Campari America Toasts LGBT Members of the Bar Community in Honor of Gay Pride Month

With June being Gay Pride Month around the US, Campari America spoke to LGBT bartenders across the country about how they got into the bar business, what they love about it and where they see it going next. Our own SKYY Vodka has been a strong supporter of the LGBT community for decades and also a proud supporter of the fight for marriage equality with its Toast to Marriage campaign with Freedom to Marry.  This month, through our continuing #Spirited series, we highlight the LGBT individuals who are part of our diverse spirits industry.

With two former pastry chefs, two medical school students and a tattoo artist – among others – this diverse group demonstrates how many paths can lead behind the bar, and how being a bartender and being a surgeon are perhaps not so different! Join us in celebrating LGBT professionals in the bar industry by using the hashtag #SpiritedPride all month long.

Special thanks to Cooper Cheatham and GLASS (Gay & Lesbian Alliance for Spirited Sipping) for their support in helping to bring these Q&As to fruition.  Learn more about GLASS.


Tyler Lymer
Drink in Boston

Tyler_LymerHow did you get into the bar industry in the first place?
I got started in the business over 8 years ago when I was an Assistant Manager for Starbucks, I wanted something to do on my day off that got my mind off work and school. We all have a bartender friend, and mine said. “Why don’t you pick up some Bartending shifts, with your social skills, and your memory for recipes (barista skillset) you’d do great!” He ended up teaching me the ropes, and he helped me land a gig at a LGBTQ leather/bear bar in Phoenix.

What drew you in?
At first, it was the thought that I could make more money as a bartender than I could at Starbucks as a Store Manager with less responsibility. We all want that!  But if anything truly reeled me in, it was the guests, and also the creative outlet in making some rad cocktails, of which I look back on today and cringe.

Since you started in the industry, what’s the biggest change you’ve seen in terms of bar culture and what your patrons are looking for?
The biggest change I’ve seen is the massive shift in the use of fresh squeezed juice (mostly lemon and lime). Guests have access to a huge source of information now, and they are becoming wiser, and more discerning about what they are putting into their bodies (not just alcohol). Fresh squeezed citrus is a benchmark of a modern quality bar, that has really only been developed over the past 5 years.

What’s the most challenging or unusual experience you’ve had to deal with as a bartender?
Oh man, I’m very lucky to be granted a lot of autonomy in the jobs I’ve worked. I’m pretty quick to adapt, but by far the hardest thing to deal with are things that are out of my scope of control. I can think of a time when I was working at a restaurant that had just opened its doors.  The restaurant got slammed and so overwhelmed that it essentially shut down.  Needless to say, I had 4 hungry businessmen sitting at the bar drinking their evening away. Being behind a bar it’s not like I can avoid them, nor would I. But as 30 minutes passed, then 45, then an hour. Yeah, they were pretty frustrated just as I was, but they were very understanding. I took care of a round and tried to get something to snack on for them. I had my manager drop by the bar to chat with them and check on their food 3 times. It got to one hour and fifteen minutes. And we couldn’t make it happen. They left. As Murphy’s Law would have it, while the guests were walking out, the manager showed up with their food.

If you didn’t work in a bar, what would you be doing instead?
Umm, working in a restaurant!?  It’s hard to imagine myself in any other industry. I went to school for animation, but found a better way to express my creativity through crafting a cocktail. I’d probably be taking on a creative role working for a liquor company as a brand ambassador or distributor as a corporate bartender/mixologist.

In your opinion, what’s the biggest trend shaping the bar industry today and where do you see that leading?
There are so many trends right now, but the one that has intrigued me the most is the paradigm shift from vodka to whiskey. Last year was the first time in almost 50 years that whiskey sales in the US have outperformed vodka. It’s an interesting topic, and there are countless variables as to why this shifted so fast. But I’m a little hesitant to see how this plays out with liquor companies. We are starting to see all these flavoured whiskeys entering the market, as the American palate has been changing from sweet to sour/bitter. I’m curious to see how this will play out from a consumerism perspective, as it seems like vodka’s name has been dragged through the mud with all the unnatural flavours, it might just happen to the whiskey category. The question remains what will we switch to next.


