It’s no longer a secret that Black mixologists, also known as bartenders, have played a significant role in mixing and creating alcoholic beverages. From slavery and distilleries to club owners and mixologists, Black people have always played a role in creating cocktails and the history is astounding.
Whether mixing and shaking up a great cocktail or serving up a shot of your favorite libation, authors and mixologists Tamika Hall and Colin Asare-Appiah are sharing their love for spirits and storytelling by serving up their latest collaboration, “Black Mixcellence: A Comprehensive Guide to Black Mixology.”
In this tabletop book, the two take the reader on a ride through historical and monumental contributions of renowned Black and Brown mixologists to the spirits and mixology industries. The book features stories about some of the industry's most notable trailblazers, and it covers entrepreneurship, education and “famous first.” The featured mixologists have all contributed to the industry making an impact in their own special ways.
Documenting Those Changing the Industry
Some of the notable mixologists include legendary New York bartender Franky Marshall, Tiffanie Barriere of The Drinking Coach, Karl Franz Williams —owner of 67 Orange Street, Barry Johnson of Bartender Barry, Ian Burrell —Global Rum Ambassador and Equiano Rum co-founder, Alexis Brown —Hennessy Regional Brand Ambassador and Joy Spence — first female Rum Master Blender.
“Black Mixcellence,” a go-to drink guide, will satisfy any wine and spirit connoisseur. The mixologists and their signature cocktails represent various parts of the world.
“Historically, there are only a handful of cocktail books that strive to tell the cultural and historical stories of Black and Brown mixologists. The bartenders in our book all come from different backgrounds and forged their own pathways to create unique spaces to showcase their craft.
“These stories need to be told. We are not a monolith. ‘Black Mixcellence’ is a pivotal book and provides a refreshing change in documenting cocktail culture for the times that we are in. There are many more stories, tales to be told, and my hope is that this book will be one of many that showcases the breadth of Black mixologists’ contributions to the hospitality industry,” says Asare-Appiah.
While Hall conducted the research and put the pen to paper, Asare-Appiah traveled the globe obtaining recipes for their beloved book. “I was the writer and content strategy manager. I helped create the content and put the book together. Colin gave all his recipes and made sure they were all up to par,” she says.
“I hope the readers will appreciate the contribution of Black mixologists to the cocktail industry and work with some of the companies. I hope I inspire some to go and write their own Black narrative of cocktails,” says Asare-Appiah. “I provided a lot of the recipes. Some originals. Some I created and tweaked in the industry years ago. We shine a spotlight on mixologists from around the country,” he says.
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History Must Be Told
From Nathan “Uncle Nearest” Green, known to inspire the Uncle Nearest’s Premium Whiskey brand and the dark and stormy history of Caribbean rum to Kentucky Derby’s mint julep, Hall’s detailed research proves that Black people have been involved in the industry a long time.
One story that stands out in the book is Green’s, the first African American distiller. His story is about much more than whiskey. It is a story that went missing and untold for some time. Green didn’t just distill good whiskey; he created a whiskey distillation process involving a charcoal water-filtering system that he learned from West Africa. He also taught and trained others and was the brains behind the whiskey distillation process and the famous recipe that birthed the Jack Daniels brand.
In 2017, Fawn Weaver decided it was time to share his story with the world. “Without digging deep into history, you would never know the story of Uncle Nearest, the Black man that taught Jack Daniels how to distill whiskey or the Black bartender John Dabney, who made the mint julep a common household drink. Whether it was entrepreneurship, education or a famous first. ‘Black Mixcellence’ aims to change the narrative and give credit where it’s due,” says Hall.
“The idea was to put a spotlight on Black mixologists. I interviewed all the mixologists and all of them had a story to tell. Once you start, you can’t stop because it’s a lot of history. I think it’s important because a lot of African American history is not documented because reading and writing weren’t allowed. So, a lot of storytelling and recipes were by word of mouth for a long time. Colin was able to bring his expertise back, skill after skill to the industry. He’s bringing knowledge and expertise with the job,” says Hall, a New Jersey freelance writer and content strategy manager.
Hall has created editorial content and marketing strategies for The Vitamin Shoppe, Mass Appeal, The Examiner, Mommy Noire, Madame Noire and many others. She’s also written branded content for a variety of brands, including Bacardi, Maker’s Mark, PepsiCo, Anheuser-Busch and Viniq.
The Accidental Bartender
Born in Ghana and raised in London, New York-based Asare-Appiah —the leader of brand advocacy for Bacardi USA and one of the world’s finest professional cocktail makers — traveled to some of the most exciting cities across the globe. He has collaborated with numerous spirit brands, celebrity chefs, cocktail bars and industry experts during his travels. Asare-Appiah also starred in “The Cocktail Kings” on the Discovery Channel, where he traveled worldwide creating cocktails to reflect their beloved destinations.
“It was important to do ‘Black Mixcellence’ to provide an opportunity for everyone to see the impact of Black mixologists on the industry today,” he says.
Reminiscing about how he landed a career in bartending/mixology, he says, “I fell in love with mixology after college when I went to Greece. I ran out of money and I called my father to ask for money and he said, ‘You wanted to find yourself,’ so he didn’t send the money and I ended up a bartender, which I said I would never be a bartender. But I took a barback [position], someone that’s basically the bedrock of every bar. The barback helps make sure everything runs smooth. They work in the back room,” says Asare-Appiah.
He adds, “The bartenders were like magicians creating tantalizing drinks. People tend to come to the bar and the bar is a place of community. Bartending is really like being a chef. It’s like you’re creating all the great concoctions and making it palatable to the consumer.”
“Black Excellence: A Comprehensive Guide to Black Mixology” is available on Amazon, as well as retailers such as Barnes & Noble, Target and Walmart.
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