A Chat with Ann Tuennerman and Daniyel Jones
In honor of Tales of the Cocktail's 15th anniversary, Tales founder Ann Tuennerman is highlighting fifteen bartenders whose lives and careers have been impacted by attending the event, and whose work has elevated the industry as a whole. This installment spotlights Daniyel Jones, a cocktail entrepreneur, brand ambassador for Angostura and winner of numerous cocktail competitions.
Where were you born and raised?
Trinidad and Tobago
What attracted you to becoming a bartender in the first place?
A dream to one day have my own fine dining restaurant led me to pursue my B.Sc. Hospitality and Tourism. While at school, I intentionally applied to work at restaurants so as to gain experience, knowing one day I would have my own establishment. I got a position at TGI Friday's, which started my path to becoming a bartender.
Was it planned or was it a temporary gig that evolved into a career?
In some ways it was planned; however, it was also an innate connection. I was at school during the day and worked nights. I was motivated to learn all the facets of the restaurants operations, as I believed it would mold me into a successful restaurant owner since I would be able to understand the challenges and significance of the employees who are in direct contact with and delivering the final product to the customers. The plan was to learn both the front- and back-of-house duties. My first position was a waiter, and I would get to work early to prep my station and then go into the bar and assist with the prep to accelerate the learning process. Three months later, moving into the bar proved more challenging than expected. I accepted the challenge with an agenda to succeed before moving to back-of-house. However, I was more deeply drawn into the beauty of the art of bartending as I additionally pursued online programs, short courses and built a library in an attempt to master it.
What and where was your first bartending job?
I started at TGI Friday's where I did flaring, wild blue and fun cocktails and beer service. As I built a reputation on the island, I was offered a position as head bartender by the island's top three chefs for a fine dining restaurant that was in the process of opening. The name of the restaurant was "Jaffa," a term in the sport cricket that meant "perfect." They had the largest wine list on the island and a strong classic pre-prohibition style cocktail menu. This brought me closer to my dream and continued to fuel my passion and motivation as a bartender.
Was there a moment when you decided that bartending would be your career?
I felt good at it, and most importantly, happy. "A path is chosen when you align your heart to your dream".
Was your family supportive of your decision to pursue bartending?
My mother, a single parent of four kids (me being the eldest), always encouraged us to pursue our dreams. Being the eldest from as young as 6 years old, I embodied the mentality of "man of the house," and always felt it was my responsibility to lead by example. Hence, I stayed away from alcohol and did not get involved with any drugs. To this day I still believe in having control of myself; as such I have no drunken stories to share. The world of drink is a culinary exploration for me. Though I made a cocktail for her only once last year, my mom knew I was not in pursuit of a vice but a career and continues to fully support me. She's an amazing woman and her support has been a pillar of strength in the challenging moments. My siblings, too, all continue to show their love and support respectively.
For someone who wants to pursue bartending as a career, what top three tips would you offer?
- Knowledge: equip yourself to continuous learning.
- Hospitality is the core of this industry. You need to love it.
- Discipline is required to master your craft: "Discipline is the bridge between Goals and Accomplishments".
How did you first learn about Tales of the Cocktail?
I believe I had an exceptional introduction meeting Ann personally before knowing about TOTC. This gave me an opportunity to witness the beauty of heart and character of the person behind such an integral and monumental movement in our industry. Ann was one of the judges for the Angostura Global Cocktail Challenge in 2013 where I competed, so I got to spend some time with her before knowing about the event. Since then I have been to all TOTC Nola and Tour series.
Were there any challenges you had to overcome to attend Tales the first time (financial, logistical, etc.)?
The mechanics, team and leadership of Tales is one to admire. I am thankful for the opportunity as brand ambassador for the House of Angostura, since preparations for my accommodations were always taken care of by the company. I can reassure you that even if I had to make arrangements independently, I would not miss TOTC.
Kindly describe your first Tales experience and what it meant to you.
I always smile every time I think of it ... I was in full groupie mode. I remember while walking to my seminars seeing so many of my mentors and industry leaders, so I was requesting pics with everyone. Tales holds such sentiments to my personal journey in this industry. It marks a milestone in my growth as an Ambassador and with every Tales, I am fueled to become better than I was last year.
What was it like to be immersed in the community of bartenders and
cocktail luminaries from all over the world? Did it confirm bartending
as your calling?
Oh indeed! My confirmation was achieved long before. However, my paradigm was significantly widened being among such a global expanse of persons involved in this industry. I am thankful for the vision of Ann and the diligence of the Tales team.