Rosie Ruiz
Cole’s in Los Angeles

Rosie_RuizHow did you get into the bar industry in the first place?
I wanted to do something different in my life so I took private classes on the history of cocktails and spirits.

What drew you in?
I loved entertaining people and I grew up loving history.

Since you started in the industry, what’s the biggest change you’ve seen in terms of bar culture and what your patrons are looking for?
People are educating themselves and wanting to explore different flavors and pushing bartenders to be even more creative.

What’s the most challenging or unusual experience you’ve had to deal with as a bartender?
Learning to create the over all experience for customers, being professional at all times and having customers feel at home no matter the situation.

If you didn’t work in a bar, what would you be doing instead?
I would be a talent agent

In your opinion, what’s the biggest trend shaping the bar industry today and where do you see that leading?
The biggest trend is redesigning cocktails that have originally had poor ingredients and using similar ingredients or flavor profiles to achieve the “same” drink.


Shaun Dunn
Porchlight in New York City

Shaun_DunnHow did you get into the bar industry in the first place? What drew you in?
After graduating from culinary school, I began working at Eleven Madison Park. Watching the bar work seamlessly with the kitchen and execute creative and complex cocktails sparked my interest in bartending. I began at EMP working in the dining room and quickly expressed interest in the bar. I began bar backing and spent a year learning as much as I could about the bar before taking my first bartending job.

Since you started in the industry what’s the biggest change you’ve seen in terms of bar culture and what your patrons are looking for?
With the expanding popularity of the cocktail culture, new patrons have the opportunity to try things they’re unfamiliar with. We’re not seeing as many speakeasy type bars that can only serve 20-30 people at a time. Cocktail bars are evolving to meet the high-volume crowds they attract, while still operating at a high-end precision-oriented level. Bars are learning how to accommodate an expanding cocktail fandom, and be open and inviting to their unfamiliarity. This is ushering in a new attitude behind the bar: friendly and helpful bartenders are becoming a necessity.

What’s the most challenging or unusual experience you’ve ever had to deal with as a bartender?
Summer of 2014 I bartended in Fire Island, NY. Pouring vodka sodas in a swim suit is fun, but I was looking to bring a little more creativity to the island so I helped to open a “cocktail” bar of sorts. This new space allowed for me to execute actual cocktails in a “loungy”, relaxed environment. It was challenging to set up and get running, but it was nice to see some demand for a decent cocktail as opposed to just a flavored vodka soda.

If you didn’t work in a bar what would you be doing instead?
Cooking. Working with flavors comes naturally to me, and I love food. Working in an environment where I can stay on my feet, remain engaged, multi task, and learn every day is a must for me. I would wither away behind a desk.

In your opinion whats the biggest trend shaping the bar industry and where do you see that leading?
A trend that I’ve seen popping up at cocktail bars around New York is executing basic drinks in an innovative and exciting way. Whether it be a Whiskey-Cola that’s carbonated after the fact, or a Pain Killer out of a slushy machine, bars are repurposing played out drinks and making them relevant again.


Lana Gailani

Seamstress & Pouring Ribbons in New York City

Lana_GailaniHow did you get into the bar industry in the first place? What drew you in?
I came to bartending in perhaps the most roundabout and backwards way possible. When I graduated from college I was convinced I was going to be an academic, and I dutifully attended a PhD program for a couple of years before I had to admit that it made me completely miserable. In abandoning that, I went as far in the other direction as I could: pastry school. I worked in fine dining pastry for a while before I realized that many of my mentors were leaving the profession and I couldn’t find my path there. I worked as a sommelier but didn’t quite fit. Finally I fell in love with mezcal and found my way into bartending, where I discovered that it allowed me to combine all the best parts of what had come before: deep study, physical craft, great people, and a lifestyle I appreciate.

