Editor’s Note

There was a time in history when it was illegal for women to sit at a bar and have a drink, and working in a bar was even considered a felony. Yep ladies, we have come a long way. Thanks to the many women who have shaped how we drink today, we are now more than able to enjoy a glass or two of our favorite tipple anywhere and whenever we want, and women are more than welcome to hold the stick and create their signature cocktails behind the bar.

March 8 celebrates International Women’s Day, and a lot of women fueled events will be taking place worldwide, some countries even made it a national holiday where offices and schools are closed to celebrate the women in their lives. At DrinkManila.com. we want to honor the many women who are breaking barriers and creating a gender-equal environment in a male-dominated drink world.

Read about our feature on women bartenders working behind the bar in leading local hotels, bars, and restaurants. And learn about some of the influential women in our local drink industry

Today is also a day to thank the many men who have encouraged, mentored, and continued to support all the women in the drink world. Cheers!

Tatum Ancheta I editor-in-chief

Women & Tipple

Photographs by Star Sabroso • Shot on location at Discovery Primea’s 1824 Whisky and Cigar Bar and Edge • Special thanks to Margaux, Lennon, Edraine, Queenzy, and Camille

Bel S. Castro

Assistant Dean I College of Hospitality Management, Enderun Colleges

Bel’s commanding presence can be intimidating to most. Being one of the founding faculty members of Enderun Colleges, she is one of the people who has shaped the minds of people from F&B industry that have passed through the colleges’ hallowed halls to go through their beverage program and get their WSET (Wine & Spirits Education Trust) certifications, which Enderun introduced to the country in 2014. They’ve educated approximately over 400 people already.

Her background is in advertising, and midway through her career, decided to go client-side and also wanted to tool up, so she got her Master’s Degree Gastronomy from Le Cordon Bleu in the University of Adelaide in Australia. One of her courses was about wine and spirits, and that’s how she first began approaching it intellectually. “You have the method, and the science, and the geography, and history, all of that,” she shares. “I left corporate and got into teaching. I’ve been teaching for 15 years now.”

She gets to slowly but surely improve the quality of the bar and restaurant scene through teaching, as her former students go on to open establishments. “Their approach to their wine and spirits program are much smarter, savvier, because they know their product,” she says. “In the old days, you pretty much put on your table whatever the distributor sold you. And you see the last ten years that the quality of the beverages that are on the market now has gone up quite a bit. Also before, people just downed shots, now they taste it. And there are far more tasting classes, wine dinners, and other drink events.” she adds.

When it comes to buying wine, women are the ones who go to the store to purchase wines, because they’re the ones doing the shopping. “Maybe in the restaurant, it’s etiquette that the guy might order the wine, but in store, mostly females buy the wine,” she observes. “It’s only when it comes to the ultra-expensive wines that the guys come themselves because they want to see the actual bottle.”

Bel sees more representation for women in the wine world. “I can only speak for wine, and there’s a strong female presence on the corporate side, even in Asia,” she observes. “The first Master of Wine in Asia is female, Jeannie Cho Lee. And the youngest MW (Master of Wine) in the world right now is Sarah Heller.

There are general challenges that Asians face though, regardless of gender. “Since we didn’t grow up in a wine country, we have to prove our competency and that we know what we’re talking about and one way of doing that is to get certified,” she says.

What can you advice aspiring women who would like to pursue a career in the drink world?

Tool up. Certification is one pathway. Getting the right employer is another one. Learn your stuff and research. Once you know more about a product, you become a smarter buyer. And if you’re a smarter buyer, I would like to think you also become a smarter seller.

Where do you go for decent drinks in the Philippines, or abroad?

I generally like drinking at home, where I can open a good bottle of wine in the conditions that I like, and enjoy it the way I like it.

Olga Azarcon

Managing Director I Moet Hennessy Philippines Inc

Olga Azarcon’s journey in the wines and spirit industry has come full circle. After traveling and discovering vineyards and distilleries in college, she joined Jardine Caldbeck to gain more experience in wines and spirits before working at Moet Hennessy Asia Pacific in sales and marketing. “I used to sell our bottles and now manage people to sell the products,” she says. ”What I love about my job now is the opportunity to mentor people. I am protective of my team and have invested much in building trust and camaraderie with each of the MHPI staff. It allows me to work with different groups of people, clients, customers, and media, some of which have become good friends. For the past 23 years, not only have I built the market for Moet-Hennessy products in the Philippines, but I have consistently exceeded our business targets.”

