This is Juan Bolivar, from Calgary, Activation Manager for Diageo Reserve.
Juan is 39 years old. He has a three years old daughter named Elisa and is originally from Venezuela. He has a bachelor’s degree in Agronomics and Engineering and has been living in Canada for three years now.
Juan started to work in the spirits industry at university. His internship was at a rum distillery. He spent the first few months working in the distillery and rapidly moved to the commercial side of the business. He started working as a trade marketing, then moved to higher positions and ended up taking care of international markets. He worked for that distillery for eight years.
When he moved to Canada, the first thing he did was to go on Linked In, contact professionals from the spirits industry, and invite them for coffees. That way, he got to learn a lot about how the industry worked here. Eventually, he applied for the Diageo Reserve Activation Manager position and got it. Very simply put, what he does is similar to what brand ambassadors do, but with high-end retail rather than bars and restaurants. Since Alberta has only private liquor stores, some of the retail is very high-end.
Juan got into cocktails back when he was working for the Venezuelan rum distillery. While being an ambassador for international markets, he would travel everywhere and go to some of the best cocktail bars around the world. Then for this job, he started to learn about cocktails as a way to create a connection for consumers between brands and consumption missions. Often, the best way to enjoy the spirits that we buy in retail is to bring them home and make nice cocktails with them. So Juan wants to show people that it’s actually simple to make cocktails and that people don’t need to be professional mixologists to have fun and make delicious drinks.
If Juan still loves engineering, his love for spirits is definitely where his passion lies. Even more so, Juan is deeply passionate about the aging process of spirits: the barrels, the bodegas, the blending, etc. To him, that process is almost magical: “There is no machine that could achieve what master blenders do. It’s the only stage where humans are not disposable”. Overall, talking to him was very inspiring if only because of his deep understanding of spirits and contagious passion for our industry. If cocktails are the focus for a lot of us, we hope that learning about his path will inspire you to explore the world of spirits furthermore.
A little bit more about Juan...
The three words that describe him best: stubborn – happy – passionate
The first book that helped him learn about cocktails: El Mercado, from Rafael Osterling
A piece of advice for people that want to explore the production side of spirits: Try to get your feet in all the distilleries that you can. You will understand a lot more about the products that you love and the spirits categories as a whole. You can feel the smell, meet the people behind, and experience these things that you cannot feel or see in a bottle from the store. It will help you connect with the product and connect that experience with your creations.
One thing to do on his life to-do list: “I try to live under the pursue of happiness. I try to see the happy or positive side of every situation. Happiness, for most people, is underrated. They put a lot of other things above it. I try to be the opposite. My main goal is to be happy, and whatever I do is around that big goal and has to target that goal. And I make decisions around that.”
The first drink that made him fall in love with cocktails: The Old Fashion or the daiquiri.