My Career Choice: Adriana Soley Livanos – Stray Dog Wild Gin

Adriana Soley Livanos knows a thing or two about cocktails. Originally from Barcelona, Livanos became one the most notable bartenders in Spain, winning several international cocktail competitions. She later moved to New York City where she was awarded the “Aliens With Extraordinary Ability” visa by the United States of America, not once but twice. Livanos also recently became a Tory Burch Foundation Fellow from her mentoring other women in the spirits industry to help them succeed.

Today, Livanos is the co-founder of Stray Dog Wild Gin, a spirits brand born out of Greece that uses foraged herbs and botanicals grown wild along the Greek countryside. A portion of its sales to go toward helping animals in shelters.  

Can you point to one event that triggered your interest in your career? 

My parents are foodies and I grew up going to restaurants. Eventually, they opened their own restaurant, so hospitality for me feels like home. I do remember one day when my father took me out to lunch and told me that I should look into bartending. He told me that it was a creative craft that was becoming very important in the hospitality scene, and it could be a fun job for me. While bartending I discovered my love for spirits and brands, which led me to go to the brand side later on.

Photo Credit: Grecia Erives – Es Agrio

What about this career choice did you find most appealing? 

I love spirits, all the different ingredients, making processes, the stories, and the creativity in which bartenders take a spirit to the next level in a cocktail. It’s also a very social industry hospitality and beverage are closely connected and every day I’m talking to and meeting different interesting people discussing ideas and making unique creative collaborations.

What steps did you take to begin your education or training? 

I studied a lot about spirits and bartending by myself, I was lucky to get a job at one of the best cocktail bars in Madrid, so before starting I did a lot of research on my own, and in between shifts I would study and try to learn as much as possible to be even better at my job the next day. When I started on the brand side, I took the same approach, I went to all the educational events I could, studied on my own, visited wineries and distilleries, and talked to anyone willing to have a geeky conversation with me about spirits-making processes.

Along the way, were people encouraging or discouraging? 

Always encouraging, I like to surround myself with positive people and I also try to stay positive as much as I can for others as well.

Did you ever doubt your decision and attempt a career change? 

I have! Not so much because of doubts, but more because sometimes you play scenarios in your mind, but after thinking of other scenarios, I come to the conclusion that this was, and is, the best path in life for me, for my personality, and my interests. I’m very passionate about making the best possible gin in the world, I’m passionate about taking care of the people who work with us and with our gin, I’m passionate about sharing the best flavors of Greece and the Mediterranean with the world, and helping animals on the way. So, I couldn’t be on any other career path.

When did your career reach a tipping point? 

When I moved to NYC in 2013, I made the move from bartender to brand ambassador and I started to work with brands. This made me realize my passion for brand building and sharing the unique stories that each spirit brand has. Over the years, I moved up the ladder to become a national sales manager and national trade marketing manager for big spirits companies in the U.S. Eventually, I went on and created my own brand, Stray Dog Wild Gin, the most award-winning gin from Greece, made with wild foraged botanicals that donate back to animal shelters all over the world.

Can you describe a challenge you had to overcome? 

Starting and running a business has many challenges! The key is to keep going and to face each challenge as they come and one by one to get overwhelmed. If you have a good partner, that makes things better and lighter, my business partner is my husband, and we have a great relationship all around. We look at challenges as a team and tackle them together or we divide and conquer on the different aspects of the challenge. 

What single skill has proven to be most useful? 

Empathy. This is a people and relationship business. Having empathy helps you think and understand what others need, why they behave like they are behaving, and see how you can best work together and help them achieve what they want to achieve by working with you.

What accomplishment are you most proud of?

Launching and growing Stray Dog Wild Gin! It’s not been easy, but it’s been very rewarding to see how many people love and believe in our gin. 

Any advice for others entering your profession? 

Learn from everything and everyone, the world is your teacher, you just have to take the time to listen and reflect. Work hard, and people will see it. Do good things for others without expecting anything in return. Enjoy the ride.

Top photo credit: Anthony Nader – 52 Chefs

About Carissa Chesanek (2 Articles)
Carissa Chesanek is a writer based in Brooklyn who primarily explores the food and drink scene in New York and beyond. Her work has been seen in Food Network, BroadwayWorld Food & Wine, Vinepair, Whisky Advocate, Real Simple, and Alcohol Professor. When she's not writing, she's on the hunt for the best Old Fashioned.