Since you started in the industry, what’s the biggest change you’ve seen in terms of bar culture and what your patrons are looking for?
Something I’ve noticed in terms of bar culture is a larger percentage of bars that are serving high-end craft cocktails in more cozy, comfortable environments. Sort of high-brow meets low-brow. People appreciate good drinks but want to put their elbows on the table, so to speak. I’ve also seen recently a lot more patrons willing to put themselves in our hands- more “bartender’s choice,” even in markets I wouldn’t expect.

What’s the most challenging or unusual experience you’ve had to deal with as a bartender?
As an introvert, I spent most of my life avoiding stages and spotlights and bartending is very much an eyes-on-you sort of profession. It’s been a challenge to find my “bar personality” and to become comfortable working point. It is rather strange to admit that in a profession where so many of my coworkers seem like such natural rockstars!

If you didn’t work in a bar, what would you be doing instead?
For love or money? If I don’t have to give a practical answer…I’d run away and join the circus. I spent the last year training as an aerialist but since helping to open a bar and starting another new job my practice has really fallen by the wayside. I’d really love to see where that could go.

In your opinion, what’s the biggest trend shaping the bar industry today and where do you see that leading?
I think one major trend that has the potential to really shape the industry is an emphasis on balance. Not just in cocktails but in the lives of the people who make and drink them. Bartenders (with the support of brands and writers and others involved in the industry) have more desire and more opportunity for education and self-care with the spread of camps, seminars, workout/health initiatives, etc. On this side of the stick, it’s going to help invite a more varied group of people to adopt and maintain bartending as a viable career, which in turn means more approaches to the craft and a desire for longer-term goals and projects pushing the industry forward. On the other side of the bar, balance means we want to give our guests more options and not judge them for their choices. I see more low-abv and non-alcoholic drinks on menus, a much wider range of spirits, and generally a more playful approach to beverages. We’re getting away from using our menus to prove how much we know and getting more into making sure the cocktails are just delicious.

Photo by Herminio Torres, 11c & Co.


Kelly Coggins

Woods Hill Table in Boston

Kelly_CogginsHow did you get into the bar industry in the first place? What drew you in?
I started out in the restaurant business as a Pastry Chef in San Antonio, TX (where I grew up) and fell in love with wine while attending the Culinary Institute of America for my Bachelors degree. After I graduated I decided to move to the “front of the house” to pursuse my love of wine and in my studies for exams it became clear that I would need to know the bar as well. It was the French 75 that first really got me to fall in love with the bar.

Since you started in the industry, what’s the biggest change you’ve seen in terms of bar culture and what your patrons are looking for?
I started out 11 years ago and the industry has grown by leaps and bounds in that time. People are so much more informed and know about classic cocktail. I think the big thing that patrons are looking for now is a unique experience, one that challenges them a little but that is hospitable and introduces them to new things. With all the information out there on the net people want to feel like a part of something special with each drink.

What’s the most challenging or unusual experience you’ve had to deal with as a bartender?
There are a lot of interesting experiences that have happened over the years but the one that I seem to run into most often that constantly challenges me are people who use the restaurant business as rest stop from their “real” career. There is an apathy and general lack of interest in learning and being better every day. Not everyone is like this but I find that there are always one or two people in every place who don’t seem to care to learn the drinks or work on bettering themselves and their interactions with guests. As someone who has chosen this path for his career it is super frustrating to work so hard on perfecting your craft only to have it mis-represented.

If you didn’t work in a bar, what would you be doing instead?
If I wasn’t in the restaurant business I would most likely have followed in my mother’s foot steps and become a teacher. She taught Home Ec and did a lot to change peoples lives. I would have liked to teach history as it is a huge passion of mine and I love to learn about the past.

