Working in the liquor industry isn’t always glamorous: There are plenty of missed holidays, hangovers and super long work days. But the industry also lives up to its exciting reputation: There are tons of opportunities to travel the world with brands or to attend competitions and conferences, you get to taste products both new and old on a regular basis, drink expertly made cocktails and meet tons of awesome people. The best part is these incredible careers come in a variety of forms, allowing people of all stripes to bring their talents to the table, whether that be an extraordinary palate, a passion for science, skills with a camera or a way with words. So no matter what you do for a living, if you have dreams of one day working in the booze industry, take heart. Here are seven boozy dream jobs to which everyone can aspire.
Cocktail and Bar Photographer
If every time you enter a bar, you immediately search for the perfect light to take an Insta-worthy photo of your cocktail, the cocktail and bar photography business might be your bag. Though it’s not necessarily a cushy lifestyle (is art ever?), there’s no shortage of great subject matter, exciting experiences and interesting people. Plus, you’ll get to visit bars around the world.
Gabi Porter—a fixture in the New York bar scene—has been photographing cocktails and bars for 10 years. Her work appears in a number of books, including Cuban Cocktails, and she’s often shooting events at bars around the world. “I love being part of this wonderful international community of bar and spirits and hospitality professionals,” says Porter. “I have always loved bars, and ever since I started working primarily photographing food and beverage, I love them even more.”
Her schedule is always changing—she might be out shooting for a few days or weeks at a time, and then at a computer editing her work for just as long. Or she may have a two week break. Porter also travels on a regular basis and has built up a far-reaching friend base over the years, thanks to her work. “You can go anywhere in the world, and with a quick shout out on social media, you can have a drinking buddy within a half hour and completely change the way you travel,” she says. “Last year I went to Brazil and France and Poland and drank like a local because of my work—made a lot of new friends too.”
Though her life certainly seems like a non-stop party filled will amazing cocktails and people, on the other side of the lens, finding work is sometimes unpredictable. “When it's ‘feast or famine,’ I wish things were more spread out,” she says.
Tasting alcohol for a living is certainly a job that many would happily do, but for those who are more interested in the science behind how booze is made and those who enjoy working with their hands, distillation is the ultimate goal. The backbone of the spirits industry, distillers spend long days doing a little bit of everything, from fermenting grains, to distilling spirits, to bottling. There’s also an immense amount of pressure to create a consistently good product. Lacie Thornton, second distiller at Grand Traverse Distillery in Traverse City, Michigan, is one of many who quit their day jobs to pursue a career in distillation—and as a scientist and booze-lover, she couldn’t be happier with that decision. “I know it’s crazy, but I wake up at 5:30 in the morning and I’m excited to go into work and get the still started,” says Thornton.
Aside from carrying on a centuries-old traditional, distilling has plenty of perks—like a constant supply of drinks—but Ashby Marshall, co-owner of Spirit Works adds that there’s a special satisfaction to creating a great product: “The most rewarding thing for us is that we’re really making something from scratch by hand and seeing people enjoy it.”
Bar and Cocktail Consultant
After you’ve spent years working in cocktail bars, owning bars and learning what it is that makes a bar successful, you can put that knowledge to good—and lucrative—use as a consultant. That means bars all over the country will pay you to give your input on everything from bar budgets to hospitality and training bar teams. Many successful bartenders have stepped back from a career of slinging drinks to travel around the country, meet and work with up-and-coming bar teams and share their wisdom. Joaquín Simó, owner of Pouring Ribbons in New York, joined Alchemy Consulting to use his status and experience as a renowned bartender to help train and develop staff at other well-known bars, including Broken Shaker in Miami. Christy Pope and Chad Solomon, who run Midnight Rambler in Dallas also run their own cocktail consulting and catering company called Cuffs and Buttons (which they started with bar legend Sasha Petraske). They’re not traveling to train bar staff, but instead consult on events and parties, developing the perfect recipes for all kinds of events, magazine, trade shows and more.
Booze Reviewer and Writer
Writing for a living is tough work—there’s always an impending deadline, you’re constantly having to sell editors on your ideas, and it doesn’t typically pay very well. But, in an industry that’s constantly churning out new and creative products, the job never gets boring. New York-based cocktail and spirits writer Kara Newman’s job is to be up on the trends and keep an eye out for new and innovative products. She’s the spirits editor for Wine Enthusiast magazine, where she regularly tastes spirits to review, and she also contributes to a variety of other food and drink publications, and writes books—she most recently tackled equal parts cocktails in Shake. Stir. Sip.
