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Photo for: Michele Reina on his role as an International Brand Ambassador


Michele Reina on his role as an International Brand Ambassador

Michele Reina an International Brand Ambassador talks about his role, tasks, pitching products to buyers, and master classes.

Michele Reina is a well-known and respected figure in the bar and hospitality industry. Michele relocated to London over a decade ago, a move inspired by the wish to be part of the bartending capital. Not afraid to restart as a barback, Michele soon became the general manager of a popular cocktail bar in East London, followed by managing and opening several more venues around the city. His passion for cocktails has enabled him to compete in and win tough competitions, receive different awards, and visit distilleries all over the world.

Tell us a little about yourself. How did you progress into this role?

Having moved here 15 years ago, I've been involved in the UK bar scene ever since. I started out in high-volume bars to improve my game. I then learned about homemade cocktail ingredients in speakeasy bars before becoming a bar manager. I owned a cocktail ingredients company at the time and managed three venues. As I realized I needed more sleep than four hours a day, I closed the company and returned to managing a single venue at the Sheraton Grand. At that time, I won a Rebel cocktail contest, and I got a trip to Kentucky, met Luxco's team, visited both distilleries, and got a new job. After starting out as a part-time UK brand ambassador, I became a full-time European ambassador, and now I'm an international on-trade specialist and brand educator. In my five years at Luxco, I saw a distillery born, six 20000-barrel warehouses filled, four brands created, and a merger with MGP, the biggest American Rye and Malt Whiskey producer.

Could you define your role and the tasks involved in your role?

As Luxco's international ambassador, I work with the sales and marketing teams to promote the company through key influencer programs and make sure we're visible at national trade shows. My job as a brand educator requires me to know a lot about spirits, especially Bourbon, Irish whiskey, Tequila, and Gin. As part of that, we have to plan events, training, and master classes with the Brand Team, spreading the brand message and building long-lasting relationships with consumers, on-trade people, and distributors.

Michele Reina

Image: Michele Reina

I'm trying to be human first, listening to what they need, and then asking for the chance to share what we do. In order to leave valuable content that goes beyond the brand, I send new training materials and blogs via my email list. When you are trusted, people will recommend you.

What strategies do you use to gain distribution, increase volume sales and gain cocktail placements? Could you give me an example of an account you recently cracked?

My first step is to give them a unique event to demonstrate my commitment and the brand's potential. Then I start offering them more ideas to increase sales. It's my goal to be part of their team and be trusted, so sales might follow.

What is the biggest challenge you face in your role?

Keeping a good work-life balance. Organizing so many events and collaborations is great, but sometimes work takes over and you have to be realistic about what to expect and what to do at each event.

My respect for bar managers sometimes doesn't seem reciprocal, even though I understand the sacrifices and lifestyle of hospitality. It's awkward for me to talk about it, but there was a time when I was disrespected at a well-known cocktail bar.


What are the 3 things you focus on while pitching your product to buyers?

Depends on the buyer. Usually, points of sale. I'll talk about bullet points that make the product stand out from others on the market. It's helpful to go a bit more technical on the difference in production that makes the flavour profile different from the mass. In either case, I try to tell a story about the brand that makes it interesting.

What do you focus on in your training and masterclasses? Could you take us through your training module? 

It's all about the audience. I'm a spirit representative and give consumer and trade training. Whenever I'm talking about production, I don't take anything for granted, but I try to keep it fun, digestible, and visual. I always make associations with images, smells, and tastes. That makes it easier to remember.

How do you ensure the success of your training programs? Through routine follow-ups or?

After the masterclass, I try to stay connected with the team or at least go to the venue and start a conversation about one of the things we talked about. It's not a test, just quoting. It's important to value the team's time and know when to follow up.

What kind of marketing collaborations do you do with Hotels and Restaurants? Could you give examples?

We try to offer our guests experiences that wouldn't be possible at a cocktail bar, especially with food. For example, a food pairing with a straight spirit or cocktail or a consumer-tasting experience you can do in your hotel room.

Michele Reina

Image: Michele Reina

Maintaining relationships with your clients is a big part of your role, what are a few simple yet effective ways to keep that going?

Bring them along to events or let them know what you're doing with other accounts. They might want to do something similar or it may give them inspiration. I also like to have my meetings in my accounts. It brings them revenue and it's a great way to catch up.

What kind of digital marketing do you do personally to promote your brand?

I have my own website. I'm also on Instagram and Facebook, but I'm bad at keeping up with them. I used those platforms to promote events, tastings, and brand training. I also use my email campaign to leave free access to contacts and discounts on my book, which will be available in 2024. 

How do you motivate distributor sales reps and what piece of advice would you have for newly appointed brand reps?

Always keep things human. It's vital to develop a relationship with all your contacts in the industry. I often find contacts in distributors I meet behind the bar. Maintaining this relationship is the key to opening more doors. You can learn more about him at his

Call for domestic and international submission is now open for London Spirits Competition. Enter your spirits before 31 August 2024 to get super early bird pricing. Register now and ship later to save.

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