In your opinion, what’s the biggest trend shaping the bar industry today and where do you see that leading?
I see a lot of collaboration happening. I think this strong sense of community that has come out of national events like Tales of the Cocktail, Camp Runamok, and Portland Cocktail Week has taken the small bar community national. This has not only raised the bar (pun intended) but created friendships across the country with people exchanging recipes and techniques. You are also seeing this cross-pollination on menus as people are dedicating sections to their friends ideas and crediting them for it. In my mind this is going to lead to a lot more pop up bars or nights with guest bartenders from all over giving the guest a chance to experience a bar that they might not know about or be able to get to. It is kinda awesome.


Fernanda “Cubby” Rossano
Henry’s Magestic & Atwater Alley in Dallas

Fernanda_RossanoHow did you get into the bar industry in the first place? What drew you in?
I’ve always been super outgoing and I was a patron for many years. I loved the social aspect plus the rock star feel of it. I started where all great bartenders start, as the back bone of the bar: barbacking. Until I was offered an apprenticeship under Brian McCullough (President of N TX USBG) and after that I just grew in my career.

Since you started in the industry, what’s the biggest change you’ve seen in terms of bar culture and what your patrons are looking for?
People are just drinking better, they want good product. No more silly shots and sugary drinks. The classics are coming back in the best of ways.

What’s the most challenging or unusual experience you’ve had to deal with as a bartender?
Well like I said I started as a Barback and not being a tall hot blond, kept me from some jobs and even from moving up to bartender. Eventually I earned my stripes and respect. I learned really quickly knowledge is power so I just learned all I could so I would become an asset.

If you didn’t work in a bar, what would you be doing instead?
Before I got behind bars I was the queen of odd jobs. So I really have no idea. I honestly can’t see where I would be… bars are my life!!

In your opinion, what’s the biggest trend shaping the bar industry today and where do you see that leading?
The craftsmanship is getting to be at a great level. Bartenders are educating themselves more. There is a real thirst for knowledge. We are making some great barmen and bar women all over.


Joe Calles
Celeste in Chicago

Joe_CallesHow did you get into the bar industry in the first place?
I was working in commission retail hell and a co-worker at the time dragged me into a cocktail bar that was across the street from work. I went back every payday and finally I asked how everyone else got their start.

What drew you in?
The vast flavor differences of the cocktails, one being very light, clean and smooth then the other extremely smoky and dry, along with the history.

Since you started in the industry, what’s the biggest change you’ve seen in terms of bar culture and what your patrons are looking for?
I think everyone’s knowledge as a whole is at a completely higher level. Patrons seem to look at it as more of a ‘real job’ then in the past. Even places that are used to awful drinks and bars living in the past know what a Negroni is.

What’s the most challenging or unusual experience you’ve had to deal with as a bartender?
Anytime there is a full moon there is always something crazy that happens. You can bet on it every time.

If you didn’t work in a bar, what would you be doing instead?
I would be back working in the rock climbing industry. That or trying to hike the Appalachian Trail.

In your opinion, what’s the biggest trend shaping the bar industry today and where do you see that leading?
Small distilleries. I am very interested to see what spirits are going to taste like with some real age on them or when distilleries actually start making their own juice.


Ann Marie Del Bello
ABC Cocina in New York City

Ann_Marie_Del_BelloHow did you get into the bar industry in the first place? What drew you in?
I worked at ABC Kitchen for 3 years and felt very passionate about having a bar program influenced by a strong local, sustainable farm to table concept. For a while now, people have certainly been conscientious of what they are eating and where it was being sourced, organic, non-gmo, etc.  I wanted to bring that concept to the bar on a large scale.  Two years ago, ABC Cocina opened and I was able to open the restaurant as Beverage Manager to bring this passion.

Since you started in the industry, what’s the biggest change you’ve seen in terms of bar culture and what your patrons are looking for?
The people want mezcal!  When Cocina first opened, we only had one cocktail with mezcal in it.  The amount of times I had to take that drink off a check for reasons such as “too smoky,” “not what I was expecting,” “tastes like jet fuel” are countless.  We now have 3 mezcal cocktails, and an array of different mezcals from throughout Mexico.  More importantly our guests and staff really enjoy it and want to learn more.

