Drinks with Hebe & Claire Best

Drinks with Hebe & Claire Best

Where 

Ozone Coffee, Shoreditch

What we drank 

Claire: Rosemary Ice Tea £4
Hebe: Ruby Oolong Tea £2.80

Claire is my cup of tea. I loved interviewing her over a cuppa on one hot afternoon and wish there was space to fit everything we talked about.

Hello! Tell us a bit about you…


I currently work for Amathus drinks and I look after essentially everything European, except the cool stuff like Calvados and cognac. So Gin, vermouth all the weird and wonderful bits like Eau de vie, aquavit, stuff like that. I was bartending before that for a long time. I was at Callooh Callay and before that, I was at Milk & Honey. That was in London, before that I was in Manchester and before that, I was in Yorkshire. So I’ve been probably been in hospitality since I was 15 when I worked for Burger King. 

What got you into the hospitality industry?


You’d like to have that idea that somehow there was a moment, but I was 17 and needed a job. I think my first hospitality job was a waitress and I was a really bad one. I dropped a grapefruit on an old man’s head, I didn’t understand cutlery placing, I was shit at it. I was really moody. I was just this little bitch all the time, mouthing off to my boss. And then  I had two jobs at the same time, I had a waitressing job and I had a shitty pub job that was late at night. I hated that as well, there was always violence.  It was in a really rough area in Hull. I remember getting to, I was there for 4 years and I think I was 22 and I remember having a moment whilst I was pulling a pint thinking if I don’t move I’m going to be here forever, I need to like get out of Hull. So I went to Sheffield for Uni and then I started working in a bar/club.   You know, things that weren’t on optics. And then I realised really quickly I wanted to be promoted. So I  asked for a promotion and I got it. And then I got promoted again before I graduated uni. I figured all girls are good at organisation, it’s why they’re always good managers, they just get shit done. So yeah, it was kind of easy in that respect, because you want to work hard. Back then late nights were rough, but not as rough as they would be now, but you could kind of deal with working until six in the morning.  When I was there I wanted to learn how to make cocktails properly. I kept asking to be trained up and eventually they trained me up. I was fucking bad at it at first,  but so is everybody.

What’s your day to day at work like?


Loads and loads and loads of tastings. So my role is brand sales manager.   It means you get to talk to people all the time which is wicked. Most of it is tastings. I’m based in London, but I cover the UK, so it’s just going to everyone and anyone. I try not to cold call people because that’s just annoying. But yeah, just getting in front of people and giving them some things they hopefully like. Day to day is a lot of tastings. Sometimes it’s events like we’ve got a takeover tonight, sometimes it’s trade shows, sometimes it’s off-trade work, but most of the time it’s me just giving people booze. 

What’s your favourite part about working in this industry?


People. I know that sounds a bit cheesy. You have moments where like (I’m sure we’ve all felt it) where you’re just like I can’t be bothered or I’m not looking forward to it and then you get in front of people and it just, it makes you happy. You know when you meet nice people and…I’m naturally really chatty and full of beans all the time. So yeah, people. Just meeting nice people.

 

and what’s your least favourite part?


Probably the least favourite part is things like, I try to not drink every day if I can avoid alcohol, I mean it’s part of my job, but at the same time, I love booze. I love it.  Day to day I try and avoid it because I don’t want to drink every day. I hate being hungover. I’m never good at it. I’m not one of those people who you know is like I’m out every night and partying. If I have to pick a negative side it’s the intake of alcohol. 

Have you found being a woman in this industry a positive, negative or both?


This sounds a little bit bad, but there have probably been more negatives than there are positives. I can’t think of an example where it’s been hugely positive, but I can definitely give examples where it’s been negative. Like someone will come in about makeup or ‘oh you’d look so much better if you didn’t wear trainers.’
There’s so much of that. You do get it every now and again from older dudes. It’s a bit of a sad thing to think of it. I won a comp about a year and a half ago and one guy  (it was a joke and he kind of laughed it off) but he was like I’m sure you got it because you were a chick. This was in a meeting as well and I just thought ‘who the fuck are you’? If there any positive there’s a negative with it. Which is a shame.

Have you faced any challenges in this role?


Now in this one, I the people are surprised to see girls with knowledge of spirits or just knowledgeable in general. Older guys. I have a challenge with older guys. The women in our work are wonderful. There’s no bitchiness or anything like that. Obviously, this isn’t all dudes because my boss, he’s like the most wonderful man on the planet. I can’t rave about him enough. But now probably the biggest one is older guys. Sometimes if you challenge something they’ve suggested they’ll speak to you like you’re an idiot. You’re allowed to challenge. It’s your job to do what’s right rather than say yes to everything. 

What the next big trend?


Keeping it simpler. There was this big phase where everything was really complicated in terms of actual drink development. Now it looks like it’s going back to being simpler, going back to the classic way of doing it. Just simple stuff, letting the ingredients speak for themselves. There are a lot of conversations about how we can help our women also, keeping it more positive and keep it protected. You know, look after each other. 

What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to someone who wanted to do your job?


Work hard and be nice. I know it’s a thing said by so many people. Just be nice. You can teach anyone anything really, in terms of knowledge. Just be nice.   Don’t cancel on things.  If you try to cancel anything like that it puts you back and leaves a negative connotation in someones mind.   And we have all met someone whose a dick. Don’t be a dick. 

#dontbeadick

How can we support you?


All of this. This is great. More of this. I think it’s just conversations. Conversations between people, face to face. If it’s an argument, try and keep it as constructive as possible.

Last question, what’s your favourite drink?


Penicillin is probably my favourite drink ever. And then when it’s summer you can do a Penichillin. As soon as it hits summer you get that shit blended and it’s amazing. 
Probably Apples at Coupette. It’s boozy, sweet, fresh, really simple drink.

If you know a lady in the drinks industry that you would like to see interviewed, pop an email to drinkswithhebe@mail.com. 
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