Since becoming CEO of Stoli Group at the start of 2015, Rob Cullins has completed a circuit of the globe, spending time with staff and, as ever, in search of the best cocktails. He talks to Hotel Management International about his favourite blends from around the world, what appeals to him as a traveller and the recipe for success in creating the leading original vodka.

As CEO of Stoli Group, you must have a packed travel schedule. What have been the highlights of your tenure so far?

Rob Cullins: Spending time with the entire US team in Lake Charles at the Bayou Rum Distillery. They are a fantastic group of people and Bayou is the first spirits addition to our Stoli US portfolio. I was also able to spend time in Dubai and Tel Aviv with our distribution partners, and travelled through Latin America and Asia-Pacific, where I have lived and worked in the past, so that always brings back fond memories.

Where do you like to visit for leisure?

Somewhere with sun, surf and a cool breeze. The South Pacific and the Caribbean are two of my favourites, although Mykonos, Greece, is on the list for the coming summer holidays.

What is most important to you as a hotel guest?

The simple things: great service, a quiet room, a comfortable bed and a shower with serious water pressure. A hotel fitness centre or gym is also a must.

So many cocktails originated in hotels – from the Singapore Sling to the Black Russian. What do you think makes a great hotel cocktail?

In a word, heritage. Famous cocktails are epochal in their character, and so they embody the stories and spirit of the hotels from which they originate, new and old. We’re very lucky that with the development of new and luxurious properties around the world, in such exciting and progressive destinations as Dubai, Sydney, Cape Town and Shanghai, bartenders are using the latest ingredients and techniques to craft their cocktails.

Do any favourites stand out for you?

A classic martini, made with elit by Stolichnaya, a hint of dry vermouth and a twist is my favourite, although I have recently been drinking quite a few Moscow Mules and new twists on old classics, such as an Old Fashioned or a Manhattan.

Yes, we’ve seen quite a trend towards recreating and reinventing classic cocktails in recent years. What’s the secret to getting this right?

This is in fact something very close to our heart, as Stoli is internationally recognised as ‘The’ original vodka. We’ve seen huge popularity in our Moscow Mule and Bloody Mary programmes. Credibility is one of the secrets to success, in the quality of the base ingredients and the technique, but the correct drinking occasion is also important: finding new and fun instances to enjoy them that are relevant to contemporary lifestyles.

Mixology is a difficult and delicate craft to master. Do you have any advice for mixologists?

Travel and explore. Learning new techniques and styles from the world’s most exciting bars and bartenders is a sure way to establish a reputation and develop your skills in the craft.

Stoli prides itself on the high-quality, carefully balanced and natural flavours that go into its vodkas. Why are natural ingredients so important?

We wanted to craft a range of premium vodka that allowed bartenders to mix drinks with a spirit that complements the fresh ingredients and garnishes. Stolichnaya flavoured vodka is still very much a vodka with a clear and crisp finish, and the natural fruit flavours serve as a perfect base for mixology without overdoing it.

Stoli vodka is well travelled, famously making the journey into space with a mixologist in 2012. Where are some of the most remarkable places it is drunk?

You can find Stoli cocktails in geographies and venues all over the world; from Ozone at the top of the Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong to Buddha-Bar in Paris. One of my recent favourites is The Luggage Room in London, and Twiga in Monaco is also not to be missed. We have recently partnered with Ushuaia Ibiza, and, if you are ever in Nashville, make sure to stop at Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge and order Steve’s Drink.