn’t know where to live (obviously my company put me up in a hotel). I was going into bars, speaking to the bartenders, asking their names, where’d they want to go. They would always be like ‘oh you should to such and such a bar and ask to speak to Lucas or Danny’. It was such a community.
What’s your least favourite part?
It’s not really my least favourite, it’s just…I know our Whiskey is great. But I’ve noticed consumers are very price sensitive. Jameson is a lower cost Whiskey, but we are the number one Irish Whiskey in the world and that is why we can have our prices as low as they are. I’ve noticed that consumers are like it’s cheap therefore it’s a lower quality Whiskey. That’s not right and it’s not how it should be viewed.
Do you think being a woman has affected your career? Has it been positive, negative or a bit of both?
I actually thought I would have more little sexist comments, you know people asking why I’m talking about Whiskey. In the beginning, I did a few Whiskey tastings very early in my job here and you’d have an older man and he’d be like ‘Whisky are you telling me about Whiskey? You’re a 22-year-old girl’.
I think people remember me more than they remember other people. It’s because a lot of the Whiskey ambassadors that I’ve seen (that are non-Jameson) are men. I think people are refreshed when I come in. I think it does help that I actually am Irish.
What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve had in this line of work?
One, in general, is not knowing anyone. Just going into a new City, where do I start?
What trends have you’ve been seeing, what do you think is next?
One of the biggest trends I’ve noticed, especially after Christmas, with the rise of veganism and everything like that is an interest in allergens and things like that. People have asked me about the Whiskey, is it x-free? A lot of the bartenders in Nottingham are Vegan, so a lot of their cocktails have vegan alternatives or they have a vegan cocktail list.
We activated on this for Irish Coffee day, which was the 25th January and one of the bars was like, I don’t think we can offer it if we don’t have a vegan offer. So we got a Soy cream and they offered a normal Irish Coffee, but there was a vegan alternative as well. I tried on and it was amazing.
If you could give one piece of advice to someone wanting your job what would it be?
One piece of advice I would give is always be positive. I think you can’t work as a brand ambassador if you’re not passionate. You need to believe in the brand. If you don’t believe in it, no one will.
Is there anything we can do to support you?
If you’re in a bar and fancy trying something different, you can try a Jameson, ginger and lime.
To finish off, what is your favourite drink?
That’s a hard one! Obviously, I’m partial. The Jameson’s Caskmates IPA perfect long serve is with tonic and lemon. I love tonic. It’s a really great drink.
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