Kona Cocktail Academy Gabrielle Maser (Interview)

Published by The Rumlab ago

Kona Cocktail Academy Gabrielle Maser (Interview)  article cover image

GABRIELLE MASERKona Cocktail Academy

By Jose Hoffmann


1. Who is Gabrielle Maser?

Gabrielle Maser grew up amid awe-inspiring nature, world-famous wine and delicious food in Mill Valley, California, and began her career working at some of the west coast’s truly amazing restaurants. She discovered her true home when she moved to Kailua-Kona, Hawai’i in 1995, and earned her BA in Interior Design later on the island of Oahu at Chaminade University.  She instinctively parlayed her design sense into more than twenty years experience designing, opening, bartending and training staff at restaurants in Hawai’i and on the West Coast. She was mentored and guided by Honolulu’s master cocktail creator Christian Self of Bevy, and honed her mixology and craft bartending skills as she learned from an expert how to design and concoct unique, balanced, and beautiful cocktail creations.

Gabrielle believes that “Each drink should have a beginning, a middle and an end; a balance between sweet and tart, bitter and sour…and that each drink’s perfect place on those spectrums is to the discretion of the imbiber. The craft bartender’s challenge then becomes to make the perfect libation for the person sitting in front of them. And that’s when the magic happens.” In other words, mixology matters.

Gabrielle is an involved council member for the United States Bartenders Guild Hawai’i chapter, as well as on the council for the Les Dames d’Esscofier Hawaii Chapter. She has her first level Sommeliers certification, and is producer of “What’s in the Bottle?”, the industry blog that explores the production, history and stories that go into each bottle, each ancient cordial. She continues to raise the bar, founding The Kona Cocktail Academy on-line mentorship program in 2020 where she continues to educate, elevate and coach the next generation of talented mixologists.

2. What does the rum mean to you? What made you fall in love with rum and when did it happen?

Rum for me is the first made in Hawai’i spirit I ever tasted.  I worked at a Caribbean food spot in Hawaii Kai on Oahu and they had a great rum collection. I read every label and every bottle to expand my knowledge. At that time my palette was pretty green so I liked the sweeter aged rums like the original Zaya but it was not until I tried a Hawaiian Agricole that I truly began to see it as an ingredient in a drink composition.

3. Three essential characteristics that define the rum according to your perspective.

I like it vegetal, a little sweet with a little funk on it, those are the most fun to mix with!

4. What is the most important contribution you have made in the rum industry?

I was lucky enough to tour Kohana rum in Oahu when they first opened and it rocked my world. Because using local and being sustainable is a huge pillar of how I run my program using local rums is a must! I take all my teams to do tasting and I use them for all my signature cocktails. I think finding out how each label makes their product so we can share that with our guests is paramount.

5. Benefits that the rum industry has given you.

Learning the rum industry first hand and watching it grow here in Hawaii has opened my eyes to how a sustainable product that services the community can be made. And also that we as bartenders and program directors have a responsibility to share those products so that they are consumed instead of others not so conscious of their economic and environmental impact.

6. What’s another thing you are passionate about, in addition to rum? Why?

Teaching the next generation of bartenders all the things I had to go out and scramble together to learn is my passion, I love this industry, the fact that it is a family for those of us with our families and that it is a refuge for people not accepted in the usual 9-5 office job.  I also love the creativity that getting back to craft bartending has given us. It’s like I never go to work, I go to play.

7. What is your favorite place for drinking rum?

On a beach in Hawai’i

8. Favorite drink + Recipe

I love the original 1944 recipe and I love the Tiki’s Waikiki version with Lilikoi foam. It’s all time. But my current favorite is called the Deconstructed Okolehau, on my menu at Gertrudes Jazz Bar in Kailua-Kona. I took the components of the first true Hawaiian spirit, Okolehau, originally made with Ti leaf, Pineapple and sugar cane and made a drink with just those ingredients. It’s very alcohol forward and features the agricole perfectly!

Deconstructed Okolehau:

– 1 oz kohana kea

– 1 oz Pau Vodka (made from pineapples)

– .25 oz simple syrup

– .5 oz cold press Pineapple juice

– 1 dash house made pineapple and cocoa husk bitters

Stir over Pineapple Ice Cube and garnish with a Ti Leaf

9. Why is it important to educate the rum consumer?

Because the industry was built on suffrage and it’s time it stopped. The only way that will happen is if we direct the dollar to the more socially responsible in time all producers will have to follow.

10. How can the rum contribute to improving the crisis in some countries?

If rum is not made sustainably it can be harmful to the environment and if the parent company is only draining resources and not contributing to the overall health of the local community its just draining resources so if we have companies trying to support the local communities with infrastructure and proper health care for employees and sustainable production it can be a huge difference.

11. Is the commitment to sustainable development the key of success for the permanence of the rum industry in the world? Why?

In my opinion, absolutely yes!  If we don’t take care of the planet we have now, what will we leave for the future generations?

12. Why is the role of the bartender important in the rum industry?

The bartender role is so important!  But the bartender must be able to be educated about the product they sell. That education needs to include a set of questions about what’s in the bottle, so we can push what not only tastes best but all the companies that are choosing to do right sustainably and locally as well. And that’s where my contribution to all this comes up because my cocktail coaching academy focuses on exactly this. The power of the bartender dollar.

13. What is your advice for new generations in the rum industry?

Take my classes. I’ll save you a lot of pain, like what kind of yoga to do if you’re sore and when to start a Roth IRA. Also taste anytime you get a chance, sign up for USBG and any other associations that will get you out and about.

14. How can people learn more about you? Website? Social media page?