Here at Library of Spirits we strive to be more than just another alcohol retailer, we want to be a brand that ignites the passion for fine spirits and wine in our customers. What better way to do it than to highlight the leading professionals that make this industry more interesting than any other?
We are proud to announce that in collaboration with various industry leading professionals in the roles of spirit brand ambassadors, hospitality owners, distillers, blenders, bartenders & sommeliers - we are launching a blog interview series!
In these upcoming blog interviews, you will meet the most interesting people this industry has to offer!
A little bit about Ben…
Ben Lobos has undoubtedly proven to be one of the best cocktail bartenders in the Netherlands. He is the winner of the prestigious Diageo World-Class Netherlands competition in 2018. Apart from being a kick-ass cocktail competitor, he has many years of experience as a cocktail shaker and a hospitality manager behind some of the best venues in the country, such as Dr. Rotterdam & Suicide Club. He is also an experienced brand manager and consultant, having worked with some of the premier spirits brands such as de Kuyper, Rutte, Nolet and many more.
Let's get to know Ben Lobos!
How did you start in this industry?
I started when I was 7, working in my Fathers Restaurant in Edinburgh to make some pocket money. After school or on the weekends, I'd be working in the kitchen peeling prawns and potatoes, then later moved up as a waiter. From there I just always had it in me, a passion for the industry, food, providing a good service to others. I then travelled around Europe for a year, trying to ‘escape’ Hospitality, and focus on my Illustration studies, but at the end of that year, I had been asked to come back and work at The Suicide Club, which I did, and from there, really pursued it as a career, later travelling through Central and South America to gather more knowledge on spirits and cultures, and then returned to Rotterdam to join The Dr.
What are some best things you like about your work?
I enjoyed interacting with others, being able to touch someone else's life for a moment, whether that's through educating a guest on a drink or a selection of drinks, or if that's creating a cocktail and seeing their instant enjoyment from that. But it's also being able to create the atmosphere, taking care of someone fully to eventually be in someone's memories as a great night years later.
Which good memory from working in this industry would you like to share with us?
One very obvious one for me is winning World Class 2018 and coming 13th in the World. It was an incredible achievement, and an insane amount of work went into it. From that period, I think serving some of the great in our industry my Zacapa serve, in full performance as The Dr. I took a polaroid picture of all four judges, and later served their drinks on these pictures, but I had made x-rays in advance of people in yoga poses, as I served that drink, everything went right, the room full of laughter and applause, it felt incredible.
What is one fact about you that most people would find surprising?
Hmmm…. I was born in the Highlands of Scotland, to a Chilean father, hence the name Ben Lobos, but Ben in scottish means Mountain, and Lobos in Spanish means Wolf, I always find that kinda cool!
Are there any upcoming hospitality trends that you are excited about?
I’m excited to see how far the pre-mixed cocktail industry will go, I believe it's a very exciting avenue to go down right now, and has been over the past year due to Covid, however, we still find a lot of low abv impressions of classics, which always fall short. It’s something I’ve recently been involved with developing with Williams Canned Cocktails, and I believe we’re onto something special there…
Furthermore, it's not exciting, more highly interesting to see how the industry will cope with a shortage of trained professionals as many have changed careers in the Pandemic… it's going to get interesting for sure.
Which person(s) from your industry should everyone follow or know about? Why?
Oooh, I have a few…
In terms of service, passion, I'd recommend Martin Hudak, he’s a bartender with many accolades, and has recently set up a cocktails and coffee bar in Sydney called Sammy Junior as a spin-off from Maybe Sammy. The later being hands down one of the best experiences I’ve had in a bar.
Hidetsugu Ueno, is a super cool, really classic Japanese bartender, so elegant, very inspiring to watch, hear and follow. Hidetsugu Ueno is one of the most prolific, inspiring and elegant bartenders you will ever see, truly stunning.
I may be a bit biased over, but Loesje Tieleman, owning three venues is incredible, at her age, even more so. The passion, ambition and love for the craft is something to be admired, and the venues are stunning too, every detail is thought of, The Dejuner for breakfast, brunch, Restaurant for dinner and The Bar a Vin for drinks, something for everyone for sure.
The other - Rob Clarijs - he is a coffee geek, in all the best ways! His ambition to boost Coffee knowledge and produce is outstanding, and the products he creates are delicious, one to watch for sure!!
Let’s move onto the spirits! Which ONE spirit category you cannot live without? Why?
Whisky, very simple! I was born and raised in Scotland, and with that, whisky becomes a part of you, it's in the culture, it's in the cuisine, its common conversation in a bar, and it was always traditional in my household, especially with my Grandfather, to enjoy a Whisky and Water (MizuWari). The whisky changed with the seasons, and also the place, for example, in the North, at the family home in summer there would be more highland whisky, and in winter a more heavy, sherry finished island… further south at the family holiday cottage, would be heavier, peated whisky in winter and a delicate lowland whisky in summer. For me, whisky is just that, it can cater for everything, everyone and it's so versatile in flavour and how you can adapt it, from classic drinks such as Old Fashioned, to a more fruity Julep style drinks with heather honey, mint, citrus, or even to something warm like a Hot Toddy, or a Blue Blazer. The liquid can do anything.
What is your top favourite brand(s) of this spirit category? Which releases would you recommend our readers to try?
Ahh, there are too many… I’ve always had a deep seeded love for Johnnie Walker, it is a staple for any home bar, I always pull out a beautiful Apple and Honey from their blends, some not as much as others, but it's always present. Very versatile too, and easy to mix with.
Another blend… i love Douglas Laing, in particular the Yula series, an old blend of whiskies, inspired by the norse gods, incredible, if you ever get the chance, try it!
As for Single Malts, I’ve tried a lot, luckily to have tried some Port Ellen’s, which I'm very excited to see the new releases from the re-opened distillery! Also, Glendronach 18 or 21, deeelicious!
I’ve always been a big fan of peat, so a Laphroig or Coal Ila is always a crowd-pleaser for me.
If you have - one interesting fact you want to share about this spirit category?
The word 'whisky' derives originally from the Gaelic 'uisge beatha', or 'usquebaugh', meaning 'water of life'.
It would be a crime not to ask you more about cocktails! If you had to choose one cocktail to drink for the rest of your life, which one would you choose and why?
Probably a well done Old Fashioned, it would, preferably, be a mix of various Whiskies, some sweeter highland whisky, with a kick of peated Whisky to bring a smoky backbone, perhaps with a nice sherry forward single malt also to bring forward some deeper fruity notes, all mixed down and diluted with a few drops of angostura and simple syrup. Delicious! For me, Whisky has been a big part of my life, it can take me back to good, bad, sad and happy points of my life, and I enjoy being transported back there from time to time, even to the bad times, because it shows you you’ve got through them.
What is your (drinking) guilty pleasure?
I’ve become a bigger fan of simple mixed drinks, a smoky whisky and coca-cola is always nice, Tequila and Tonic Water, and a well done Americano! Simplicity is beautiful!
Any last words?
Keep exploring the wonderful world of Spirits, responsibly of course, and dive into those bottles you’ve been saving, you should enjoy them, that’s what they're made for. Also, it's good to pick up hobbies and explore new skills like mixing drinks at home, but keep supporting your local bars and restaurants, it’s been a tough year globally, but the hospitality industry has taken a beating.
Thank you for your time!
- Library of Spirits
P.S. Big thanks to Ben for allowing us to use his Instagram pictures for this blogpost*
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