Up close with a whisky ambassador

October 29, 2016 01:00 PM
“Bartenders are doing amazing things with whisky these days.“

I sat down this month with Gabriel Cardarella, North American Brand Ambassador for the Bacardi Whisky Portfolio to talk about life, work and his personal preferences. Gabe lives in Miami, but travels the entire United States advocating for scotch and whisky and we wanted to know more.

Bar Charts: How long have you been a Whisky Ambassador?

Gabriel Cardarella: Seven years, one month, 12 days.

BC: How did you end up as a Whisky Ambassador?

GC: I’ve never been one to lead a typical lifestyle. I’m not sure what typical would’ve been either to be honest. I came from a small town in Ohio where the path seemed to be one of lots of routines. I decided at an early age not to have my life disrupted by a routine. So far so good. 

BC: Did you have any education or training that made you suited for this role?

GC: Formally I’ve spent the last seven years studying whisky and training under our Master Blender for Dewar’s. But, anyone can be taught the process of distilling and aging whisky and go regurgitate that to the masses. What can’t be taught is passion. I am lucky to work for a whisky portfolio that is utterly authentic and when I tell you about our whisky, I’m talking about much more than liquid in a bottle. I’m talking about 170 years of experience, history and heritage. My job has become not just a whisky expert, but raconteur as well.

BC: Have you always loved Scotch/whiskey?

GC: I’ve been fond of the category since Jan. 15, 2003 (my 21st birthday). Honestly, my whisky journey likely began with Jack Daniels and coke in college, which sparked general interest in the brown spirits category and, as my palette and my wallet evolved so did my experimentation with other types of whisky from around the world. Scotch is some of the most sought after whisky in the world, so I knew that was the goal – drink scotch. 

BC: How do you describe what you do?

GC: Raconteur, educator, modern gypsy

BC: What is your favorite part of the job?

GC: Being paid to travel the world and share stories over great whisky.

BC: When you aren’t drinking Scotch, what do you prefer to drink?

GC: Water, soy lattes, green tea, and beer I can ignore. 

BC: How do you like to drink Scotch best? 

GC: All personal preference and mood-based really. Bartenders are doing amazing things with whisky these days. I’m always blown away by some of the things they’re creating. I like a good highball or ice in my whisky as a really refreshing way to enjoy Scotch. But if I’m discovering a whisky for the first time, I’ll drink it neat, adding water along the way to reveal what the blender or distiller is trying to tell me about their whisky.

BC: What’s the difference between blended Scotches vs. single malts?

GC: Single malt whisky is blended whisky. The difference is not quality of the spirits. Single malt is multiple casks from a single distillery, whereas blended whisky is multiple casks from multiple distilleries. So it’s not single malt vs. blends, it just depends what you’re in the mood for. If you choose one over the other, you’re missing out on some fantastic liquid.  

BC: Do you have a favorite book or resource tool for learning more about Scotch?

GC: Visiting Scotland is my best resource for learning about Scotch, but I always lean on writers like Dave Broome and Charlie Mclean as well as a number of other great writers and blog spots. 

BC: What are some of your favorite Scotch cocktails.

GC: When I was in Curacao I was given a Dewar’s 12-year and coconut water, which really changed how I felt about how to enjoy whisky. It was a really refreshing take on drinking scotch, but for me, I like my cocktails to mostly taste like the spirit that’s in it – Dewar’s (12-year) old fashioned, skip the cherry, or even a Dewar’s White Label highball.

BC: What is the best time of year to visit Scotland?

GC: Any time, bring a coat

About the Author

Hillary Choo is an award-winning mixologist, brand ambassador and former bartender. Hillary has received multiple recognitions, most recently Top Ten Mixologists in Miami by The Miami New Times in 2013 and Bartender of the Year Miami by Eater. Hillary is Portfolio Ambassador Miami for Bacardi USA. Follow Instagram at HillaryChoo. @ohillaryo