THROWIN' IT BACK

Rachel and Kyle Ford, tending bar together at NYC's Amor y Amargo in 2011.

Rachel and Kyle Ford, tending bar together at NYC's Amor y Amargo in 2011.

Because it's Thursday, here's a little throwback treat!

Now that my days are spent on the other side of the bar, it's easy to forget the journey that led me here.  When I train bartenders in my current role as a Brand Ambassador, I often joke that, "I'm a real live bartender- and I have the tattoos to prove it."  Funny, but true.

Recently, while looking for a particular photo for Throwback Thursday, I stumbled upon a treasure trove of old photos from my early days as a bartender in San Francisco.  

When I tell people what I do for a living, the first question they ask is, "How did you get that job?"  I've written before about my journey to Brand Ambassadorship, but a recent milestone caused me to revisit my steps along the way.  Sometimes, I get so caught up in the day-to-day hustle that I forget the journey from tending bar in San Francisco to tending bar in New York to now.  Join me on my trip down memory lane...

Last month, Kyle and I celebrated a very important fifth anniversary; on March 31st, 2011, we packed all of our belongings into four suitcases and boarded a one-way flight to New York City.  The catalyst for our move?  We would be tending bar at Amor y Amargo, a just-opened Amari bar in NYC's East Village.  

To celebrate our five-year anniversary (as well as Amor y Amargo's), I started digging around on my computer for a 'Throwback Thursday' photo to post on Instagram.  I found the photo above, taken of Kyle and me during one of our Ford Mixology Lab Sundays.  But I didn't just find one photo; I found many photographs of my bartending career through the years, and they were too fun not to share.

The pictures below show just how far I've traveled.  True to form, the fashions I'm wearing tell a story of their own.

Below Left: My first bartending job was at San Francisco's Cigar Bar and Grill.  I had just left a very buttoned-up serving job at Morton's The Steakhouse, where I was covered from neck to toe nightly.  As you can see below, I was really embracing not being covered up.  As the only female behind the bar, I celebrated body glitter, a great push-up bra, and Pink Sugar body spray.  I met some fabulous girlfriends working there, whom I bonded with while carrying trays of Washington Apples through a Salsa-dancing crowd.  

Below Right, 2010: My first day at Rickhouse, a fantastic cocktail bar that would later win 'Best High-Volume Cocktail Bar' at Tales of the Cocktail.  I had been hired by a friend who was the Assistant Manager and at the time, it was a huge deal to be asked to work there.  My first night was an audition; I worked the service bar, taking all of the drink orders for the floor.  As you can see, I fully embraced the pre-Prohibition theme.

Once I gained my confidence in the cocktail world, I began competing in cocktail competitions.  I attribute these competitions to being one of the catalysts that launched my current career.

Below Left: In 2010, while working at Rickhouse in San Francisco, I won the Ri 1 'Woman of Whiskey' competition with my drink, The Ba(ri)sta Cocktail.  Each of the competitors were assigned a course to pair with our cocktail and I chose dessert. My bestie agreed to play Bar Back, helping me serve samples to the thirsty crowd and prepare cocktails for the judges.  

Below Right:  In 2011, shortly after moving to New York City, I was selected to compete in the Angostura Cocktail Competition, claiming one of three winning spots for the United States and going on to compete in the Global Finals in Trinidad.  Angostura spoiled us rotten, treating all 16 competitors to a week of parties and events, culminating in the chance to play Mas in Carnival 2012!

The evolution didn't stop once I became an Ambassador, either.  

Below Left: This photo, taken in 2013, was from a Tasting Table event about a year after I began my career with Tanqueray.  As you can see, I was fully immersed in my colorful Betsey Johnson phase.

Below Right:  And the current phase of my professional style...  This photo was taken in November of 2015 with my natural hair color (I know, it's shocking that the flaming red hue wasn't what I was born with!) and after my Celebrity Stylist experiences: part one and two.

It's been said that life is a journey, not a destination, and I'm certainly enjoying where the road has led me.  Throwback Thursday is a great day to reflect on the past.  Tag me in your TBT posts today and let's celebrate our journeys together!

Rachel Ford is the Diageo National Gin Ambassador, representing Tanqueray, Booth's and Gordon's gins.