Women of the Industry: Reena Rivera, Bartender at Crackerjack
The number of women here who’ve made a career as professional mixologists can probably be counted with two hands but there’s no doubt the numbers are growing. A young rising star in the bar scene is Reena, whose short two-year experience in the industry has been decorated with awards and achievements.
Reserved and soft-spoken, she’s not what you usually expect from bartenders, the majority of whom are boisterous tattooed personalities. The F&B management graduate got her break working under Mark Graham at the now defunct Club 39 where she learnt what she considers the most important lesson – to always taste your drinks. A pretty common sense practice that sometimes, somehow, is forgotten. There, she represented Singapore and was the only female in the La Maison Cointreau Asia Regional Finals that pit bartenders from around the region. She shows me a picture taken in Phuket where it was held: it’s a candid shot of the group in goofy poses with her grinning from ear to ear.
While gender seems to be a topic constantly brought up to Reena, perhaps because no one has solved the mystery of why the industry is a male-dominated one, she is more than eager to dispel any myths. She tells me firmly that there’s no disadvantage to being a woman. Rather, it’s her small stature and young age that prove to be more problematic. She explains, “I can’t reach or carry things… [and] people don’t take me seriously or ask to talk to my manager.”
Regardless, trying to make your mark in a competitive bar scene calls for relatively thick skin. It’s something she’s had to acquire, recalling that she quit her first stint at a bar after 10 days because she couldn’t take the working environment. That Reena seems worlds apart from the Reena now sitting across me at Crackerjack, who gushes about the bar team she gets to work with and takes part in competitions such as Speed Rack Asia or the Diplomático World Tournament, emerging runner-up or in eighth place respectively.
She’s still got lots to learn but she’s already got her eyes set on the prize. Whether as a brand ambassador or owner of a bar, she wants to educate others on sustainability and wastage. “I want to run my own bar and help people,” she shares. It’s refreshing to find that Reena’s in touch with world issues, thanks to her mother who does crisis relief training and goes on mission trips in less developed countries. Perhaps in the near future, Reena will find a perfect way to let her passion shed light on issues close to her heart.