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Lyre’s Rachel Ling opens up about managing the world’s leading non-alcoholic spirits brand, challenges, inspirations and more

Non-alcoholic spirits award-winning brand Lyre’s has crafted the world’s most comprehensive range of alcohol-free spirits and liquors, revolutionising the way we drink. Whether it’s a boozy brunch, laidback happy hour or a special celebration, the Australian-based brand places emphasis on the freedom of being able to opt for a low or no ABV tipple, no matter the occasion.

With over a decade of experience within the Asia Pacific drinks industry, Lyre’s Regional Asia Manager Rachel Ling is optimistic about Singapore’s growing non-alcoholic drinks movement. In an email interview with The Vent Machine, Rachel talks more about her inspirations, journey so far and future plans with Lyre’s.

TVM: Growing up who/what were your main inspirations?

Rachel: Each of us is a makeup of many people and events that have inspired us throughout our lives. I have so many, and I still look for them – they keep me feeling alive and evolving.

Not having parents as role models expanded my source of inspiration. I’ve been very lucky to have relatives and good people around me, guiding me and showing me the way.

One of my biggest inspirations came from my aunt, who founded a local jewellery business that has been around Singapore for over 20 years. As a little girl, I remember looking up to my aunt in awe and thinking, she is so stylish. She is a breath of fresh air. Not only was she always dressed to the nines, but she is also a businesswoman, one who is kind and generous. She’s a listener and keen to help wherever she could. Now that I know better and have met many business people, she stands out even more as a gem.

TVM: I read in an interview that you saw yourself running companies as early as six years old. What motivated you back then and how did you strive to achieve your goals?

Rachel: Watching my aunt run her business was very motivating. It made me believe that anything is possible. As a kid imagining myself as a CEO back then was a reflection of my aunt. The image of her at work and interacting with clients was a makeup of my inspiration. Her positive image had been planted in me. It was cool to have a role model and think I want to be like her.

TVM: What were some of the challenges that you have faced in your journey so far? How did you overcome them?

Rachel: I haven’t turned out like my aunt; not many kids are what they wanted to be when they were 6. Now that I fully understand her work’s extent, I’m genuinely impressed at her tenacity and commitment. I have given it a go in the jewellery business, but it’s not my cup of tea. But I still love the thought of running a business, entertaining clients, solving problems and creating strategies.

I started my career in nightlife, which can be a challenge; naturally, it’s a taboo for family (my relatives).

But I’ve always been an independent and persistent cookie – most people without parents are. So I took on two jobs, one with the family to make them happy and one in nightlife to make me happy. It was a secret for a while until it wasn’t because I was obviously exhausted. Eventually, my family realised my heart wasn’t in it and let me pursue what I wanted to do until I was ready.

I was promoted quickly in nightlife; eventually, I became a club promoter for several nightclubs, made many connections – if you wanted to get into the best clubs, it’s good to know the promoter.

I love keeping myself busy. I took on a corporate job in between club promoting and went for a financial advisory role at an insurance company. I had a great mentor and did really well, but the job didn’t challenge me mentally and creatively. It feels good to know I tried and could rule out what I didn’t like to get closer to what I want. When you’re young, you have the time to explore, make mistakes, learn and move on quickly.

After promoting nightclubs, I went into events where I could benefit from my connections from nightlife and work regular hours – though we know that’s not true. Events often meant overtime, but I was okay with that. Shortly, Singapore went into an economic crisis. Businesses started to organise their own events in-house.

I didn’t stop because I felt like there is still a need for my expertise and connections. I was offering something that other event companies weren’t – I could bring an audience and fill the space. My determination paid off. A distributor hired me to organise the launch of elit by Stolichnaya in Singapore. They needed to market it to people who partied and to nightclubs. Right after the event, the distributor offered me a job to manage the brand in Singapore. I joined them, and 9 months later, I was promoted to Regional Brand Ambassador for Southeast Asia. I loved the job, which allowed my personality to shine and stay within the realm of F&B, and it challenged me mentally and physically – I was constantly travelling, going somewhere and meeting new people. It was a very social lifestyle. I ‘owned’ and developed the brand like it was my own baby.

After five years with the brand, which I still love, I wanted more growth. I wanted to evolve. Proof & Company came into the picture and offered me a position. I have so much respect for this team, whom I look up to as the heroes of the F&B industry. I joined them and received the opportunity to learn so much more about spirits and the beverage industry from behind the scenes. They are your go-to for craft spirits and developing the world’s best bars.

