Q and A with Owen O’Reilly of SIP Exclusive 9 February 2017
Owen O’Reilly grew up in Standerton and from humble beginnings working as Assistant Manager at Spur in Pretoria, he now runs his own mobile bar business. Owen recently came top of the regional preliminaries for Diageo’s World Class Competition. We shared an Old Fashioned with him.
1. How did you get into the industry?
It all started when I saw a flare bartender from TGIFridays in the UK in action. I realised that flaring is a craft and so I started getting as much practice as I could flaring at bars around Pretoria: Odds in Brooklyn, Rhapsody’s and News Café.
When I headed to Cape Town, I was fortunate enough to work for the best in the business, Kurt and Etienne Schlechter of The Bartender’s Workshop. They sent me to Mauritius for 2 years to establish The Bartender’s Workshop there.
Back in Cape Town I was made Regional Manager for Barcode Mobile. All of it was great grounding for me to open SIP Exclusive in February 2015 and 2 years later, we’ve never looked back.
2. What’s next?
I’m focused on the regional finals of DIAGEO’s World Class Competition as I came top of the Cape Town preliminaries. World Class is a global luxury drinks program which is in its 7th year globally and 6th year in South Africa. It consists of 2 parts; a trade cocktail competition as well as a very high-end training program. World Class exists to make people care about what, how and where they drink. The program is geared to teaching people to understand fine drinking as well as they understand good food.
I’m through to the Cape Town leg of the regional finals which will be held on the 8th of March 2017. Durban’s regional finals are on the 28th of February and Johannesburg is happening on the 6th of March, with the national finals taking place in April 2017.
The winner will compete against the best in the world in Mexico! Winning the SA competition would do great things for SIP Exclusive.
3. Tell us a bit more about SIP Exclusive?
I want people to see bar tending and flaring for the craft that it is and not only as a part-time job; it can be a career!
I have a genuine passion for training and improving service levels in South Africa when it comes to bartending. SIP Exclusive is partnering with Learn to Earn’s Ground Up Academy where homeless people are trained in the hospitality industry. We offer 2 students the opportunity to do our courses for every 6 paying students.
4. What drives you?
I’m lucky enough to work with a number of world-famous brands like Black Bottle, Scottish Leader, Grant’s Whisky, Glenfiddich, The Botanist and Bacardi. Every event results in at least one new customer because people experience the passion we have for what we do. I have a practice bar at the office and I’m getting back to working behind the bar at events to make sure I keep my edge.
5. Have you served anyone famous?
Yes, I’ve served Mike Rutherford from Mike and the Mechanics, Jacques Kallis, Herschelle Gibbs, Leanne Liebenberg, Patricia de Lille…
6. What inspires you?
I really look up to Denzel Heath and Pieter ‘Socks’ Oosthuizen who are doing amazing things in the industry. There’s a documentary that I love watching called ‘Hey Bartender’ too, but I am most inspired when people give me free reign to design a cocktail that goes with a theme.
7. What’s your favourite venue at the moment?
I really like the pop-up on the V & A Waterfront called the Polynesian Pearl Diver and The Landmark in Jo’burg – cocktail crafting at its best!
Catch Owen at the Black Bottle stand at the Whisky Live Celebrations in Cape Town from 6 – 8 April, Pretoria from 4 – 6 May and Durban from 1 – 3 June 2017. He’ll also be pleasing crowds at the Gin and Tonic Festival on 26 February in Cape Town or Capetonians can watch him in some local pub rumbles against fellow professional bartenders where the winner takes all the tips at the end of the evening!
For more information go to www.sipexclusive.co.za, like Facebook.com/SIPexclusive or follow sipexclusive_za on Instagram.