Olga acknowledges the difficulty of being a woman in a male-dominated field. “Just like in any industry dominated by men, women are outnumbered and forced to speak louder or work harder to shine,” she says. But she also sees the balance between the assets that women and men bring to the table. “As a premium luxury company, Moet Hennessy focuses on the experiences associated with our products. You pop the best champagne (be it Moet, Dom Perignon or Krug) when you celebrate with friends, or you share a bottle of fine Hennessy Cognac or Glenmorangie Single Malt when you entertain your top business partners,” she explains. “It is in this aspect that being a woman is an advantage. A man and a woman usually complement each other when entertaining guests. Each one has its own strength.”

What can you advice aspiring women who would like to pursue a career in the drink world?

If you really want to be in the industry, I’d say go for it! Strengthen your people skills as It’s very social in nature – you get to meet and work with all sorts of people from different fields. Attention to detail is crucial as work focuses on engaging and delivering the best experiences to your customers. Be prepared to travel to learn about the brands you work with. But most importantly, be ready for all the hard work to face the ever-changing consumer and competitor landscape. Work with brands you love, work for a team who you will learn from.

What do you like to drink?
Different occasions call for different drink preference. My go-to drink depends on who I am with, the occasion we are celebrating or venue where we are drinking. The Moet-Hennessy portfolio brands are very versatile like Hennessy Cognac, Glenmorangie Single Malts, Cloudy Bay Wines and our range of Champagne brands such as Dom Perignon, Moët & Chandon, and Veuve Clicquot.

On a regular day, I usually start with Champagne. It’s a very versatile drink that can be taken as an aperitif or paired with a meal from starter to dessert. It can be consumed on any occasion at any time of the day. One of my favorites is Moët Ice Imperial, the first champagne especially created to be served on ice. It’s perfect for brunch, as afternoon cocktails, or even for parties. Then during dinner depending on the cuisine, I will go for Hennessy Cognac or wines and then end the night with vodka or single malt.

Where do you go for decent drinks in the Philippines, or abroad?

We go to our partner establishments in the country or overseas. I usually hop from one outlet to another to experience the different offers of our partners. Again, a decent drink is not all about the bottle; it is the ultimate experience provided by the staff, the quality of the brand that you consume and the people you share it with. Also, working with an international company allows you to have VIP access in the trendiest outlets around the world.

Vanee Gosiengfiao

General Manager I Diageo Philippines

Diageo’s General Manager Vanee Gosiengfiao got into the world’s largest producer of spirits even though she admitted that she only drank Bailey’s at the time. That didn’t stop her from succeeding in the industry. “I am proud to be the first Filipina GM (general manager) of Diageo, making a difference in what was previously a male-dominated industry,” shares Vanee. She thrives in the pace, challenges, and dynamism of her career. “Most of all, I love that I get to go to the bar at our office every day!”

Vanee notes that while women are getting a foothold in the field, there are still some lingering stereotypes against women. “I am against portraying women as sex symbols in advertising and promotions,” she observes. “This is still being done in the industry, and that is why I am proud that Diageo globally has put standards in place for the protection of female promoters, so they are not abused in the trade.”

What can you advice aspiring women who would like to pursue a career in the drink world?
There is more diversity in the industry now, so go ahead and pursue your passion!

What do you like to drink?
Tanqueray 10 and tonic.

Where do you go for decent drinks in the Philippines, or abroad?
I just love finishing work at the end of the day and going to our new office bar. (For those who are interested, we would love to host you at Ore Building, BGC).

Gail Sotelo

Owner of 2shotsandapint.com | Beverage and Restaurant Consultant | Beverage Writer | Part-Time Instructor for the WSET Program, Enderun Colleges

Between consulting for restaurants, contributing to several online publications, and helping out in the WSET (Wine & Spirit Education Trust) at Enderun Colleges, Gail Sotelo accidentally put up a beverage site, 2shotsandapint.com. A self-confessed geek, Gail loves the multidisciplinary aspect of wine, which is her specialty. “For me, wine is a mix of biology, chemistry, languages, culture, history, geography, and even maths (which I’ve discovered in a book I’m reading right now about mathematical equations used for determining harvest),” she shares.

