Behind the Bar: Trevor Schneider, US Reyka Vodka Ambassador
Trevor Schneider, AKA Cocktail Ninja, is the US brand ambassador for Reyka Vodka, an Icelandic vodka made with arctic spring water and filtered through lava rocks. The entire production is powered by geothermal energy, but we’re pretty sure it could easily be powered by Trevor’s boundless energy; years in both the bar industry and entertainment business, plus his own natural gregariousness and enthusiasm have made Trevor the consummate brand ambassador. We sat down to talk with him about what his job entails, what he loves about it, and what it’s like to travel 160,000 miles in a year.
Drink Portland (DP): Hey Trevor, so, tell us, what exactly does a brand ambassador do?
Trevor Schneider (TS): So that’s a good question, right, the first way I’ll respond is that it’s not the same for everybody. But for my responsibilities with the national brand, I look after four major audiences: First off, you: the press and media. I do interviews, televisions appearances, social media, all of that.
DP: So, you also an educator on Iceland itself?
TS: By no means am I fully versed, but through my experience with William Grant & Sons I have a fair amount of knowledge of Iceland, the people, and the culture, what with Reyka being an Icelandic brand.
TS: Earning this position was me going through the trials and tribulations of the industry in New York City. I was pursuing a career in entertainment when I moved to New York eleven years ago. When you do that, you find a job at night, often hospitality. It’s a relationship based business, and since I worked in many different places—dives and college bars, cocktail lounges and sports bars—I started meeting all sorts of people. I have a “larger than life” personality, and I started getting asked to lead industry events and also to travel. My first travelling events were at Tales of the Cocktail for some brands. Later, I was asked to lead an afterparty for the Cannes Film Festival, and I did that for two years.
TS: Well, my industry skills, having worked at so many different types of bars. There’s a type of person who goes to a sports bar, or a cocktail bar, and I’m being very general here, but you get used to a loosely specific type of clientele. I worked at all different types, so I got to work with and meet people of all different social classes and backgrounds, which was great practice to be an ambassador in a country with so many different types of people and culture. That filled over a decade of those different environments; it gave me a well versed understanding even before I was an ambassador.
TS: One of the things I do when I wake up is I try and look after myself. I set my mind for the day, which is going to be sporadic. I have a glass of water, maybe a multivitamin, then I ease into my day with social media. I need to take care of my audience, predominantly facebook and instagram.
Then I think of my calendar: What am I most responsible for today? Do I need to book hotels, flights? I check my email, and respond to recipes requests, advice on accounts, and all that. Then it usually goes into some level of exercise: push ups, sit ups, or I go to the gym. I want to constantly be recharging myself. My job is more mentally challenging than physically challenging. My mind is sporadic, things pop up on the calendar and off the calendar. I realized that keeping my mental positivity up is directly related to exercise and taking care of myself.
TS: Oh wow. I started the year off on a seventeen day tour. It started in Iceland, then went to Phoenix, San Antonio, Tahoe, Sacramento, LA, San Diego, Portland, Chicago... I’ve been to Ft Lauderdale, Tampa, St Pete, and couple other places... Vegas, Atlantic City, Aspen, Denver… there are some other spots.
TS: That’s a tough one. It changes, but if I had to answer it, I would say simply the interaction with people. It’s a dream job, and there’s a lot to enjoy, but meeting people and sharing their stories is my favorite part.
TS: The one where I don’t have to do a lot of work, and there’s water close to me [laughs]. If I have to say one… I’m currently living in New York, so one with nice weather. Any of the Florida ones. Or California. LA, San Diego, Venice Beach where I’m staying currently and considering moving there. I mean, New York as well, I don’t actually spend much time there.
TS: It was a combination of Tom Cruise from Cocktail and Tom Cruise in The Last Samurai. The name was given to me by my coworkers based on the way that I bartended, like a ninja,
TS: First and foremost, when I was in school, I enjoyed science. Reyka has a lot of science components. Iceland being based where it’s located, how it was created, with arctic water and volcanic filtration and geothermal power. But the other big thing is that it's a family run business, and run very differently than publicly traded companies. They’ve been distilling for 100 years, and they take pride in everything they make. That’s something I value, and that common ground appealed to me. Plus, it’s just a high end-spirit that’s exceptional in so many ways.
TS: One of the ways I really enjoy it is in a martini, a 5 to 1 martini with a dash of orange bitters and an orange peel. Or I just drink it neat.