Ambassador. A title which does very little to hide its importance. Even the official definition is just as grand as you might imagine:
noun / an official envoy; especially: a diplomatic agent of the highest rank accredited to a sovereign as the resident representative of his or her own sovereign
Replace one sovereign with alcohol brand and the other sovereign with the general public, and you have the definition in the context of the bar and restaurant industry, where most companies have an official spokesperson that represents their company officially and unofficially at all times.
And while some of the regality of the position is undoubtedly traded for good times … the stakes are just as high, as the benefactors of their services are some of the most powerful liquor conglomerates in the world.
In the case of Absolut they chose longtime mixologist Kristen Schaeffer. After many years behind the stick she was heading the inaugural mixology program at The Cosmopolitan when the Swedish vodka giant came calling. And the offer was a double honor as she was nominated by her predecessor, renowned mixologist Bobby Gleason, who had mentored her as an up and coming Las Vegas barkeep.
She admits the transition was surprisingly challenging, with the main difference being that while FOH positions end with the shift … the ambassador role does not.
“In operations you can relax once you leave work. This job is non-stop 7 days a week.
Every social outing, whether its business or pleasure, is an opportunity to represent your brand. There is never a time when you are in public that you can’t be on”, says Kristen.
Another challenge is the fact that you create your own schedule. Because while this is everyone’s occupational goal at first glance, it does introduce a new set of responsibilities in that it is solely up to you to stay on task. Especially considering the workload, which despite what most people think consists of much more than simply partying and attending red carpet events.
In actuality the day to day demands of the position are much more traditional than people realize. She has a quota of both account visits and events, which range from dinners to the grandest of spectacles. And every last detail must be planned and executed by Kristen.
The responsibility gives Kristen a great deal of flexibility in terms of the experiences she is able to create. One of her favorites brought an elite group of bartenders and mixologists together for a night of re-creating the original Absolut paintings of Andy Warhol (who was the first artist contracted by Absolut). It of course helps that her employer is an avid supporter of fashion, art and music.
But no amount of fun makes the laundry list of meetings, budgets and reports any more glamourous.
“Most people never see the Kristen that spends hours each day at my computer.”
Even with all the office work Kirsten has no complaints, as the pros of are every bit as cool as you would imagine. Traveling to amazing locations, rubbing elbows with celebrities and enjoying the best restaurants and bars in the world are all included in her list of job duties.
She jokingly describes “the travel, drinking and eating” as the best and worst parts of her job.
Balancing this extravagance is the education, training and menu creation that is also essential to the position, as she is constantly educating bar teams and coming up with new drinks for various events.
Yet despite all the glitz and glam, when asked of her fondest memory to date the red carpet experiences all took a back seat to something rooted in much more modest circumstance.
It was her first big event and Absolut wanted 50 of Las Vegas’ most influential members of the bar community not only attend … but be on time (gasp!). This was basically the old crew from her bartending days, who to all their credits haven’t unanimously shown up to anything, let alone been on time, since their last court date.
But when the time came not only did everyone show, but they made it for the photo ops. The event told the history of Absolut through the recreation of an entire Swedish village, wherein each intricately designed Stupa (a traditional Swedish hut) told a different story of Sweden and Absolut.
Needless to say it was a success.
And it was bonds forged behind the bar that helped usher her into the Ambassador she is today, reminding her of one of the things she misses most about the front of the house.