The worse challenges she faced in the industry involve women and not men. “I’ve received more flak and gossip from women, including comparisons, how I should do my job, how I should look, how I should speak and who I should speak to, and how I should treat other women as competition,” Gail recounts. “It honestly makes me sad.”

Gail thinks that being a woman in the alcohol industry is a matter of perception. “It sounds a little strange, but I’m of the school of thought that gender should not be a factor affecting the way I see my industry or the work I chose to do,” she adds.

“One of the reasons why I’m excited to do this with DrinkManila is that I am a firm believer in having as many voices, men and women alike, as possible in the alcohol industry, and there is so much room for that.”

What can you advice aspiring women who would like to pursue a career in the drink world?

I’d advise women looking into a career in the drink world to be smart about it. Getting certifications and further education, in general, is rarely disputable, no matter what gender or race you are. Surround yourself with people who you can learn from and will support you, then be generous with what you’ve learned. Also, this is not an easy industry to be in, so work hard, keep learning, stay passionate, and have fun.

What do you like to drink?

I know I’m incredibly predictable, but I like drinking wine (my go-to wine of the moment is a proper Provence Rosé because it’s getting warmer in Manila). I had an excellent conversation recently with Estampa Wine’s Cristián Mubert, where he said that wine is like an ambassador of its origins. I love exploring different regions and cultures, and I’ve always found that each wine is a reflection of the winemaker and its physical surroundings as evidenced by the way it smells, tastes, and pairs with food.

Where do you go for decent drinks in the Philippines, or abroad?

I’m a huge fan of Discovery Primea’s Gilarmi Lounge because I can play around with their gin buffet, and I’ve always been in love with Kath Eckstein’s bartending skills, so Dulo MNL is another favorite. I also get cerebral in Yoi sake bar through deep conversations on sake with Tadeo Chua, and EO (Employees Only) in Manhattan is the place to be for proper cocktails (all the legendary bartenders in the city go there for their drinks, so that speaks volumes about the place).

For wine, my all time favorite place is my friend’s parents’ house in Angers (Loire Valley, France) because, for me, it’s a true reflection of what wine drinking should be: generous, warm, gastronomic, mildly erudite, cultural.

The Women Behind Don Papa Rum 

Monica Llamas-Garcia, Erica Larkins, and Cristhel Molina

Monica Llamas-Garcia

Communications Director and Co-Founder I Bleeding Heart Rum Company

Monica Llamas-Garcia worked as a professional event host and actor for screen and stage and was the Public Art Program Manager of Bonifacio Art Foundation Inc (BAFI) before working for Don Papa Rum full time. I jumped at the chance to be part of the development and eventual launch Don Papa Rum because the idea of creating a global Philippine premium product and brand intrigued me and captured my imagination,” she shares. “There is never a dull moment. Creativity just flows.”

Monica’s experience as a woman in the industry hasn’t been that difficult. “Perhaps it’s because from the get-go we made a conscious decision to approach the market differently,” she muses. “We were not about to use “sex” or “sexy women” to sell our product. And perhaps, I personally don’t take crap from anybody, and they know it!”

“I encounter a lot of women in positions of power in the industry,” she adds. “In marketing, in distribution. My husband (who is also co-founder of Don Papa) had remarked that we encounter many husband and wife teams. And wives sometimes actually take the leadership role where their husbands answer to them!”

“Maybe there just needs to be more awareness that it is a viable career path for women,” Monica says about bartending. “We started Don Papa with a female mixologist creating our first signature drinks. She was and is great! Having Kath Eckstein create our drinks didn’t prove a barrier at all. It was the opposite, we had media outlets that wouldn’t pay attention to spirits suddenly took notice.”

“In no shape or form am I oblivious to how tough things are for women,” she clarifies. “But in the same vein, I believe women have made great strides. We need to keep on supporting each other and propping each other up. And kudos as well to the men who recognize that we also can make an impact on the drinks industry.”

What can you advice aspiring women who would like to pursue a career in the drink world?

