Shooting the breeze with Helena Henneveld, brand ambassador for Ketel One vodka
Helena Henneveld is Ketel One's brand ambassador for Benelux. The role entails her promoting this premium Dutch vodka to both bartenders and consumers, explaining the complexity and versatility of the drink.
For the uninitiated, what does the role of being a brand ambassador entail?
You need to be the know-it-all of the brand. You need to know pretty much everything that there is about the brand, although – of course – each brand has its secrets too. As a brand ambassador I showcase everything about the Ketel One brand, how to use it the product and have the ability to talk about it on different levels.
How did you get into the liquor industry? Did you start in bars and move to brands?
I pretty much just rolled into it. I was a student in Aberdeen, Scotland at the time and needed a job for money. I'd been waitressing and glass collecting, then got some bar training and never really left the hospitality world.
I love working in this field, you meet so many interesting people; it's never the same. I worked in bars for about 10 years and wanted a new challenge. Within this industry you have lots of options and possibilities – some open up bars, others work for brands. I enjoy working for Ketel One: it’s a family owned brand, it's Dutch and just really fits me.
Does your role involve travel, and if so where?
Every now and again I get to travel through northern Europe. The last trips I took were travelling through Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Belgium and Ireland for the [Diageo] World Class Studio programmes.
Some say that compared to other types of liquor, there is less variety in vodka. What makes a premium vodka such as Ketel One different?
There is lots of variety in vodka. From the base product from which its made, to the distilling technique and – obviously – what the brand stands for. Alongside Ketel One vodka still being a family owned company, it's the way its made using wheat as the base and using two distilling techniques, one old and one modern (copper pot still and column distillation). That's what gives it its unique flavour, feel, fragrance and finish and why it works so well for cocktails.
Personally I find that the community projects that we have set up worldwide with bartenders and Ketel One are the most important things. For the past few years, Ketel One has run the Better Drinking competition during the World Class Finals, asking bartenders to set up a community project... and believe me there are some amazing ones. Check them out on Diffordsguide.com.
What is your personal favourite cocktail and why?
I've got a love for savoury drinks. My favorite is a vodka dirty martini. The combination of an ice cold vodka and dry vermouth combined with the savory brine and the olives just works a treat.
Share a simple recipe that people can make at home...
Sure! If you love coffee you will love an Espresso martini. Here is the recipe using some stuff at home. Make sure to pick up local raw honey, supporting your local community and supporting the beekeepers in their mission to take care of bees. Plus I think honey is just a great substitute for white sugar, adding flavour and depth to your cocktail.
Ketel One Espresso martini
45ml Ketel One vodka
1 shot of espresso (usually around 40ml)
15ml local honey syrup
Ketel One vodka will be featured at participating venues during The Hague Cocktail Week later this year. In the meantime, find out more at www.ketelone.com