TVM: After working in the alcohol industry for almost a decade, what inspired you to switch to non-alcoholic beverages?

Rachel: The answer lies in the question. It’s been almost a decade of drinking and hangovers day after day. It got to a point where sober felt drunk or off because I wasn’t used to being sober. I could easily drink a bottle of vodka a night; I just have a high tolerance for alcohol. I’m not going cover it up, I absolutely enjoyed alcohol, but it was also messing with my health – mentally and physically.

At the end of the day, alcohol will take a toll on anyone’s health; whether you have a high tolerance or not, it affects your body. I started developing allergies and would go in and out of depression. So there I was, questioning my purpose. I wanted to be better for my body and my mental health. I became very health conscious. There was a lot of self-care to catch up on, which I’d been neglecting.

I found myself feeling quite torn. I love the beverage industry and all the connections made. It was hard to imagine myself moving away from the industry that I know so well. I didn’t know exactly what to do, I just knew I couldn’t continue my relationship with alcohol the way I did.

The circuit breaker forced me to take a much-needed break, to refresh and re-group with myself.

Lyre’s approached me near the end of the circuit breaker. It felt like the universe answered; the timing was perfect. I’ll be honest, I didn’t even think about non-alcoholic spirits prior to that; it was a category that was frowned upon by people who enjoyed alcohol and worked in the beverage industry.

After conversations with my current boss, I developed a whole different point of view. It opened up my mind, and I connected with the product and the mission that Lyre’s is driving, and quickly learnt that this was the perfect role for me. I get to be in the beverage industry, which I love, and stay connected with its people without alcohol. Working with this brand is exactly right for me, and my own mission to achieve and advocate better health and wellbeing for others alike.

Recently, after abstaining from alcohol for five months, it came to me like an epiphany that I did not feel down the entire time. My mood was much more consistent. I became happier, calm and generally felt well.

TVM: How is Lyre’s unique and why should someone go for a bottle of Lyre’s for their next special occasion?

Rachel: With 13 core variants and five ready-to-drink offerings (three currently available in Singapore), we have the most extensive range of non-alcoholic spirits and the most awarded spirits in the world. Not to mention, our spirits are made to look, taste, smell and sashay around your palate, just like the original alcoholic versions. With a bottle of Lyre’s, you can play bartender and explore different cocktails and combinations for consumers to enjoy their drink the way that they want to. It makes us stand out from the crowd.

At the moment, everyone is under a lot of stress and pressure. In turn, you don’t necessarily want to drink alcohol as it does impact your mood. And Lyre’s is an excellent alternative for consumers looking for something to drink; we offer a solution to mindful drinking.

If you’re going out to a bar or restaurant and you’re looking for exceptionally crafted cocktails with quality and variety, it’s an obvious choice to look for Lyre’s.

TVM: What are your thoughts on the current adoption of non-alcoholic spirits in the f&b scene in Singapore and where do you see it in the next five years?

Rachel: Singapore loves a new trend, and generally, the market catches on really fast. Since we launched Lyre’s in Singapore in the past year, we’ve witnessed Singapore going from a barely existent non-alcoholic category to catching onto dry months trends such as Dry January, Dry July and Sober October.

I see more months, such as Moderation March catching on in the next five years and non-alcoholic cocktails being served in large format festivals (when they make a comeback). I anticipate seeing many more events highlighting non-alcoholic options and being more prominent in spirits competitions and featured on menus like a regular drinks menu rather than being hidden at the back of a menu.

Non-alcoholic spirits and beverages will inevitably become part of one’s lifestyle, and my suggestion is to start exploring the options. It’s easy to get into it.

TVM: What is your favourite Lyre’s drink and why?

Rachel: I get asked this a lot, and my answer is the same as when it was alcohol. It depends on the occasion. It changes like how we crave certain foods. Sometimes I want something light & refreshing, sometimes something stronger in flavour or sweet, bitter or creamy.

Currently, I’m into having an American Malt with Fever-Tree Cola (like a Bourbon Coke). It brings back memories of when I first started drinking alcohol, I had Jack Daniels with Coke, and the American Malt with Cola tastes precisely like it, minus the burn and hangovers.

I recommend finding your spirit of choice from Lyre’s range and pairing it with a simple mixer for a start. Then progressively build into a more complex cocktail from there. Make it fun and experiment with it. There are so many options to choose from.

Find out more about Lyre’s at https://lyres.asia

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