Lauren Mote: Wordly Wise

Lauren Mote has been appointed Diageo’s first cocktailian, charged with spreading the word about cocktails to a global audience. Hamish Smith meets Canada’s finest


COCKTAILS ARE catching but they have not yet caught. Not in the way beer has so pervasively, or wine – and the cocktail world is not anywhere near as compelling to the public as chefs and their food. It’s not for want of trying. The spirits sector is hoping a bartender will climb the wall of the promised land and find fame on the other side.

Lauren Mote stands as good a chance as any. The Canadian is Diageo’s newly-appointed global cocktailian – the first time such a role has been conceived, let alone filled.

A what? A cocktailian is an ambassador for cocktails, the face (and perhaps mind) of Diageo’s World Class bartender programme and a ‘storyteller’ for its Reserve Brands portfolio.

“Everything that I have done in the past 17 years is coming right to this moment for a role that was almost designed for me,” says Mote, in one of her first interviews since landing the job. She is every bit the communicator - articulate, engaging, knowledgeable... it’s as if Diageo designed her for the job.

So who is Lauren Mote? If you’re North American, you’re much more likely to put her ear-to-ear smile to the name. She’s a bartender and brand owner of some standing, but we’ll come to that. Let’s first head to Toronto, where she grew up.

Mote came from a creative background – her mother is from England and had an early career in fashion as a catwalk model, her father in film and fine arts. “We’re creative, right-brained people – it’s in my DNA,” says Mote. But mostly it was the left side of her brain that was exercised in education – indeed, had she seen it through, university was taking her down a career of international relations. “I quit with three credits to go. I wanted to get on with things, I was impatient. I saw it as wasting time when I could have been participating.”

As with so many, bar work was the part-time job that became the career. In her early 20s, it was for the fun of it. “I worked at Wayne Gretzky’s bar – a sports bar in the most insane interpretation of the concept. Back then you were seen as the coolest person if you could hold two pint glasses and turn the taps on and off at the same time. It was fast-serve sports bar stuff.”

That was 2002-2004, after which came Le Sélect Bistro – an institution in Toronto. “It was focused on French food, aperitifs and digestifs but the wine list was what it was really known for.” Mote had no wine training at that time. No problem – she found her own way to translate the bible of a wine list to customers. It was about making the complicated simple, letting flavour be her language.