What’s the most challenging or unusual experience you’ve had to deal with as a bartender?
A few months ago, one of the members of our bar team suddenly passed.  One day, you have this bright, funny, energetic life filled staff member making your sides hurt from laughing so hard, and the next day that light is gone.  You somehow get through this dark time by remembering how wonderful that individual was.

If you didn’t work in a bar, what would you be doing instead?
I would work at Soulcycle on 19th St.  I would sit at the bar at Cocina, eat all of the tacos, and flirt with the bar staff.

In your opinion, what’s the biggest trend shaping the bar industry today and where do you see that leading?
Cider!  Gramercy Tavern has a killer cider list and places like Wassail in the LES are definitely popping up.  Not only is cider readily in our backyard, there are endless amounts of different types throughout New York and New England.  Cider is also a great ingredient in cocktails!  It brings effervescence, sweetness, and acidity.  Did I mention that it is super affordable?

Photo by Katherine Finkelstein.


Leo Robitschek
The NoMad Hotel, The NoMad Bar and Eleven Madison Park

How did you get into the bar industry in the first place? What drew you in?
I worked in the bar industry in college, but really started taking it seriously after moving to NYC.  I had left my day job and decided to go back to school.  I started working for a popular restaurant that made us take mandatory wine, sake and spirit classes, which allowed me to see beverage in a new light. Although, it wasn’t until my first experience at Pegu Club that opened my eyes to cocktails.

Since you started in the industry, what’s the biggest change you’ve seen in terms of bar culture and what your patrons are looking for?
I think the culture has grown and has become more collaborative and embracing.  It use to be very competitive and aggressive in a negative way, while now, the industry uses friendly competition to push each other.  Guests are also more informed than ever.  In the past decade you have seen consumers demanding better food and wine, we are now seeing this with spirits and cocktails.

What’s the most challenging or unusual experience you’ve had to deal with as a bartender?
I’ve encountered many “unusual experiences” as a bartender, but I plead the fifth, as many are not appropriate for this forum.  I encounter challenging experiences every day.  The service industry is fast paced, intense and usually calls for long hours.  I constantly have to remind myself that guests do not have a handbook of rules for each establishment, and that most people behave in a difficult way when they feel embarrassed.  We need to remember that we make and enforce our “rules” to provide better service; therefore, all of these rules are meant to be broken.  Take a step back and give everyone the benefit of the doubt.

If you didn’t work in a bar, what would you be doing instead?
I choose to forgo medical school to start The NoMad, so I would assume that I would be practicing medicine.  There are many similarities in both jobs: long hours, dynamic days, working and interacting with people, immediate reactions and rewards.

In your opinion, what’s the biggest trend shaping the bar industry today and where do you see that leading?
Fun… A few years ago you could only find great craft cocktails in speakeasy environments.  While, these places are fantastic, sometimes you want to be able to hangout with a big group of friends over great cocktails.  I love that many bartenders are taking guilty pleasures or taboo and making them delicious and well made.  Hooray to the Miami Vice!


Jess Keene
The Barrelhouse Flat in Chicago

Jess_KeeneHow did you get into the bar industry in the first place? What drew you in?
My first service industry related job was as a host/to-go gal in a casual BBQ restaurant when I was 18 years old.  I worked my way up through the front of the house ranks and eventually made my home behind the bar around the age of 21.  Initially, bartending acted as a reliable source of income to simply fund my hefty bills for school and at that time I had no way of knowing how far it would take would take me. The main aspect of this industry which I am most enamored by is feeling like I am a part of a family. The connections which I have made with my peers are some of the strongest I have made in my life.  For the most part we are all college educated and creative people and therefore are naturally drawn to each other based on common interests, a shared passion for our craft and the ability to tolerate long hours in a public setting.  The life of a food and beverage world employee definitely isn’t for everyone: it is fast paced, demanding, exhausting, and one must make a healthy degree of sacrifices in order to be successful. The family bond is essential to our mental and physical well beings. It is the “in the trenches” aspect of our professional lives which create this shatterproof camaraderie and I credit my support system tremendously for what I have accomplished and where I am today in my career.  Truthfully, I would be lost without it.