Approach it as you would any job you pursue. Do not use “being a woman” as a crutch or be apologetic that you are a woman. Be confident in what you bring to the table. If you are the most qualified person for the job, then make it known. Command respect and people will respect you. Be kind, smile, laugh. The drinks industry is a social industry. It promotes good times. Remember always to have fun.

What do you like to drink?

Wine for every day. An Aperol spritz is nice on a lazy hot afternoon. And to be honest, Don Papa on the rocks is something I quite enjoy, especially to unwind. Gin and tonic or a gin Martini are also something I would also order.

Where do you go for decent drinks in the Philippines, or abroad?

I plead the fifth on this one!

Cristhel ‘Cri’ Molina 

Senior Brand Manager – Global Travel Retail, NPD I Bleeding Heart Rum Company 

Cri Molina has been in the spirits industry for eight years, but she was on track to becoming a doctor and was studying medicine for a year and a half before realizing that it wasn’t her calling. After being exposed to the world of spirits by working for the biggest nightclub in the country, she got the brand manager position for Bleeding Heart Rum Company, makers of Don Papa Rum. She’s been making her way up ever since. She now manages the new product development for Don Papa Rum and will be relocating to the UK to head Global Travel Retail.

“What I love the most is being able to keep innovating and creating flavors and textures that are unique and complex,” she declares. “Creating and developing brands and products has become my passion over the years. I also love meeting different kinds of people in this industry from bartenders, to bar owners, decision makers, producers, innovators, and even consumers. It’s all about stories that they share that enrich my experience as a professional in this industry.“

She finds being a woman in the alcohol industry very empowering. “I’m able to show what I am capable of achieving in a male-dominated world,” Cri says. Starting in the industry had its challenges as well. “People had a hard time taking me seriously because I was so young and petite. I started working for the industry when I was 23,” she recounts. “I remember my very first wine and spirits trade show. I was behind our booth, passionately talking about our product and people were automatic to assume that I was a promo girl.”

Working hard and being educated in everything that revolves around the business helped her develop confidence. “I studied MBA, I took a distilling class in Scotland, and I continue to familiarize myself with what is out there and what else can I learn from,” she shares.

Having a more diverse spirits industry is a great thing. “More female bartenders or master blenders or spirits makers always provide a different perspective into something that already exists,” Cri adds. “I’m not saying women are better than men, but I think together, we can always enrich this industry and what we’re giving to our customer’s experience.

What can you advice aspiring women who would like to pursue a career in the drink world?

Confidence and persistence are key. In this day and age, gender is something that shouldn’t be considered as an obstacle in pursuing your passion.

What do you like to drink?

I’m deeply rooted in whisky and rum. So for me, it’s always a choice of a very peated single malt whisky, or a good sipping rum that makes my day. But of course, it’s a case to case basis.

Where do you go for decent drinks in the Philippines, or abroad?

My favorite bars in the Philippines include ABV, Curator, Oto, and the Riedel Room. These bars have a great selection of spirits, great ambiance, and of course amazing cocktails! Overseas, I’m a big fan of Japanese bars like Bar Tram, Bar High Five, and this tiny Jazz bar called Shinya +1 out in Golden Gai, Shinjuku. My favorite has to be the Shinya +1 because the owner is the bartender himself. It only seats eight people maximum, and he has a collection of vintage spirits ranging from the 1920s up to the 1980s.

Erica Larkins

Brand Manager I Bleeding Heart Rum Company  

Erica Larkins’ career in the industry started in college when she joined the Wings Team of Red Bull Energy Drink. “Holding a position for this brand somewhat opened the opportunity for me to indirectly be exposed to the spirits world due to Red Bull’s affinity with the night scene,” she says. After a brief stint in fashion retail, she learned of the opportunity at Don Papa two years ago, applied, and eventually hired as Brand Manager.

“I love the fact that the knowledge and experience I get out of what I do is endless,” she says about her job. “There is so much room for growth as I am challenged with so many things that make me better at my craft as I progress with my career.”

“I remember when I was starting in the industry, some people did not take me seriously as the common perception is that women are not natural experts at spirits or generally in this industry,” Erica recounts.

While she did encounter some challenges, in the beginning, she does see that being a woman in the industry has advantages. “I think that the perception of women in this industry is not something that is known to be conventional, which makes it even more interesting and refreshing in my perspective. In a way, I see it as a great opportunity to empower other women to pursue their passion,” she adds.

