Judette Coward: What’s really interesting to me knowing you well enough Genevieve and of course reading about you both Monica and Sandrae is that all three of you are at the top of your respective careers in the spirits and drinks industry. Is that unusual given how male-dominated a field it is? When you look around do you feel like you are an anomaly?
Genevieve Jodhan: It’s not an anomaly to be a female CEO in Trinidad and Tobago, there are several of us and when I look globally there are female CEOs more so in the wine industry than in spirits but women are definitely up there especially in the non-public, smaller, spirits companies. At Angostura, the head of blending is female and we have a lot of women working throughout the organisation at senior levels.
Sandrae Lawrence: I remember someone once turned me down for a job because I was black and he said black women are hysterical. Those things used to happen back then, so in my case, it’s not just about being a woman, it’s also about being a black woman and ever so often I notice there are not many like me around.
I guess I am an anomaly but I don’t think that that has ever stopped me from doing what I want to do and a lot of people have said, “Oh, we haven’t got role models!” I think we have to be our own role models but I also think that if you have been brought up in a way to believe that you can do anything that you want to do, which is the way I was raised, then I don’t think there is anything that can hold you back really.
JC: When you are the only female and the only black female in a room, do you feel as if you have to work harder?
SL: No. I don’t feel that way but I do wonder why there are not more people who look like me. It’s a question that I’ve asked in the colour issue of Cocktail Lovers. I put it out there and asked readers why they thought there are not more people of colour in the industry? A lot of people said it was because of slavery and because we don’t want to be in positions of being subservient but that is total bullshit.
JC: There are many things, which are far more subservient than being a bartender? Plus isn’t there joy in service?
SL: Exactly. I always see it as something more than what’s in the glass because there is history, there is art, there is theatre, there is chemistry, there are all these things and so people think that bartending is just something that you do in between careers but it’s not. It’s a bloody excellent career to have.
JC: Monica your career is a great testament to that. You started off bartending using your tips as a way to pay for school. Now you’re involved in all sorts of amazing, entrepreneurial projects that elevate the drinks industry. How much of your rise, you think, has to do with just personal ambition and the ability to take risks.
Monica Berg: I like to take risks and I’m not uncomfortable taking them. But I don’t see myself as an anomaly. I think if you look statistically there are as many women as there are men in bartending. It just becomes a question of visibility when you go up the ranks. I think that you always, as you move up, have to be mindful of who you are, where you are, why you are there -working at a party or event. And you have to make the right choices not just for yourself but also for the industry.
JC: When you are young and making those choices, they aren’t always easy?
MB: Sure. When I was younger I used to think: “Maybe I should go with the flow and not say anything.” And it’s very easy especially if you travel by yourself or if you go somewhere by yourself to work. It’s difficult to be the one who always says: “You know what, I’m not comfortable with this or that’s not correct or you shouldn’t say these things out loud.” But then I would have to remind myself that if I didn’t’ say it, things would never change.