Interview: Yvonne Gray

Chelsey had the chance to chat to Yvonne Gray following the commencement of Appleton Estate Rum’s fifth Cocktail Invitational. Yvonne Gray from Queenstown’s Bar Up was the South Island regional winner; she’s proof that women are holding their own in the craft of cocktail making. 

Congratulations on being crowned the South Island’s Appleton Estate cocktail-making champion! How does it feel to beat out the other talented bar tenders? 

I was really shocked, I didn’t expect to win. I feel really privileged.

Have you been bartending for long? 

For about 6 years.

You winning cocktail was called ‘Culo Divertimento’, what was your inspiration for this drink? 

We had Appleton Estate training in Christchurch which improved my product knowledge and flavour combinations. You also want a drink that is going to appeal to your customers so I took that into consideration when I was experimenting recipes.

Aside from your own creation, Culo Divertimento, what’s your favourite cocktail to use Appleton Estate Jamaica Rum in? 

It depends which Appleton Rum I am using. If I was using the 12-Year-Old a Treacle* works really well. (*A Treacle is a Cocktail which consists of Dark Rum, Sugar, Bitters, and Apple Juice)

How important are quality ingredients when it comes to cocktail making? 

Cocktail bartenders are quite like chefs, you always want to use the best quality and freshest ingredients available.

Have you entered any cocktail or bartending competitions before? How did you do? 

I did a few in Edinburgh, although one time the cocktail shaker opened on me whilst full throw and that kind of put me off doing another one. At least I was good entertainment value for spectators!

Unfortunately you didn’t win the Grand Final prize of the Appleton Estate Jamaica Rum 2011 Bartender Tour to Jamaica. Will you enter again next year for another chance? 

Yes I’ll definitely give it another go! It’s good fun and you can learn tricks of the trade from the other bartenders competing.

You’ve been in New Zealand working for Queenstown’s Bar Up for one and a half years. Do you hope to use your bartending and cocktail skills to travel more of the world? 

If the opportunity arises to travel and hone my skills more - then of course!

What advice about using rum in cocktails would you give to aspiring bartenders around the country? 

Keep an open mind and don’t be afraid to experiment!

Do you have a favourite bar around the world? 

The Raconteur, Stockbridge, Edinburgh. I definitely miss it. There is a real warm and friendly atmosphere when you walk in the bar which makes you feel at home. I have never been disappointed with the cocktails.

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