Since you started in the industry, what’s the biggest change you’ve seen in terms of bar culture and what your patrons are looking for?
When I first took my position behind the bar the Long Island Iced Tea and the Mudslide were still revered cocktails. The bluer the better and schnapps made the shot! So to say the least, cocktail culture has made a complete 180 from that particular point in its history. Overall, I view the current position which cocktails hold in culinary culture in general as something to be applauded and embraced.  Cocktails have definitely come full circle in reference to what was being served and created before prohibition.  Bartenders and patrons alike are thirsty for and blowing the dust off of those forgotten classics and bar professionals are pushing the envelope in creating the next best “modern classic.” No longer are the days where it is the norm to drink just to get drunk (of course this doesn’t always ring true). People are becoming more educated and in tune with what a balanced cocktail entails, therefore a deep appreciation for the craft has been established.  Above anything else one of my main duties (if not my sole duty) as a purveyor of booze infused treats is to make my guests who share my bar with me happy and if a “Sex on the Beach” is the only way to serve that happiness I shall do so with an overly enthusiastic smile. “Now where in God’s good name can I find the Peach Schnapps?”

What’s the most challenging or unusual experience you’ve had to deal with as a bartender?
Allow me to throw a giant vomit soaked umbrella over this response and say “passed the point” patrons!

If you didn’t work in a bar, what would you be doing instead?
Without a question if I wasn’t a part of this industry in any aspect, I would be writing for film.  I minored in screenwriting in college and I have a couple solid projects under my belt which have been featured in various film festivals. Truth be told, outside of any bar/restaurant related job, for 10+ years I worked professionally in the art world.  My lengthiest stint was as a tattoo artist. Coincidentally, also involved a fair amount of vomit.

In your opinion, what’s the biggest trend shaping the bar industry today and where do you see that leading?
What I tend to see happening a lot now with the reemergence of classic cocktail recipes is this sort of “throwback” to the speakeasies of prohibition.  Naturally, this concept is the default when it comes to creating menus centered around the classics and in turn allows the public more accessibility to said drinks when served in an atmosphere that is time period appropriate.  There is something to be said about the effectiveness of this concept ( I work in two bars which reflect this same idea) although I do fear that this theme may eventually run itself into the ground and in turn lose its luster.  I am 100% behind developing a concept that revolves around one common theme, but I am more so supportive of the “lack of concept” concept meaning that a bar should stand on its own legs and not rely on a gimmick to determine its success. With all of the superb talent that is now growing out of this branch of the industry in a few years time I expect to see even more establishments pop up that are the perfect marriage of a neighborhood “beer and shot” place with a craft cocktail bar and claim themselves to be simply as a “bar” with killer and competent bartenders who are capable of delivering anything that you may throw at them in an inviting and Edison bulb-less atmosphere.


Aaron Gregory Smith
15 Romolo in San Francisco

Aaron_SmithHow did you get into the bar industry in the first place? What drew you in?
I started in restaurants at 17 as a server and eventually made my way behind the bar. I’ve always loved the sense of family that develops among the staff of a restaurant or bar, and that is what drew me in.

Since you started in the industry, what’s the biggest change you’ve seen in terms of bar culture and what your patrons are looking for?
I think it has been fascinating to watch the American palate open up to bitters and fortified wines. When I first started serving cocktails, bitter liqueurs like Campari were a tough sell. Now they’ve become mainstream which is excellent for us in the culinary industry because it opens us up to a number of ingredients that would have been difficult to sell just a few years ago. Besides the experimentation with flavor, I also like that you have options in the style of bar that you want to visit. When I turned 21, you pretty much had nightclubs and dive bars. Which were great, don’t get me wrong, but now we have so many options of establishments to fit just about any mood or occasion.

