This is Audrey Hands, from Toronto, global brand ambassador for Havana Club.
Audrey has been living in Toronto for the last few years but is originally from London. She comes from a very multicultural upbringing. She’s half French and half English, grew up in England, went to the French lycée and spoke English, French and Spanish at home. Audrey studied Spanish and Portuguese Studies at King George College and now also speaks Portuguese and Italian.
Audrey started to work in restaurants when she was 15 years old. She didn’t like school, was quite rebellious, and wanted to be a chef. She started working in kitchens, but that didn’t last long. It was very stressful and Audrey was answering back a little too much. One day, she saw the bartender working. He was beautiful, had a lot of fluidity in his movements, he was mixing things that clearly had an effect on people and he could watch people’s reactions. And that was it, from this moment on Audrey wanted to become a bartender. Of course, she was still a teenager and couldn’t exactly come home to her parents announcing her new choice of career, so she continued working in service until she was finally of age to work behind the bar.
Audrey started in the cocktail world at La Floridita, one of London’s best cocktail bars at the time. The concept was inspired by La Floridita in Havana. They had fifty cocktails on the menu, including twenty-five Cuban classics. The back bar had over three hundred bottles of rum and a great selection of tequila. It was very intense work, but Audrey learned some solid foundations and grew an even thicker skin. It was also there that she met Henry Besant, the co-founder of Altos Tequila, who would later become her mentor. Eventually, Audrey graduated from school, took her backpack, and left for a year traveling around Latin America. One day, she got a call from Henry Besant who had an offer for her in London. She came home, but had quite a culture shock and wasn’t ready to be back in London yet. So she moved to Italy and worked at a jazz bar in Turin. Then again, after some time she got another call from Henry Besant, who once more had a great opportunity for her in London. She came home and opened a five-star hotel under the famous chef Hix in Sloane Square. It was a completely different experience that taught her a lot.
But then one day, Audrey was sitting at a bar and met a guy. They got along, started talking and drinking together, and then the guy offered her a job. Little did she know that her new bar friend just recruited her to work at Truly Happiness, one of London’s best cocktail bars and still one of Audrey’s favorite bars to this day. Of course, she joined the team and had some of her best time working there. Unfortunately, after working there for a while, Audrey went through one of the most difficult experiences of her life when she learned the loss of Henry Besant, her mentor. Audrey was not alone in grief, the whole cocktail community was mourning and a lot of people came to Truly Happiness to remember the deceased since it was one of Besant’s favorite bars. A few months after her loss, she couldn’t take it anymore and had to move on. She got offered a job by Besant’s best friend who was taking over a restaurant group in Australia. Audrey took her backpack once again and went traveling in South East Asia for a while before moving to Sydney.
She was in Australia when she got a call from one of her friends from London, who was a sales rep for Pernod-Ricard, and asked her for her resume. Audrey sent it, thinking she would be offered event work. Little did she know that she was about to be interviewed for the Havana Club brand ambassador role. As the story goes, of course, she got the gig. More than that, when her visa came to an end, she was asked to come back to Europe for some further interviews. Audrey took a month to go travel to Spain, came back to London, and was offered the global brand ambassador role for Havana Club. Of course, she accepted. She was asked to move to Canada and has been living in Toronto since.
As you can see, Audrey’s path in hospitality is intertwined with many tales of travels and impromptu moments. What strikes us most is that on top of having one of the best jobs that our industry offers, Audrey has worked extremely hard to develop her career but also kept true to herself and her passion for travel. She sure has one of those paths that inspire us to reach for what we want, while staying open to what life can bring us. We hope that reading about her story will inspire you as much as it did for us.
For Audrey's cocktail recipe, click here.
A little bit more about Audrey...
The three words that describe her best: Creative – ambitious – polyglot
Life Moto: Everything is possible, but not at the same time.
A fun fact about her: She’s obsessed with headstands.
The biggest lesson that her travels taught her: Interacting with people and learning from them. Very often she likes it when you can’t fully understand each other because it becomes very raw. So observing and sharing energies with people, because they will teach you and they’ll learn from you as well.
Her advice for people that want to explore the brand world: What she loves most about her job is that she really does work and represents a brand that she loves and believes in. And if you’re going into this role, make sure you like it because as a bartender you get to manipulate your time and often you decide for your customers, but in the corporate world you’re not going to be your own boss like when you were a bartender, so make sure you love the brand and the group. Also, something she wished she had been told before, is to make the most of all the learning that you’re going to get because it’s a completely different world and it’s not easy and it’s not always fun but you can get so much out of it. Learn so much and these are skills that you’ll be able to use for everything.