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Interview with Ronnie Cox

Interview with Ronnie CoxAs the Brands Heritage Director at Berry Brothers and Rudd Spirits, it’s obvious that Ronnie Cox is passionate about Scottish and British history (and of course, whisky). Cox is a second-generation whisky pro and was a bit of a rebel from a young age, refusing to attend university and instead taking his father up on an alternative deal: a one-way ticket to anywhere in the world, as long as he stayed for three years. He chose Germany and ended up working in a wine shop where he developed his palate and love for wine. Shortly after, he moved to Spain to work for Gonzalez Byass and dove into the world of sherry, which eventually led to working with Diageo and Berry Bros. & Rudd on whiskies that were finished in some of those same sherry casks. He’s been working with Berry Bros. & Rudd for the last 20 years on the development of single malts and other spirits, one of which is The King’s Ginger liqueur. Cox recently sat down with Joshua Harris of The Bon Vivants (and Pig & Punch) to talk about his love for the spirits industry and what makes The King’s Ginger so unique.

Josh Harris: What do you enjoy most about your job?
Ronnie Cox: Without a doubt, it’s people; it’s cultures; it’s different countries, habits and customs. It never ceases to interest me. Whenever I go abroad I will find something or somebody who is of incredible interest to me. Passionate people, I love. Passionate in a sense that they have a subject and they passionately follow it.

JH: Let’s talk about The King’s Ginger. There are a lot of ways ginger can come into play in the cocktail world. What makes The King’s Ginger special?
RC: Ginger is a wonderful tasting product in cocktails that has this glorious warming effect. People particularly in colder climates have taken to it like a duck to water. People absolutely adore it in coffee, by itself, or put it in a 50/50 with your favorite scotch or American whiskey; it makes the most lovely warming combination.

JH: The line between work and play can often get blurry in the spirits business. When you’re able to truly detach from work, how do you like to spend your time?
RC: I’m a great lover of life. I will try my hand at anything. I was a sportsman in my younger years, and I still play a lot of tennis and golf. I have two kids, one 21-year-old and one 17-year-old, so when they’re home I like to look after them to try to make up for the time I haven’t spent with them. I’m passionate about Scotland and history and reading about Scottish history. And, of course, whisky! Whisky has always been a passion of mine, and I sort of evangelize about it. That’s what I really enjoy; I get a tremendous kick out of enlightening people about something that I’m very passionate about.

JH: We know you’ve gotten to see a lot of the world, thanks to your father and the path he set you on. Have you bought your own kids a one-way ticket and told them you don’t want to see them for three years?
RC: [Laughing] Well, they haven’t yet flunked university, but as soon as they flunk university they might well get the same treatment!

JH: What’s your not-to-be-missed travel destination?
RC: Colombia. It rolls really easily off my tongue. I fell in love with Colombia in the terrible times when there were a lot of terrorists and narco traffic and drug smugglers and all the rest, but if you knew where to go you could always find wonderful people, wonderful things to eat and wonderful things to do. You can go to the mountains, horseback riding, down to the beach and the Caribbean. But the people in Colombia just make that country. They’re always fun, they’re well educated, they’re very polite. I love going there whenever I can.

JH: Through all your travels, what’s been your favorite fine-dining experience?
RC: That’ll be difficult. I don’t remember my own telephone number, but I do remember the number of restaurants I’ve eaten in, and it’s 3,489 different restaurants around the world. One of my favorite restaurants I’ve ever been to is a place called The Latch in Vancouver Island. It was run by a couple of chefs, wonderful people; the situation was so lovely and the food was absolutely out of this world. A lot of it is to do with the service and the venue to me.

JH: And what about your go-to street food?
RC: In terms of my favorite neighborhood restaurant, I adore brasseries. So the French-style brasserie—steak frites, something pretty simple, chocolate mousse afterward, probably with an onion soup to start off with. I also love ethnic restaurants—so Lebanese restaurants, Chinese restaurants. In London we’re very lucky, as you are in the States, to have a huge variety of cuisine.

JH: And now for some rapid-fire questions.

JH: Cats or dogs?
RC: Dogs.

JH: Early bird or night owl?
RC: Both.

JH: Coffee or tea?
RC: Coffee.

JH: Mountains or beach?
RC: Mountains, I stroke on beaches.

JH: Bowtie or necktie?
RC: Necktie.

JH: Fork, chopsticks or fingers?
RC: I think I’m going to have to go with fingers.

JH: Aged or unaged?
RC: Aged.

JH: Tasting menu or a la carte?
RC: A la carte.

JH: Still or sparkling?
RC: Sparkling.

 

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