What can you advice aspiring women who would like to pursue a career in the drink world?

I say that they should not give in to the pressures of stereotypes. Pursue your passion and work hard to succeed in it.

What do you like to drink?

I like drinking my favorite spirits – rum, gin and tequila on its own or just with soda water or tonic. I like my drinks simple and straightforward.

Where do you go for decent drinks in the Philippines, or abroad?

There are so many great places to go here in the Philippines, but my favorites would be Oto, Curator, and Hacienda. I like not just the drinks, but I also love the ambiance and the whole feel of these bars. Outside the Philippines, my favorites would be Operation Dagger, Tippling Club, and Oxwell & Co. in Singapore; and Roof East, and El Camion in London.

Vanessa Singson

Chief Executive Officer I VASST Exchange International Inc.

Vanessa Singson got into the spirit distribution world when she moved back to Manila back in 2016. She helped a friend distribute Stella Rosa Wines without really expecting it to grow. “But our orders started getting bigger, so we decided to bring in more product. Then Vasst Exchange International Inc. was born, and that was the beginning of my career in importing and distributing wines & spirits,” she says. They started small, with only a team which consisted of Vanessa, her husband, partner Jennifer Lorenzana, an employee, and did everything themselves. “What I love is that I have grown with my company and learned so much,” says Vanessa. They have now expanded to over 20 brands which include SelvaRey rum (rum owned by Bruno Mars) and California’s Ventura Spirits, and have more coming in.

“I think that the industry today is evolving,” she says of women in the spirit world. “Women like you and I have every opportunity in this industry! If anything I feel like being a woman is an advantage because I’m always underestimated. People don’t expect me to be the CEO of the company.”

What can you advice aspiring women who would like to pursue a career in the drink world?

Anything is attainable when you work hard, focus and have an amazing peer system and team. This industry is welcoming many women! This is your time!

What do you like to drink?

My go-to drink is gin or vodka and soda with lots of lemons! I like my drinks simple and sour!

Where do you go for decent drinks in the Philippines, or abroad?

The Back Room in BGC, Kermit in Poblacion (for SelvaRey cocktails), and margaritas at Hacienda Comida in BGC. Abroad, I like the cocktails in Toca Madera and Jean Georges (Waldorf Astoria) in Los Angeles, and The Old Man in Hong Kong. All these places have very well-curated cocktails!

Cyrene de la Rosa

Freelance Content Creator | Columnist, Metro.Style Buzz and Bites | Contributor, ANCX

Cyrene de la Rosa is the go-to gal to ask where to eat and drink. She makes the bar and restaurant rounds here and abroad to see what’s good and then tell us about it. She’s also a frequent guest judge for some of the most prestigious bartending competitions in the country. Her online writing career started with Chow Buzz at InterAksyon and has blossomed to her columns and contributions to ABS CBN’s Metro.Style and ANCX. She has a solid culinary background, graduating from the Institute of Culinary Education (formerly Peter Kump’s New York Cooking School) and taking up her Master’s in Food Studies and Food Management in New York University. Cyrene was introduced to alcohol while she was in grad school in New York. “You had access to everything (in New York),” she recalls. “There were good wine stores everywhere, and free tastings every week.” She interned for the International Wine Center and completed the WSET shortly after that.

She generally enjoys eating and drinking. “The thing I enjoy most second to drinking is pairing (food),” she discloses. “I don’t really drink without eating.” Her interest in food and drinks has given her a lot of travel and learning opportunities. “I love traveling. It gives me the chance to explore,” she says. “I can go to any country, any neighborhood, and just try new drinks. It’s like continuing education for me.”

“I don’t encounter any problems covering the drinking scene,” she says. “The people we interact with are really nice and are used to women drinking now compared to before.”

She observes that there is still a lingering negative connotation to females drinking, especially from the older set. “I guess the old-fashioned guys have this mindset when they see girls by themselves in a bar; they probably think they’re picking up men. Also, Asian culture in general, there’s a mindset of what girls should be doing and what guys should be doing. Like women should not even be drinking, and older people, when they see us drinking, they look at us in a bad way. But I think that’s changing,” she observes.