Newman isn’t sitting behind a computer all day churning out copy. A big part of covering the booze industry involves visiting bars and restaurants, and traveling for research, not to mention meeting and interviewing bartenders and distillers. “It's different every day, which is one of the things that I like about my job,” says Newman. “I really enjoy talking to people about what they do and why they do it, what inspires them and drives them. I especially enjoy interviews that take place in person—when we're done talking, you never know what will be poured.”
There’s no doubt about it: Newman drinks well. When she’s not out meeting people and tasting their wares, she’s sampling spirits that she’s been sent to review. There’s a constant stream of samples, but the writer only keeps 10 bottles in her home at one time. “I give away most bottles,” she says. “I make a lot of friends that way.”
While the job has plenty of upsides, Newman points to one major downside to being a prolific reviewer: “Spirits producers often put their heart and soul into creating their products, and it's hard to taste something and know that something isn't quite right with what's in the bottle,” she says. “I try to be honest and direct without being mean-spirited. Some reviewers seem to enjoy bashing the products or places they review; I don't.”
For anyone with dreams of one day becoming a spirits writer and reviewer, Newman has this advice: “Taste everything, even the weird stuff—especially the weird stuff.” This will help burgeoning reviewers and writers “develop a sense memory bank and a vocabulary for talking about spirits and cocktails.”
Recipe Developer and Blogger
Though anyone can start their own cocktail blog, not just anyone can do it successfully. Natalie Jacob has the advantage of over 12 years of bartending experience. She’s also a pro at styling and photographing her creations and she’s media savvy, all of which eventually led her to start her own creative and cocktail consultant business, Arsenic Lace.
The daily routine of a blogger and cocktail consultant is creatively challenging and quite varied. “During the day is when I create a lot of my content for my own blog as well as three others that I contribute to,” says Jacob. “That means I’m usually making drinks or food, photographing the process, styling, editing and writing.” Her job also involves creating content for brands and spending plenty of time promoting herself and her work on social media—just take look at her beautifully curated Instagram. She’s also bartending four nights a week and consulting on menus at other cocktail bars.
“I really do love everything that I’m doing,” says Jacob, noting that the work she’s doing now merges her background in both hospitality and design. “I’m happiest when I get to apply my talents to everything I’m doing, whether that’s making a pretty drink, styling a pretty room, coming up with a recipe or taking a photo.”
The only thing that’s missing? “Enough time to do my work and enough time to, you know, relax,” she says. “Even people that love what they're doing need a break.”
For those with dreams of following in Jacob’s footsteps, whether it be blogging, developing recipes or consulting (or a combination of all three paths), she says it’s important to remember that nothing comes easy. “If you want to do this, you need to be persistent, consistent and very patient. Set small goals everyday and eventually things will start to happen.”
Liquor Public Relations
Many people in the spirits world live and breathe their jobs—but perhaps none more so than those working in public relations. From working with clients to planning events and tastings, to pitching media and brainstorming creative ideas, Rachel Harrison, cofounder of Lion & Lamb Communications, says there’s “no normal day in PR.”
Though her job is intense, working in PR gives Harrison a unique view into the industry and the chance to champion brands she feels passionately about, including spirits like Portobello Road Gin and New York Distilling Company, as well as bars and restaurants, like Dante and Oiji. “The moment I started in the sprits word, I was hooked,” she says. “It’s so much more than just liquid—it’s history, struggle, genius, heartache and love.”
Being in PR also means staying constantly connected to the industry, visiting new bars and restaurants at any chance you can, courting new clients to work with and building lasting relationships. “Your job becomes your life,” she says. “You have to continuously learn, search for new trends and ask questions.”
Global Brand Ambassador
With “global” right there in the job title, it’s no wonder Gareth Evans (pictured above), global ambassador for Absolut Elyx Vodka, is constantly on the go. “My job is essentially to travel to different places and talk to people about vodka and what makes Elyx special,” says Evans. “That could mean masterclasses, tastings, bartending, interviews or whatever else people might want. It's never boring.”
Nowadays, many liquor brands and companies have ambassadors who travel all over the world to teach people about a product—essentially getting paid to meet new people, see new places and drink. “The people you meet are what makes the job fun,” says Evans. “They are the ones that will show you the best dim sum in Hong Kong, wet hamburgers in Istanbul, or karaoke in Paris—I am extremely fortunate that I get to meet and hang out with these people.”
Though he admits that constantly traveling on his own can get a little lonely and he does occasionally get a bit homesick, Evans says that he often feels like he has the best job in the world: “You get out what you put in. Brand advocacy isn't easy, and I'm certainly no expert, but it's essentially being nice to people and being the positive face of the brand.”
In other words, if you don’t mind quality alone time and you love what you’re promoting, there’s little doubt you’ll enjoy traveling the world to tell people about it. Plus, a little end-of-the-day nip of the product you’re promoting never hurts.