|Start at 14. Most guys probably start around then, just not officially. But if you’re seriously interested in the spirits business—as opposed to just drinking—you can become a Brand Ambassador and travel the world. Like Paul Franich. His official title is “Brand Raconteur”—very classy.
Paul Franich, 42 Below's "Brand Raconteur"
Paul has been training since, as a young teen, he and a friend stole tastes from the friend’s liquor cabinet. The friend’s father was well-traveled, and that’s where Paul started to develop his global tastes.
A few years later, Paul’s older brothers were sneaking him samples when they bartended, and by 15 or 16 Paul was in love with this industry. His brothers went on to become respectable businessmen, Paul reports, but he himself stayed in the bar. Many bars, actually.
After bartending for a number of years in his native New Zealand, Franich moved to New York City in 2004. There, he revived his relationship with the New Zealand brand 42Below which he had helped launch in 2000, while working Wellington NZ.
He has the requisite New Zealand accent to represent 42Below, but he must have something else. He does. He has a philosophy. He maintains: “I’m true to the bartender.” When Paul goes into a new bar, he orders a drink, maybe two or three, and hangs out, scopes things out. He doesn’t announce himself right away as a 42Below representative. “That’s too cocky,” he states. “I want them to see me as a plain person,” he explains, before he starts telling them about the vodka. He travels around the U.S., introducing the four flavors of 42Below vodka, and running cocktail-creating contests for mixologists.
Having been a bartender himself, he also knows how to run a contest. When I met him, he was wearing a dark, slim-cut suit, a white dress shirt and a large black velvet bowtie. I was judging the regional finals of the 42Below Cocktail World Cup in Boston. The Boston bartenders were judged on their presentation of themselves, not just their drinks. Paul told me he looks for someone who can put on a good show. At the ripe old age of 30-something, he’s dismayed when he finds that “personality can be lacking in young bartenders today…I want to be entertained!"
As emcee, Paul set the tone and “put on a good show” himself, that evening in January. Of course it doesn’t hurt that there were carnival contortionists and dancers to inspire the audience as well as the participants; the parent company of 42Below, Bacardi really knows how to party.
Becky Sue Epstein is a Contributing Editor for THE TASTING PANEL. Find her work online at