What can you advice aspiring women who would like to pursue a career in the drink world?

I think they have to study a bit. That could make a big difference. I’ve encountered people in the industry who don’t really know about the product they’re selling. So education is essential. Do the research, and even enroll in courses like WSET or something to get the basics. Go beyond the social aspects of drinking. It’s like when you eat; you want to know what’s in your food, right? I think it’s as important for you to know what you’re drinking.

What do you like to drink?

I started with wine, I really fell in love with it. There was a time I was into craft beer. It kind of reminds me of wine. Craft beer has different flavor notes compared to regular beer. Lately, I’m into spirits, and I’m a whisky sour girl. I like Penicillin and gin and soda as well.

Where do you go for decent drinks in the Philippines, or abroad?

I go to Curator, ABV (now Proof), OTO, and Yes Please for whisky sour. Rambla in BGC and Gilarmi Lounge in Discovery Primea for a good gin and tonic. Bar Pintxos makes good g&ts as well. My favorite drink in The Back Room is Ransom Note. I love Lit; I go there for whisky highballs.  

Singapore is one of my favorite places to explore bars. I love Operation Dagger, Atlas, Manhattan. Ronin in Hong Kong introduced me to highballs. It’s a restaurant with a good bar too. It’s the first place I got to pair whisky with food. My second Hong Kong favorite is 8 1/2 Otto e Mezzo. I like going to bars that have good food as well.

Deanna Rubiano and Michiko Soriano

Founders I FOMO Concepts

Recognizing that there is a lack of interesting events that are happening in Manila, friends Deanna Rubiano and Michiko Soriano formed FOMO Concepts, a boutique agency that’s centered around experience design. “We want to create events that would otherwise be generic, and put in a more interactive feel so that when the consumer goes in, it’s going to be an immersive experience,” shares Deanna. “We also want to support the craft culture that is growing in Manila, and brings people together,” adds Michiko.

Michiko’s first exposure to wine and spirits was through working for Pernod Ricard’s champagne line. The brand encouraged conviviality, which fit her personality, and she credits that experience in her current role in FOMO to carry conversations about and be comfortable drinking. For Deanna, it is not her first attempt at mounting events, as she organized festivals in London and did bespoke events with Catch 88 (a social hub for events and dating) when she first got to Manila a few years ago.

They also noticed that while the interest in bars and spirits were growing, it was mostly industry people who had access to the events around these. “If you want to learn about a different or spirits or cocktails as a member of the public, you don’t really get to go,” Deanna says. So they want to create events that will drive people into this more exciting side of liquor that’s more inclusive and have a bit more fun, create something more interesting, and elevate that scene.

One of their most successful event series is Bar Fight, which provides a platform for popular bars, bartenders, and their patrons to gather under one roof in an exciting competition. Through the series, they empower bartenders in honing their craft and expressing their creativity through competition.

The ladies share the same passion for events with an immersive experience and want to encourage people to demand more out of the activities that are presented to them. “Be the pioneer. Be the disruptor. Be the person that’s going to do something crazy to change the mindset of the local market. Let’s get it to another level,” Deanna encourages.

What can you advice aspiring women who would like to pursue a career in the events and drink world?

Michiko: Follow your interests and what you’re passionate about. Create your own brand. You should create the song you want to listen to. In the same way, create the event that you want to go to.

Deanna: Stick to what you know and do your own thing. Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing and try to think outside the box.

What do you like to drink?

Michiko: Jameson and ginger ale then switch to maybe Laphroaig or Balvenie later on.

Deanna: Whisky, preferably Nikka Whisky, with a single ice cube.

Where do you go for decent drinks in the Philippines, or abroad?

Michiko: I like going to Oto, also Solaire because you can pair good food with good drinks and Gilarmi Lounge for their gin buffet.

Deanna: Not to sound biased, but honestly Solaire’s Cigar Bar has really good cocktails for the price. I know it’s far, but if you want that premium side and that price point, it’s really value for money.

I think that we have specific places we go to for a particular category. Even if you’re out with friends, it depends on what kind of night you want. If you want a more chill and quiet, Mandalay is good or Bank Bar. If you’re in a big group, Poblacion is the place to go, because you can just go bar hopping.

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