During these unprecedented times, the hospitality industry needs leaders like never before. Josh Davis is an industry veteran with over 15 years of experience and he is also the founder of Brown And Balanced which started as an event at Portland Cocktail Week and Camp Runamok and has since built into a stand-alone entity.
The first season aired last fall, with a focus on different Black hospitality professionals. Brown and Balanced, presented by Campari America, was such a success and is back again for Season 2, continuing on Friday, May 28th with Cleveland’s Aaron Sparks.
At the core of Brown and Balanced is the mission to share talents and stories of Black and Brown food and beverage professionals and the projects they’re developing through digital content. As Davis describes it, “think In Living Color and Mad TV meets Charlamagne Tha God meets Black and Brown Bartenders. BOOM.”
When quarantine and lockdowns swept the nation, Brown and Balanced hosted a series of Happy Hours over on Instagram featuring bartenders, servers, and cocktail enthusiasts from all over the U.S. to share their stories and backgrounds. After taking time to rest and restore, Brown and Balanced is coming back to continue conversations.
The next Featured Bartender of the season will be Aaron Sparks of Cleveland, Ohio and proprietor of MXOLOGY 21 Mobile Bartending Co. & MXOLOGY 21 Libations Collection. Read on for more about Aaron’s journey and what to expect from his Brown and Balanced appearance.
Keep reading to get to know Aaron and in support of Brown & Balanced, we ask that you please keep up with all of Campari America’s industry-focused events and education by following @CampariCommunity or signing up for the Campari mailing list HERE.
Name, City/State, most recent place of employment.
Aaron Sparks, Akron, Ohio, MXOLOGY 21 Mobile Bartending Co.
What are your pronouns?
If you weren’t a Bartender what would you be doing?
I would be a Music Producer
How did you get started in the industry?
In college I was an intern for Atlantic and Interscope Records and I spent a lot of time in clubs and with their owners. I was given the opportunity to barback downtown Akron, as well as hanging out at Imbibe Martini Bar in Youngstown, where I was first introduced to the world of craft bartending.
Being a Black/Brown Bartender what are some of the issues you face?
Having guests be surprised that I’m not just a worker but an owner.
Being a Black/Brown Bartender what are some of the things you take pride in as being a part of this subculture inside of the hospitality industry?
I take pride in showcasing that I can change the narrative of what a knowledgeable bartender actually looks like.
What do you feel the leaders can do better to provide equal opportunities and representation for Black, Indigenous and People of Color in the industry?
I think more training and education is the only thing holding back so many bartenders of color. The talent pool is deep and rich, but too many haven’t had the opportunity to sharpen their skill set and enhance their knowledge to take their career to the next level.
If you could describe yourself as a cocktail what would it be and why?
Old Fashioned; simple yet significant
With the social climate in the world today, I feel like our industry is a microcosm of society. How do you see Black/Brown Bartenders using their platforms to enact change in what we see across the bartending community?
The pandemic has been a blessing in disguise in a way, where it’s almost forced people to pay attention and notice things that have been going on around them that they’ve been “blind” to. Black/Brown hospitality professionals are using this time and their platforms to show that we exist and are often at the forefront of this community. What’s being showcased is that we have the knowledge, expertise and professionalism to change the narrative of what’s thought of when you think of a bartender.
2020 was a crazy year, with the shutdown affecting all of our businesses. What are some ways you have been able to shift and try to stay afloat?
I’ve been able to make the best and pivot in consulting other professionals in creating and branding their own businesses, venturing into the virtual class cocktail world, and working with bars in my area to create bottled cocktails.
If you could have drinks with 5 people dead, alive, or fictional who would you choose?
Marcus Aurelius, Robin Williams, Kobe Bryant, Gary Vaynerchuk, my father.
What is the best advice a bar mentor of yours (official or unofficial mentor) has given you?
The best way to stand out is to just be you. Don’t try and copy me or anybody else, put your own flavor in the glass. -Josh Davis
If you could go back to the beginning of your career what is some advice you would give yourself?
Don’t worry too much about a decision you have to make. Don’t try to weigh pros and cons and follow logic. Just do what feels right. Do what you believe would make you most happy. You know what you want. You might consult other people. But deep down, you know what you want.
- 2 oz Espolon Blanco
- .5 oz Lime Juice
- .5 oz Lemon Juice
- .5 oz Grand Marnier
- 1 oz Sweet Potato Simple Syrup*
- Dash of Sage
- Dash of Nutmeg
Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker filled with ice, and shake until well chilled. Strain into a rocks glass over fresh ice.
*Sweet Potato Simple:
- 1 Medium Sweet Potato
- .25 oz. cup Brown Sugar
- .25 oz. Honey
- .5 teaspoon of Nutmeg
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place the sweet potato in a roasting pan, cover with aluminum foil and roast until soft in the center, about 30 minutes. Discard the skins, and let the potato cool.
Mash potato and combine 1 cup water, sweet potato, sugar, honey, and nutmeg in a small saucepan. Bring to a slow simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally to keep it from sticking or burning, until the sugar and sweet potatoes have completely dissolved into the syrup. Cool uncovered before straining and pouring into a glass container.
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