42Below’s founder Geoff Ross has written a book with his wife Justine about the story behind the vodka called Every Bastard Says No. They’re having a book launch this Friday at the’Ho that’s supposedly invite-only but we bet you could sneak in if you were smart enough. In order to promote the book, I got to interview Geoff and Justine via email (my choice, things are crazy hectic this week at the Wellingtonista towers), but of course since it’s not released until April 30, I wasn’t sure what to ask. Various Wellingtonistas helpfully suggested I should enquire about the War Memorial Scandal – but that’s not related to the book – or the allegedly homophobic ad campaign in the USA, but I know nothing about that. And I don’t want to risk having my opportunities for free booze taken away from me. I’m a blogger, not a journalist, after all. So, after the jump, I lob some soft balls at them, and Justine in particular impresses me with her love for Wellington.
Questions and answers with Geoff
1. Why did you start with vodka? What is it about the spirit that drew you to it?
I drunk it. And actually more specially I saw more and more Vodka Cocktails emerging. Vodka is the Switzerland of Spirits – it goes with anything. And with the re birth of cocktails I could see it being the universal ingredient. Also New Zealand seemed it might have some cred with Vodka. We couldn’t do Tequila or Scotch because of Provence – but Vodka kind of fitted. (someone once told me New Zealand was the Sweden of the South pacific)
2. Was Wellington initially receptive to 42Below, or did you have to look elsewhere for validation first?
Wellington was. I knew a lot of the bars I first sold to. But even beyond that, Wellington did adopt 42 Below. Probably better than any other city. Maybe because it was a home town brand. But probably more because there is a self confidence in Wellington. They didn’t need to be told what was ‘cool to drink’
3. With so much of a Cuba influence going on here, howcome it took you so long to start making a rum? And what’s the fate of Seven Tiki now that Bacardi’s stepped in?
I believe Seven Tiki is all go. I love the whole Pacifica thing. And found a great Rum distiller in the sugar cane fields of Fiji. That was where our Rum came from – rather than a Cuban thing.
4. So why the bloody hell are you now based in Auckland when everyone knows Wellington is the centre of the world?
Spear fishing. Better Spear fishing in the north. (Less of an octopus threat too, maybe! – ed)
5. Finally, what’s your favourite way to drink 42Below?
Martini with a citrus twist. Very very cold.
Questions and answers with Justine
1. Given that everyone in Wellington seems to know everything about everyone else’s business, was that a help or a hinderance when it came to trying to reconstruct the life of 42Below?
In those days (’90s)in Wellington we were young, childless and highly social so we loved that everybody knew everybody’s business. Social networking was an important cumulated advantage in establishing the 42 below brand (and indeed our own respective professional reputations) so the answer to your question is that the tight nature of Wellington society was an advantage.
2. Although I haven’t read the book yet, I’m guessing from everything else I know about 42Below, there may be some flights of fancy and creative embellishments in the book. How important do you think it was to tell the truth versus telling a good story?
Truth is everything. I am a voracious reader and I can always smell a fabrication or a lie and as a reader I resent it. There were no flights of fancy or creative embellishments – there is the truth. There are however sub plots and plot extensions that we didn’t have room for in the book. If I was worried about putting something into the book Geoff would say … "is it the truth" – if the answer was YES I put it in. The same applied to the business we always told the truth – that way you stay out of trouble.
3. Do you feel inspired now to write the stories of other Kiwi icons, or was this more of a personal task?
In the late ’90s I went to the London School of Journalism, I wrote and researched documentaries and I actually wrote a column for Capital Times in Wellington – I’m sure all writers hope one day to write a book. The popular story of 42 Below and my knowledge of it provided me with a first experience. I have loved it and hated it. I am writing a business book for teens at the moment and I have two other books in progress but let’s see how Every Bastard Says No goes first. There is nothing P.C. about my writing style and my cynicism won’t be everyone’s cup of tea.
4. As a published author, can you recommend some other good books about or from Wellington?
My heart broke a little when I saw BlindSight by Maurice Gee in a book store window in 2005. The figure ‘Gordon’ on the cover hunched over bucket in hand was a figure known to everyone who trod the streets of central Wellington in the 1990s. Bless Maurice Gee for immortalizing his story. Years ago I bought Warwick Roger’s book The Other Side with extracts from his magazine and newspaper work. I remember vividly the impact his piece, ‘The Charm of Wellington’ had on me. I too was an Aucklander trying to make a life in Wellington and I too gained a huge amount professionally from my time there. Geoff didn’t fall for Wellington like I did and when I read that piece I realized a born and bred Aucklander can fall for the charms of our capital – I was not alone.
5. Finally, what’s your favourite way to drink 42Below?
Favorite drink is a lunchtime 42 Manuka Honey Capirioska or a Bellini from Harry’s Bar.