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Amanda Victoria has made a splash in the spirits world. From her days working in restaurants and bars to her current roles at her company, Siponey, and the LA Spirits Awards, her mission in whiskey is education. Learn more about her in this recent interview with Bourbon Women.
BW: What was your journey into being a Scotch teacher like? How did that prepare you for starting your own beverage alcohol company?
AV: I first started in the wine & spirits industry as a hostess at a Michelin Star restaurant in 2005 in the West Village in Manhattan, serving wine to the likes of the late Lou Reed and Gisele Bündchen. I went on to work at many award-winning cocktail bars in every position, eventually as a bartender, while I was studying media and French cinema in college in NYC during the recession of 2008. I had exceptional teachers and mentors along the way. I have always sought out education and felt an overwhelming need to learn how spirits were made and what timing and trends drove passions to production.
I accepted my first travel and education role within spirits in 2012 with the family-owned Scottish spirits supplier William Grant & Sons, where I first fell in love with whisky. I would go on to work as a global spokesperson and educator for most every major liquor supplier between 2012 and 2018, when I decidedly left corporate behind to create my first company Aperitif Hour, an education and communications company specializing in whisky and aperitifs.
In 2019, I co-founded Siponey, a rye whiskey and honey canned cocktail company focusing on using the best ingredients and giving back to the environment. In 2020 I became partner and Director of Judging to the L.A. Spirits Awards, the most inclusive and diverse spirits award show, from our judge’s culturally vast palates and experiences, to the products entered from around the world. Unfortunately, I recently resigned from this position for being vastly undervalued in my contributions – the very essence of inclusion I set out to create was not such at our foundational level.
BW: What do you see as the biggest opportunity to promote or achieve sustainability in the beverage alcohol industry?
AV: Environmental activism and awareness with an overall goal to minimize carbon footprint with follow-through. Attention to shipping and warehousing locations and production practices. Not making so much POS! Dissolvable packing peanuts! I recently accepted a role on the advisory board of Detroit Hives, a non-profit focused on teaching environmental awareness and activism via beekeeping in underserved communities in urban places, like the city of Detroit. I’ve incorporated my new role with my existing work in environmental activism, making Siponey an official partner to Detroit Hives, and am supporting their efforts to expand their work to more markets around the US.
BW: What’s your favorite whiskey cocktail?
AV: It would have to be Siponey Café but please don’t tell Siponey Royale this! I created Siponey off of inspiration from an all-time favorite cocktail, the Gold Rush, by Milk & Honey’s TJ Siegal in NYC. It was because of this cocktail that I started subbing white sugar, or simple syrup, out of most cocktails I would personally consume. I’m sensitive to processed sugars and prefer using a truly natural substitution, like honey. The use of honey, I believe, has saved years on my life spent as a cocktail & spirits professional.
With Siponey, I changed the specs to create a carbonated, almost spritz-like whiskey-based cocktail that drinks similarly to a glass of Champagne. I subbed bourbon out and replaced it with rye whiskey for more pungent spice-notes and to further cut down on the sweetness. In Siponey we use real lemon juice which is not intuitively something you might think would go with coffee – I was inspired by trips to Italy where espresso is often served with a wedge of fresh lemon. Overall, the signature move for Siponey Café specifically was utilizing cold brew coffee similarly to the way bitters is used in an Old Fashioned cocktail – to lock together all the beautiful ingredients in praise of whiskey, the base spirit. Siponey Café is a whiskey cocktail first and foremost, with a touch of coffee to accentuate the beautiful rye whiskey. I was inspired by classics, both contemporary and modern, but I can’t say I’ve ever run into anything quite like the light, dynamic and refreshing flavor of Siponey Café prior to inventing it myself.
BW: What advice do you have for women wanting to pursue a career in the distilled spirits industry?
AV: Really work on the conversation between yourself and your inner badass. Don’t be afraid to break the rules. Don’t take no for an answer. Fight for a seat at the table. Identify your passions early on and specialize in them. Be relentless in your pursuit of your personal passions. Keep your body hydrated and moving but take rest too.
BW: Tell me about your perfect whiskey weekend in New York City.
AV: Stumbling into someone’s private home collection that is more impressive than my own! Or a visit to Tommy Tardie’s Fine and Rare in Midtown. There’s no place quite like it. I know because I spent several years taking every meeting I could there and was always blown away.
Photos Courtesy of Siponey