The Addicted To Progress team recently visited Amsterdam and had the absolute pleasure of hanging out with South African born, Netherlands based mixologist and entrepreneur Andrew Nicolls. We also got a chance to sit down and ask him a few questions, in between tasting some of his amazing William George rum of course!
Andrew is one of the founders of William George Rum and oversaw the blending of William George. Andrew started bartending in January 2000 and stopped full time bartending at the end of 2018. Andrew is the Netherlands Rum Educator for WSET, was the Benelux Representative for Authentic Caribbean Rum, has trained bartenders around the world, received numerous awards for bartending, received numerous awards for bars, won numerous cocktail competitions, is a member of the seminar selection committee for Tales of the Cocktail, is a judge for World’s 50 Best Bars and has presented at numerous major bar shows around the world. Andrew loves Rum…
- Where did your passion for mixology begin?
To be honest, it started with guests asking me if I knew how to make a cocktail. At the time I was eighteen years old and knew very little about mixing drinks, so I went to a book shop the next day with the last little bit of money I had and purchased a small cocktail book. I paged through the book, found a few drinks I could make with the ingredients we had and started practicing. The next time those guests came in, I had a small menu ready for them and I guess I never stopped from there.
- Who or what inspired you to decide to take it seriously and pursue it full time?
I honestly think it was the guests at the bar who first inspired me to take it seriously and pursue it full time. There was something magical and rewarding about having the opportunity to serve people every night in a manner which made leave the bar happier than when they arrived. I spend a lot of time developing drinks and working on my technique, but those are not my primary focus. I see the drink as a tool for providing a person with an experience and when the attention to detail coupled with warm hospitality come together, it results in happy people. How cool is that?
- We think it's very cool! It makes us wonder though, you must have an interestng life filled with stories to tell! What’s the schedule and lifestyle of a mixologist like?
To be honest this industry is terrible for achieving a work/life balance. The hours are long and in many, many cases with very little form of a break or time to eat properly. As a full time bartender, my hours were generally 80 hours to 100 hours per week and it was very rare that I would have a break in that time. The hours of a bartender in a high end bar are similar to the hours of a chef in a Michelin starred restaurant. You sacrifice your social life, your time with family, it puts big strain on your relationships and when you are off, your friends in “regular jobs” probably won’t be available to meet with you. So, for social interaction, you hang out in bars where friends of yours in the industry work. It's very easy to get sucked into a vortex of poor nutrition, lack of sleep and a potentially toxic social life. Chefs and Bartenders have some of the highest suicide rates, so this is something which must be addressed and improved on in the industry.
- What are some of your favourite drinks to prepare for clients?
I love creating new experiences or changing a guests perception of spirits. Very often I hear people say they hate Tequila or Rum or some other spirit and that is where I see an opportunity. I guarantee you, I can make a drink based on a spirit you think you don’t like, which you will like. I believe in serving people, not drinks, so when I see an opportunity to provide an experience through a drink, I take it!
- What made you decide to venture into the world of entrepreneurship and bring out your own brand of rum?
I love bartending, but it's not something I see myself being able to do in ten or twenty years time. I guess I started thinking about where I could potentially have a future in the industry without smashing out 300 cocktails a night or working the crazy hours. Since I started bartending, rum has always held a special place in my heart so I decided to create my own opportunities within the industry and fill a gap I saw in the white rum market.
- Your rum William George Rum is actually inspired by Trinidad and Tobago rum from Angostura, how did you end up visiting Trinidad and Tobago and what was that experience like?
It's very much Trinidad & Tobago and Jamaica vibe, which I know sounds weird as they’re very different styles, but I think that's what makes it work. As for visiting Trinidad and Tobago, although I’ve consumed vast quantities of your rum, I am yet to actually visit. Something I need to rectify very soon!
- Well you know when you reach to Trinidad & Tobago, the ATP team is going to make sure you have the time of your life! How has the reception been to your rum so far in the world market?
The response has been amazing! We’ve had people reaching out from all over the world and one of the best feelings is receiving a message from someone in a country where we aren’t for sale yet, but a friend of that person has taken the time to purchase a bottle as a gift and take it to them. It's genuinely a feeling I can’t describe. The response from bartenders around the world has been amazing too, and we’ll often get messages out of the blue from a bartender, saying that a guest brought a bottle of William George into their bar for them to try. Moments like that make all the stress of being a start-up worth it.
- How was the switch from full time mixologist only to full time mixologist and entrepreneur now? How do you balance the both?
To be honest, I’m still figuring that out. I still have not achieved balance and it's one of the most difficult things to get right. I guess it's one of the many aspects which are a constant work in progress.
- How do you make time for a personal life? What do you do when you aren’t working?
Oh wow, this is another tough one. I guess sometimes I have to force myself to make time for my personal life, or maybe I should say that my body and mind force me too. Sometimes I can feel myself becoming less and less productive and have to force myself to take a day or two off. It ties in with that whole balance side of it all. I try to meet with friends occasionally or spend time with family doing something unrelated to the industry I’m in, but it doesn’t always end up that way. It's so easy to get caught up in things you feel need to get done now, when in reality, some of it could realistically wait until tomorrow. I think when I was in a relationship it forced me to take more down time because you want to spend time with that special person in your life. As a single guy however, I tend to forget that I still need that down time.
- What music inspires or motivates you either when you are working or working out?
I'm one of those people who quite literally listens to everything. In a single day I can switch between Classical, Hip Hop, 90’s rock, Reggae, EDM, Country, various forms of African music and everything you can think of. Sometimes I love to sit and listen to a story being told through music and other times I just need a beat or varying forms of rhythm with no words. When working out I tend to stick to Hip Hop, EDM or Rock. Something to get the heart racing.
- What is your favourite drink to consume yourself?
This is something I get asked a lot and it's actually quite difficult to answer. Kind of like asking a mother to pick her favourite chid. I guess if I had to choose just one drink to enjoy for the rest of my life, it would be a shaken Daiquiri with fresh lime juice (none of that premix stuff thank you) and of course, a hearty measure of William George.
- What does the future hold for Andrew Nicholls and William George Rum? Also, what does progress mean to you?
Man, I wish I knew what the future holds. I hope it holds financial and personal success and that I can build William George up to the point where it allows me to make a difference. I’m a big believer in the education of people and conservation of our natural world. I would love to be able to contribute to both of those through William George. I would love to be a Partner and Dad one day and be able to offer some form of support to people in this industry trying to figure out how to balance work and life.
As for what progress means to me? I see progress as a journey which involves good times and hard times and although the hard times are sometimes really hard and make you question your choices in life, if you can absorb the blows and learn from them, I believe you’re one step closer to more good times. I think Rudyard Kipling summed it up in his poem If, when he said the following:
If you can dream and not make dreams your master;
If you can think and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’
In my opinion, Progress is very often being humble enough to admit to your mistakes, the wisdom to learn from those mistakes and the will to simply hold on…
William George ™ rum was created to honour two great men who pursued honesty and embodied strength. The drive to honour two grandfathers led to the pursuit of perfection. This unique blend was crafted with passion and commitment to offer the world an exceptional taste, so you can once again embrace the iconic experience of white rum. William Simpson and George Nicholls were Grandfathers to Andrew Nicholls and Richard Nicholls, two of the founders of William George Rum. William moved from England to Zambia in 1938 and returned to England to serve during World War II. William then returned to Zambia after World War II. George moved from England to Zimbabwe in 1956, after having served in World War II. Both men had a deep love for Africa.
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