The Atlanta-based coach is raising the bar in the beverage industry.
Creative mixologist Tiffanie Barriere is one of the most well-known names in the United States' beverage industry. The influencer and educator has accolades aplenty to her credit but none she lets slow her down.
Coming from a mostly self-taught background, the BarSmarts graduate led the beverage program at the award-winning One Flew South Restaurant and Bar located in Georgia’s Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport before taking off on her own as an independent bartender.
Through the ebbs and flows of forging that solo career in the food and beverage space, she has steadily built a fan following for her creatively crafted cocktails, entertaining and educational mixology classes, and enlightening presentations on the topic of beverages. And, of course, The Drinking Coach Instagram account has a big role to play in that.
In High Spirits
“I have always taught how to make cocktails, but now I do it virtually, five to eight classes a week where you can log on and be as specific as you want to on what you’d like to learn,” she shares. Barriere’s focus leads with cocktail education, everything from technique to history. Where once this would have been on location and in person, she is now hosting the classes online from her home, given the restrictions brought upon by the pandemic.
“My industry is hurting right now. How do we change the world, how do we get more money, how do we stay employed,” she says, speaking about the impact of restrictions brought on by the pandemic. “There are a few groups that are having forums or panel discussions constantly, so we are helping each other and trying to keep each other uplifted.”
But Barriere has been fortunate. In a time when many have experienced job loss, she has seen a demand for her services and many opportunities for collaboration. Barriere is a member of the Tales of the Cocktail Grants Committee, the James Beard Advisory Board, and the Atlanta chapter of Les Dames d’Escoffier. She is also an Ascot (American Spirits Council of Tasters) Awards taster this year, judging the competition honoring excellence in the spirits industry.
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The education aspect is something Barriere has always enjoyed and, in fact, is the reason for her Drinking Coach moniker. When a friend watched Barriere dishing additional information as she served guests cocktails and pointed out how she coached them with educational insights, the Drinking Coach idea was born. Just as Instagram was gaining traction, Barriere set up a profile of the same name. It caught on, and she has been sharing her knowledge on beverages online ever since.
Becoming the Drinking Coach
But that streak of success hasn’t always been Barriere’s story. Though first introduced to bartending in her 20s at a restaurant job, her familiarity with spirits started even earlier at home, with parents who entertained a lot. The only child of high school sweethearts, Barriere’s childhood was spent between Texas and Louisiana; her dad hailing from the former and her mom the latter. When her parents divorced, and her father moved to Atlanta, so did she. But when she landed the role of bar lead at One Flew South, her life changed.
“I realized having a restaurant job was a real career. I didn’t understand that before because my parents and society told us that bartending, cooking, and serving was a tip job and not a real job,” says Barriere.
Meeting the team behind One Flew South opened doors to a new lifestyle that was all food and beverage. “They were Black men, and they were on top of their game. They were like my brothers, so not only were they cultivating a lifestyle for me, they were cultivating my culture,” she shares.
“I understood history and quality and flavors and the way I grew up or the way we were presenting and serving…it clicked that we as Black humans could actually operate on a fine dining level and be respected and as creative as we wanted…I fell in love.”
Barriere’s creativity found wings there for the next seven and a half years but with no new heights to conquer after that time, she moved on to a brand ambassadorship selling tequila. That didn’t fare all too well.
Sales simply wasn’t her forte. Passionate about serving, selling did not make the cut of what she wanted to do next. And with people in the industry reaching out to collaborate with her since she had now left One Flew South, Barriere felt it was time to snap out of the box and into her own.
Elevating the Bar
An independent bartender now for almost five years, Barriere admits the journey has been challenging. “I didn’t know how to ask for money. I did a lot of free work,” she shares.
That continued as she navigated a world where press was abundant, but pay was scarce. A turning point occurred in 2019 when her father was ill, and she became his caregiver. “My mind and energy were on my father. I became very firm when I spoke to people about opportunities,” she shares. “And when I did that, I got a couple of checks. I figured the business side while I was bedside next to my dad.”
With her father passing that year, Barriere found her resolve, negotiating opportunities worth her caliber. The tough love has paid off. As bad as 2020 was, she experienced many victories, including the Tales of the Cocktails Dame of the Year Award and a cover feature on Imbibe Magazines Top 75 of Imbibe. “I feel very proud to be a Black woman in the industry. I am excited to see more Black women celebrated, more narratives shared, and happy we are in this space,” she shares. “I enjoy representing my culture, hence why I share the content I share now.”
After one of the Black Lives Matter protests, Barriere took to Instagram to share about Black history. “I decided I am going to post a Black story every day, other narratives of people who have died.”
Her followers have been learning and sharing from her posts. Brands want to work with her too, but now Barriere shares she ensures they are aligned with her brand identity first, which is strongly tied to Black history. “A lot of those stories connect with food and beverage because we were enslaved, so let’s share it, talk about the labor force, the things we have created. I want to share stories of people who have not been documented or celebrated.”
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