What’s the most challenging or unusual experience you’ve had to deal with as a bartender or owner?
Once you become an owner, you lose the benefit of the doubt with your staff and guests. You really have to go out of your way to prove that your intentions are genuine. Many people automatically assume that you are trying to pull a fast one or exploit a situation if you don’t explicitly demonstrate otherwise. I don’t judge too harshly though, because I felt the same way about some of my former employers when I was coming up in the industry! Looking back, I can tell that, generally, those employers were really just trying to do the best they could in a challenging situation.

If you didn’t work in a bar, what would you be doing instead?
Honestly? I have known I wanted to be a restaurant/bar owner since I turned 21. At this point in my career, I have also taken on the role of Executive Director of the USBG. I started working in non-profits in high school and I am still very passionate about that work. So with or without the bar, I would be working in the non-profit sector in one way or another.

In your opinion, what’s the biggest trend shaping the bar industry today and where do you see that leading?
I am thrilled that we are on the rebound from the exaltation of mixology over hospitality. When the cocktail renaissance started, the folks leading that movement had a ton of varied experience that shaped their understanding of service and our industry. But after the 1st or 2nd generation of bartenders were hired and trained, who did not have the experience of washing dishes, hosting, bussing, and all of those other character-building experiences, we lost some of the devotion to and pride in hospitality. Fortunately, our industry has a strong dedication to improvement and collectively we’ve been able to recover from that momentary period of insincerity pretty quickly.


Ezra Star
Drink in Boston

EzraStar photo.by Aliza EliazarovHow did you get into the bar industry in the first place? What drew you in?
I have been in the restaurant industry for a while, either in the kitchen or working as a server, hostess, etc. At some point about 10 years ago I became very curious about being behind a bar. I was studying to be a physician at the time so mostly I was looking at how much money the bartenders were taking home every night and thought it would be a good way to pay for school. I hunted out every book I could, but no one would really give me the chance to step behind the bar. The place I was working at the time had a very popular Sunday brunch and one day one of the bartenders didn’t show up and they put me in his place. Eventually, I found my way to Drink as a barback. I was blown away by everything about it, I requested a leave of absence from school for 1 year so that I could learn to be the best barback possible. After one year I requested a second leave of absence from school but they wouldn’t give it to me: I was told to choose, so I chose the bar, the people, and the lifestyle of taking care of others.

Since you started in the industry, what’s the biggest change you’ve seen in terms of bar culture and what your patrons are looking for?
There are two things really, the first is when I started in this industry there were very few women behind the bar and now I look around at some of my favorite places and see incredible strong women running them such as Pamela Wiznitzer and Ivy Mix who have been incredible at growing the community and inspiring a new generation.

The second is that guests seem to be looking for more of an experience and are coming in to the bar with knowledge about what they want and what they are drinking that a few years ago just wasn’t the case.

What’s the most challenging or unusual experience you’ve had to deal with as a bar manager?
The most challenging thing about running a bar is hiring a good team. I feel as if many young bartenders and barbacks are succumbing to the spotlight that is currently on the bar world and searching for fame and not focusing on taking care of the people in front of them or growing their craft. When I started there were fewer opportunities available, but now the options are incredible and helping my team navigate these new options in a way that is both considerate of the people who come to enjoy the bar and allowing growth is a formidable task.

If you didn’t work in a bar, what would you be doing instead?
If I didn’t work behind a bar I would probably have become a surgeon. Anything using my hands and brain. The hours are similar as is the concentration on craft and taking of others.

In your opinion, what’s the biggest trend shaping the bar industry today and where do you see that leading?
In some ways I see the bar industry getting too wrapped up in itself. I sit at many bars and watch as bartenders take great care of their industry friends but leave every other guest waiting for their attention. I have sat at very famous bars and been treated horribly because the bartender didn’t think I was worthy of their attention, only to have them flip entirely upon learning where I work. We need to go back to focusing on the guests and treating everyone who walks through our doors with an equal amount of hospitality and respect.