Kindly describe your top three favorite moments from Tales.
This is a great reflection down memory lane!
- Seeing Ann again since her visit to Trinidad at Tales on Tour Buenos Aries, being a part of and witnessing the beauty of TOTC.
- My first seminar: Listening to a Phillip Duff presentation for the first time at TOTC Nola 2013 on "Running Your Own Bar." His dynamism, charisma and content translation was impressive and inspiring.
- Being an award recipient at Spirited Awards 2015. The true charm of this experience was not just standing on the stage that night: it was walking into rehearsals among many of my mentors. I always give thanks for the amazing experience to share such a moment with my mentors, some of whom I can now call friends.
Kindly describe any awards or recognition you received at Tales.
Receiving the award with the team for Amaro Di Angostura was a thrill. The Spirited Awards are just shy of the Oscars (not that I have been to the Oscars); the level of production is phenomenal. From the social media build up, to the actual award hand-over and photo op, it is a memorable experience.
How has receiving awards energized your career overall, and what opportunities have flowed as a result of your winning?
Upon winning the Angostura Global Cocktail Challenge 2013 I became the Global Brand Ambassador for the House of Angostura, and since then they have continued to keep me on board. The gratitude I feel everyday is heartfelt. My dream has evolved from not just wanting my own restaurant but now to becoming the best Brand Ambassador I can be. I am a Caribbean bartender who was given an enormous opportunity. I have been able to travel to so many countries, visit many of the top bars and bartenders globally and be placed on a podium to express my passion. With diligence my opportunities grow. As such, I am on a path to grow with each activity and to learn quickly from each mistake made. Humility allows me to listen more, and with discipline I see success in my career.
Kindly describe your top behind-the-bar experience where you impacted or inspired a guest?
I have been blessed to serve many guests from bars around the world. As a brand ambassador, you become a bartender with the added responsibility to entice your respective audience to your brand. One memorable moment was a private tasting in Tel Aviv in an underground wine cellar for 15 high-end whiskey clientele. As they entered, I made some Angostura 1824 rum old-fashioneds and 1919 Daiquiris -- I was forewarned that they may not be too receptive to rum. When I started bartending, I adopted the principle of always giving every guest the best service possible with no preferential treatment to wealth or status. This allowed me to develop a stronger connection to the art of the craft and the emotional intelligence in tandem to hospitality. This group was so excited from the opening cocktail to every range of rum featured in the tasting. The room was filled with smiles, and everyone purchased the full range to carry home. There are many more moments like these, and for all of them I am thankful for the success and immediate satisfaction I witness from each guest.
Kindly describe any key professional relationships that were forged at
Tales through networking with fellow bartenders, spirits luminaries and
Through Tales I met Phillip Duff, who to this day is a mentor, and I had the pleasure working with him on some activities for the House Of Angostura. Through Tales I have built many friendships from Argentina, Dubai, Italy, Greece, Brazil, Russia and more. When I visit those countries for work, I am welcomed not just as a brand ambassador, but as a friend.
How would you sum up Tales to an aspiring bartender who is new to the profession?
Tales of the Cocktail is a platform to cultivate growth, inspire visions, build global connections and strengthen the knowledge base for any bartender. It is the place to be confirm your aspirations to be a bartender and to develop your career as one.
What is your go-to cocktail when you go out?
Oh wow ... I have been asked this so many times, and truth be told I am selective on moods:
Warm sunny day: Queens Park Swizzle
Night out for drinks:1919 Daiquiri
Cigar with drinks, day/night: 1824 old-fashioned
Late night and early morning refresher: Amaro Espresso Swizzle
However I will say if every bar I walked into I am given a Queens Park Swizzle with Angostura 7-Year rum ... it would be a great night!
What is your favorite cocktail to make for friends and family?
An Amaro Espresso Swizzle:
When we launched Amaro Di Angostura in Europe the first stop was Milan. There I witnessed the love for Amaro and coffee; Cafè Corretto, and with the global popularity of the espresso martini, I was inspired to create an
"Amaro Espresso Swizzle."
Ingredients: 60ml Amaro Di Angostura, 20ml coffee liqueur, 20ml espresso brewed coffee, 10ml Falernum syrup.
Garnish: Freshly grated nutmeg, cinnamon stick and whole aniseed.
Swizzle all ingredients well until glass is ice-cold and frosted. Pack glass with more crushed ice and garnish with freshly grated nutmeg, cinnamon stick and whole aniseed.