From Cuba to Australia via London, Karel (Papi) Reyes, Monin Brand Ambassador for Australia talks to us about his new role, how he went from working with spirits to non-alcoholic products and what it means to work for an established family-owned business.
Tell us a little about yourself and how you started in the bar and spirits industry.
I’m Cuban. My first job was as a teacher in a medical school in Santiago de Cuba, teaching Latin-American culture. I must say that I always had a passion for the hospitality industry, so it was normal for me to make a “few” cocktails for friends and family. In 2004, I moved to London where I start working at Cocoon Bar Restaurant with amazing people who helped me improve my knowledge about wine and spirits… and obviously I started speaking English which it was the biggest barrier that I had, so bye bye university background. In 2008, I moved to Australia where I started working at some amazing bars like Zeta Bar, Laruche and The Barber Shop.
How did the opportunity to become the first Monin Brand Ambassador in Australia come about?
It was being at the right place and the right time when Tomas Vikario (Tomasito) MONIN Marketing & Beverage Innovation Manager visited me at The Barber Shop in Sydney and offered me to be part of the team to spread the Love of MONIN. So here I am, in my new exciting role as MONIN Brand Ambassador for Australia.
What does a typical day for you involve?
Wake up really early (I don’t sleep much), have a coffee, read the news and start replying to emails. After that, shower and go to the office for a short time to catch up and off to the street. I believe that this is the only way to see the progress of your job as an Ambassador, touching base face to face with the bars and bartenders… so win win.
You’ve gone from working with spirits to non-alcoholic products. How much of a change has it been for you?
After I worked with Havana Club and my passion for Rums is normal to people see me in a different way but it’s the same industry and guess what, I’m loving it!!!. MONIN gave me the opportunity to work with their portfolio and I can use any spirit for my masterclasses and events. That is a really good plus up for my role and make my life easier. MONIN products can also be utilised in the elaboration of coffees, cold drinks and desserts. You can also use them to give additional flavour to your smoothies, Italian sodas, frappes and numerous alcoholic beverages – which gives a completely new dimension to my work.
Monin is a family-owned business that goes back to 1912. How does it reflect in the company culture?
MONIN is a family business has remained this way since 1912. It have a very deep roots so they already know how to project and look after the brand. For example, Olivier Monin, CEO and third generation of the family travels all year checking bars and the MONIN factories around the world to try the new products and to make sure the quality is of the highest level as possible.
Monin is well known around the world for it syrups and fruit purees. What makes the Monin brand unique?
This is really good question. MONIN always make their product from the best natural ingredients (fruits, plants, flowers, spices, etc). They are produced with an undeniable quality and with the finest natural ingredients from all places in the world. MONIN syrups are made with the selection of the best flowers, fruits, spices and nuts ever imagined. They also put some sugar on this high-quality syrup in order to retain the flavour and to guaranty the durability and conservation of the final product. Our products are shelf stable for 38 month (syrups) and over a month for our Fruit Mix (purees).
Tell us a little about the type of sugar, preservatives and stabilisers that Monin uses in syrups and fruit mixes.
We always use 100% sugar cane syrup, and never other type of glucose such as corn syrup. It’s costly but it’s the only way to maintain the quality. We get our sugar cane from Brasil and the factory that supplies Australia is in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. We don’t add any colorant to our products and the preservative is always Potassium Sorbate (E202) which doesn’t act against the colour or flavour.
With the rise in the craft cocktail movement where bartenders are using fresh ingredients, housemade syrups and mixers, what challenges does this trend pose for Monin?
It’s a SWEET challenge. MONIN is always a “work in progress” so we are always creating something new for the market despite the “new” trend. We deliver consistency through all year long and a quality and stable syrup. Most of the “housemade syrups” don’t last long and to keep them with same quality and consistency, it’s hard work relaying in the quality of the ingredients. Seasonality doesn’t help all the time and that may acting against the flavours and consistency.
Monin has recently released the Yuzu fruit mix. What new products can we expect in the near future?
We launch around five to eight flavours twice a year. For this winter, we are coming with an amazing Popcorn Syrup and Pumpkin Spice… so be ready chulos….
Any closing comments?
It’s an exciting time for me to work and represent MONIN in Australia. As a bartender (I always will be), it’s a pleasure to re-energise the brand that is always there for my fellows bar workers to help them, with our wide and amazing range, to create incredible cocktails using MONIN as a tool to support their creativity in all the bars (and everywhere you can make a concoction) around this magnificent country.
In collaboration with Stuart Alexander & Co – Importer & Distributor of the MONIN brand in Australia.
Photo by Cocktails & Bars – © Copyright: All rights reserved.