Photo by Aliza Eliazarov.


Alex Day
Death & Co, Nitecap & 151 in New York City and Honeycut, The Normandie Club & The Walker Inn in Los Angeles

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

How did you get into the bar industry in the first place? What drew you in?
Like many others, I began my career in bars as a way to pay the bills. Going to college in NYC is damn expensive, but more than making some money in between classes, I quickly fell in love with the social aspect of bars and how vital they are to the culture of New York. Everyone lives stacked on top of each other, and so bars become this amazing extension of our homes – a vital place to relax, unwind, and meet people. Because of that, there’s ever imaginable type of bar. This drew me in from the beginning and has kept me in love with this industry ever since.

Since you started in the industry, what’s the biggest change you’ve seen in terms of bar culture and what your patrons are looking for?
Eleven years and counting and I’ve seen so much growth. Within our nerdy cocktail world, there used to be a few cocktail temples dotted around the world. Nowadays, every major city (and many smaller ones) have excellent bars executing at the highest level – a fact that continues to amaze me!

What’s the most challenging or unusual experience you’ve had to deal with as a bartender?
Because bars are built for people, there’s a level of unpredictability to every single shift. It’s simultaneously exciting and extremely nerve-racking, but it also means we get the chance to explore so many perspectives. Be it choosing the right cocktail for each guest, or diffusing an argument between a couple, you never know what’s gonna happen. The best bartenders in the world approach it in an almost Buddhist-like open-mindedness that takes a lot of practice to do well.

If you didn’t work in a bar, what would you be doing instead?
My old answer would be teaching, probably history or some social sciences. But I get to do that too already, it’s just through the lens of booze. I don’t know, really. I’m not a big believer in destiny, but I can’t imagine any other career being as fulfilling to every one of my interests as working in the bar industry has been.

In your opinion, what’s the biggest trend shaping the bar industry today and where do you see that leading?
Trends are funny things. They get lots of attention, but ultimately as a concept they’re fleeting. The bar industry is shifting almost constantly, and now that the hubs of creativity are not necessarily in biggest cities, there’s so much innovation happening all over the place in independent ways. For the last many years, bringing culinary technique into the bar world has been a huge over-arching theme; I’m beyond excited about how that has resulted in incredible drinks that continue to get more and more interesting. What’s next? These techniques becoming common-place and for bartenders to push the envelope of creativity in ways we can’t even imagine yet.

Photo by Katie Boink


Kayla Hasbrook
ABC Cocina and Pouring Ribbons in New York City

Kayla_HasbrookHow did you get into the bar industry in the first place? What drew you in?
Growing up my mother was a member of the service industry, I remember her having different restaurant and bartending jobs to support us. I think seeing her passion for food as well as a strong focus on a high service standard really stuck out to me.

Since you started in the industry, what’s the biggest change you’ve seen in terms of bar culture and what your patrons are looking for?
People are noticing the shift toward seasonal and local products. With the spread of farm-to-table eating, it’s only natural that guests start to expect a similar sensibility in their glass as well as their plate.

What’s the most challenging or unusual experience you’ve had to deal with as a bartender?
One time I had a guy walk in after last call, and refuse to leave. We never served him, and had to call the police to finally get him out of there. We had finished sidework by the time the police arrived to have him escorted home.

If you didn’t work in a bar, what would you be doing instead?
Drinking in one.

In your opinion, what’s the biggest trend shaping the bar industry today and where do you see that leading?
The amount of new bars that have opened in the past 6 months is uncanny. Cool places with really solid cocktail programs. Guests have even more choices when it comes to where they want to spend their time, which just makes us all work a little harder.


Join the conversation with us using #SpiritedPride on Twitter & Instagram @CampariAmerica

Date published:


Brands:


Share

DOWNLOAD