Sun | Sep 27, 2020

Bartending duo talk ‘living behind the bar’

Published:Friday | October 18, 2019 | 12:21 AM
Blaze Montana in action.
Blaze Montana in action.

The JWN Academy’s Advanced Seminar and Convention, being held at the end of October in Kingston and Montego, has invited some interesting guests in the form of two of the world’s most renowned bartenders.

Mixing drinks is nothing new to society, which has been evident for the past few thousand years.

Twenty-year bartending veteran Kate Gerwin and expert flair bartender Blaze Montana have been traveling the world as a team, keeping the tradition alive. They pride themselves in demonstrating their skills and sharing their knowledge with others, which is their main reason for taking part in the seminars and conventions set for later this month.

“We love teaching in ‘small markets’. New York, Paris, London… we get it. But we really want to be in contact with the bartenders who make a difference in everyday people’s lives” said Montana, expressing his love for getting to know corner dive bartenders, vacation bartenders, and local pub bartenders, among others.

Gerwin, who is also Bols Bartending World Champion 2014, and the first woman to win an individual world title in a bartending competition, is excited to meet the bartenders once she arrives:

“I can’t wait to learn about the culture and spirit of the humans that keep the island full of libation!”


The duo aims to impart something unique to participants, but also to share that special sense of belonging and community, which is unique to their field. Montana and Gerwin have spent years learning from each other as well.

“Blaze is constantly challenging me to think outside my perspective. We are very different people in the way we move through the world, and it keeps me from centring myself a lot.” Gerwin shared, when detailing the nuances of their collaboration which has spanned years.

“We get to share things that we both experience together, but through different lenses. It really helps you remember that we are all trying to do our best, and to remember that sometimes we just might be wearing different glasses, so to speak.”

For Montana, being able to teach, learn, and experience these things with his partner, Gerwin, has made the journey all the better:

“We really complement each other. Kate is incredibly linguistic, she is a great public speaker, and she loves to get in and talk to people,” said Montana.

“I am more kinetic, if you will – movement and actions. I love to watch guests, interact and wow them with visuals. We show people that you don’t have to be one specific personality to be successful behind the bar, you just have to be you, and be passionate.”

Both mixologists admit that a career in mixology is anything but a bed of roses, but Gerwin credits having good people in her corner for helping her see things through. She believes taking this path, when it’s all said and done, is a great blessing:

“I can say I am certainly a better person for it. Bartending is about hospitality. And hospitality is about empathy. I have learned so much about the world, how to be a better person and really care about people, because of the passion of the inspirational bartenders I have had the honour to follow.”

The occasion is sure to provide many opportunities for networking and sharing in the spirit of the wider bartending and hospitality community.

Montana had this to say about sharing experiences with others, and learning from them as he hones his craft in the process:

“(I learn) how incredible the humans are that make up this world. Bars tend to be the heartbeat of communities and the blood is the people pulsing in and out of the doors. I get the rare opportunity to be paid to observe, and, hopefully, sometimes help these people in their everyday lives.”