For the last three years, Atlanta, GA, based Jose Pereiro has been working as a brand ambassador for Santa Teresa Rum, and it’s not just about the sales.

Jose Pereiro has worked behind the bar for the last 14 years, making his way from a food runner to his current role as Beverage Director for Storico. We caught up with Pereiro to learn about the evolution of his career behind the bar and with the Venezuelan rum company.

Santa Teresa 1796

Santa Teresa 1796

While he was working in Miami Pereiro began competing in cocktail competitions and learned everything he could from the best local bartenders. During that time, he met Juan Pablo, the Florida brand ambassador for Santa Teresa. The two sparked a friendship and when the brand looked to find a Georgia brand ambassador, Pereiro was the first name on their list.

“I got a call from him (Juan Pablo) asking if I wanted to represent Santa Teresa here in Atlanta, so I was running drinks at the time and I was like ‘you know man I’m not really into going out and trying to sell’ that’s what I thought it was going to be like and I didn’t have the time. So, I declined,” Pereiro shared. The brand hired someone else for the position but within a few months the came back to Pereiro to try again. Not only was he already carrying and supporting the line in his bar, but Pereiro is Venezuelan, making him an ideal person to work as a brand ambassador.

“We went from selling 20 cases in Georgia to 120 cases in a year, so I was like, oh, okay there is something good happening. I wanted to represent something, a brand, a culture that I grew up with, which was drinking Santa Teresa. Santa Teresa is the best rum in Venezuela to me, there are other rums that are really good, but Santa Teresa is really special for where it comes from, how it’s made, how they support the community. That’s why I decided to accept the job. That’s what’s been driving me since day one. Other brands have asked me to work for them and I’ve declined. The only reason I work on the other side of the bar, as a brand ambassador or salesperson, is because I’m connected to the brand from home, from the heart.”
– Jose Pereiro

Jose Pereiro

Jose Pereiro

“I build relationships and educate the staff about our rum and our purpose; mostly our purpose because we don’t sell rum, we sell our purpose. We change people’s lives. I think when we talk about the purpose of Santa Teresa, which is Project Alcatraz, even just sharing that story will change the people we’re talking to’s life. They open their mind to see what’s outside of the US, what’s in the world, and that there are other parts of the world that are suffering. With our help, even by just selling a bottle or a cocktail we can help other people and change their life.”

In 2003, a gang broke into the Santa Teresa Hacienda and ambushed a security guard. Rather than turn the gang members into the police and send them to jail, the brand offered the criminals the choice to work off the cost of their offense, and they did. The brand had always known they believed in second chances, going above and beyond to do what would help their community–but this event proved to them that they could help fight crime and make great rum at the same time. Thus, Project Alcatraz was born. The program recruits gang members, offers vocational training, education, and psychological help, and helps them learn a range of values through rugby.

“Being Venezuelan and seeing how the country has changed since being a kid, seeing what Santa Teresa is doing is–Alberto Vollmer–they call him the Batman of Venezuela, because he helps people and nobody knows he is doing it,” Pereiro shared. “Rugby is a big part of it because Alberto went to school in Europe and played rugby, he believes that rugby has a lot of fundamental values to help a man become better. Sportsmanship, respect, all those values are important when people are on the dark side and trying to move to the bright side. Rugby helps them through the process.”

The program was so successful Vollmer decided to try recruiting another local gang into the program and was successful. Now, they have a couple of rugby teams and the area around the Hacienda is transformed. The program now works within jails the in the country to help transition soon to be released prisoners so that they have an easier time re-entering society.