We chat with Alfredo Fidalgo, the Global Brand Ambassador for Havana Club during his maiden trip to Kenya. He was accompanied by Pavel L Fernandez the Vice President of the Cuban Bartenders Association. The team has been carrying out master classes at various bars, training bartenders and mixologists Havana Club rum cocktails and their recipes; the Cuban way.
Based on your personality, If you were to be a Havana Club based cocktail, which one would you be and why?
Alfredo: I think I would be a Canchanchara. It is a Cuban classic, with lime juice, honey and rum. Why? Because I’m sweet but I can also be like the lime, you know and I’m also strong like the rum.
Pavel: I would be the simple Cuba Libre. Not only is it simple but many ladies love it too!
Tell us a little about yourself and your journey to becoming the Global Brand Ambassador for Havana Club.
I come from a town called Bayamo in Cuba, and I moved to Havana to study foreign languages. I worked in the Havana Cub museum as a guide for six years and this is where I learnt everything to do with rum, spirits, cigars. I then moved to the head office in Havana where I began working as a Global Brand Ambassador, a role I have held for close to one year.
Describe your first time drinking Havana Club
Back at home, we believe that every Cuban has rum in their soul. In fact, the first introduction to rum is done when young whereby when a child is three to four years old, the father dips his finger in rum and gives the child to taste. This I believe was my first time tasting rum (not that I can remember though). What I can remember, is as a teenager we used to hide and run from boarding school and go to the closest town to drink local rum so I have my fond memories of my first encounter with rum although I tasted Havana Club when I was much older.
How do you deal with a hangover
I rarely have hangovers. Our culture as Cubans teaches us to never drink to get drunk. You would rarely find a drunkard asleep on the street passed out in Cuba. We know how to control our drinking, something that is instilled in every Cuban from a young age, to ensure that we don’t abuse our alcohol. I have only had a hangover maybe once or twice in my life because I drink to appreciate the rum.
What does your job entail?
I am in charge of the Master Class Program which is what brought us here in Kenya. It is a capacitation program by Havana Club where we educate bartenders, mixologists, servers at bars and restaurants and those in the industry about the rum. This is actually the first Master Class we’re carrying out in Africa.
What do you love most about your role?
I am passionate about teaching and passing on information, I have worked as a professor teaching various subjects including Italian and Mathematics. I a passionate about Havana Club and passing on knowledge is what I love most about my role.
What’s the most memorable moment in your role?
Alfredo: We have an annual Brand Ambassadors’ Summit and there was one where we went to Paris, France. That week was amazing, being my first time as a brand ambassador and first time in Paris, a city I love, the knowledge I gained and interaction with the people was an experience I am grateful for.
Pavel: The first time I tried the Havanna Club 7 year old. It is an excellent rum, my favourite to be precise.
From your experience as a judge in the many cocktail competitions you’ve worked with, what’s the most memorable cocktail you’ve ever tasted?
Pavel: We once did a Master Class in Denmark and this lady made a remarkable cocktail that was simple with almond liqueur and orange zest.
What about the worst cocktail you’ve ever tasted?
Pavel: A contender I won’t mention where from made a cocktail with white Hava Club rum 3-year-old and water and presented it for a chance to win a trip to Cuba. It was the worst because it was clear that she did not respect the bartender culture.
What does the Havana Club Master Class project entail?
Pavel: We have practical sessions with bartenders where we make a variety of cocktails such as the Cuban Classics and some modern Cuban cocktails with a twist. such as the Rum Old Fashioned.
Have you ever been a bartender/mixologist? For how long?
Pavel: I started bartending when I was 23 years old in various clubs in Havana Cuba.