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, March 26th with Paige Walwyn.
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.” And we are so here for any sentenced that is punctuated with a 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 first Featured Bartender of the season will be Paige Walwyn, of Brooklyn’s Clover Club. Read on for more about Paige’s journey and what to expect from her Brown and Balanced appearance.
Keep reading to get to know Paige 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.
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Name, City/State, most recent place of employment.
Paige Walwyn, Jersey City, NJ; Clover Club, Brooklyn, NY
What are your pronouns?
If you weren’t a Bartender what would you be doing?
If I had to guess, I probably would have been involved in student affairs at a college or university. When I went to Rutgers, I was engaged in programs such as New Student Orientation, conference planning, and events. I think my involvement in extracurricular activities during my four years ultimately pushed me to finish my undergraduate degree. I loved working with other students, mentoring, and planning, so staying in college and completing my degree allowed me to do those things I loved. Before I stumbled upon hospitality, I looked heavily into grad programs that focused on student affairs, more specifically New Student Orientation programs.
How did you get started in the industry?
The summer before my senior year of college, I decided I needed to make more money because I was turning twenty-one in a couple of months. Many of my friends had part-time jobs at restaurants, so I decided to apply for a few hostess jobs because I didn’t have any experience serving. I ended up getting a job at a fine dining restaurant in New Brunswick, NJ. I was a host for about a year and, over five years moved my way up to the bartender position. I realized I was in the industry for the long haul after attending a series of different industry events, Camp Runamok being one of them. They opened my eyes to how many opportunities this industry has to offer.
Being a Black/Brown Bartender what are some of the issues you face?
The craft cocktail industry is tailored to support white males. This fact is especially true in New York City, which is significantly ahead of the curve in many ways but lacks representation. Because of that, I was often one of the only Black females at many industry events that I attended, which always led to a weird feeling of being hyper-focused on and invisible at the same time. I don’t fit into the stereotypical mold of the average bartender, which often causes many people to question my abilities and or my position, which is frustrating and, for a long time, fed into my impostor syndrome.
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?
The Black bartenders I have met are incredibly hardworking, innovative, and fun to work and interact with. Because the cocktail industry has not carved a path for us, it is great to see all of the different ways Black bartenders are making a name for themselves in this industry. I also love the collaborative nature of the Black bartending community. Everyone is so willing to help other Black bartenders develop their craft and brand because it is not a competition at the end of the day, but instead a collaboration because if you win, I win.
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?
Hire more Black people, listen to them, promote them, and make sure they address their own subconscious bias, which may have left Black people on the outskirts for so long. With all of the events of 2020, many people are starting to address their lack of racial diversity, but to do so, people must do more than merely hiring Black people. That is the first step. Without creating supportive systems that are actively anti-racist, they are putting the same Black people they are “giving opportunities” into hazardous situations that will have lasting effects.
Don’t use Black people for diversity clout. Make sure you have the systems in place to make sure you are supporting the valid and different needs that Black people in the hospitality industry have compared to their counterparts. I would prefer a bar that has no Black staff to one that mistreats, devalues, and uses Black bodies for the sake of optics and self-gratification.
If you could describe yourself as a cocktail what would it be and why?
I would describe myself as a cosmopolitan: I am uncomplicated, fun, and approachable. A cosmo is also one of my favorite cocktails so there’s also that…
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?
Black bartenders are doing some amazing things right now, and it is fun to watch. When I first started bartending, I did not see much Black representation, and because of that, I was convinced there was not a place for me in this industry. Now, eight years later, while it is not enough, I see Black bartenders starting businesses, hosting events, and kicking ass all over the industry. I find it incredible to watch.
But it is important to note that enacting change cannot be on the backs of the Black bartending community; non- Black people have to do a lot of work as well.
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?
To be completely transparent, I don’t have an excellent response to this question. I struggled to stay afloat in 2020 because everything that was going on was so new and traumatic. I did not know how to process a lot of the things going on around me and spent a lot of time pushing off projects that I suddenly had “all the free time in the world for” and had “no excuse not to complete.” To put it simply, I was sad and spent a lot of time feeling like I failed.
Thankfully my perspective has begun to shift, and the clouds are beginning to clear. This pandemic has allowed me to reevaluate my relationships and what I want from my life and career. I finally feel like I am in a good place and have come to terms with many things. This clarity has allowed me to take the baby steps necessary towards completing my goals. So, maybe ask me again in six months…
If you could have drinks with 5 people dead, alive, or fictional who would you choose and what would you be drinking?
Lauryn Hill, Issa Rae, Phoebe Robinson, Megan thee Stallion, and bell hooks. These women have been inspirations for me at some point in my life, and I would love to pick their brains and learn more about them as humans. I would also love to talk to them about how they have managed to navigate success as Black women in their specific industries.
We would be drinking rose. I am a member of the “rose all day” coalition.
What is the best advice a bar mentor of yours (official or unofficial mentor) has given you?
When I first started in this industry, I was convinced that I needed to say yes to absolutely any opportunity offered. I was working myself to the bone, doing things I wasn’t passionate about, and ignoring many of my personal needs and goals. I had convinced myself that if I did not say yes to everything, I would eventually stop getting opportunities. After a lengthy discussion that helped me refocus, I was advised that saying no to opportunities opens up more doors. The more I filter through the things that do not give me joy or benefit me in some way, the more time I have to work on myself so I am ready for the opportunities I am genuinely passionate about.
If you could go back to the beginning of your career what is some advice you would give yourself?
Quit more often, quit earlier and it’s okay to walk away.
This is a weird piece of advice that does not apply to every situation, but it is the advice I wish I knew when I was twenty and just starting in this industry. I consider myself a loyal person, and because of that, it can be challenging for me to leave relationships, which extends to professional relationships. There have been many situations where I have worked on something or with someone way longer than I should have under the guise of “it eventually being worth it.” The idea of “quitting” also made me feel as though I failed, but in actuality, I needed to come to terms with the fact that not everything is for me, and that is okay. If I knew this earlier, I would have listened to my gut and respectfully bowed out of certain situations significantly earlier than I did in the past.
Sunny Inside cocktail recipe + preparation
- 1 oz Cacao Nib Infused Campari*
- .5 oz Pineapple Juice
- .25 oz Lime Juice
- .25 oz Demerara Sugar (2:1) **
- .25 oz Hazelnut Liqueur
Build in a wine glass over Kold Draft ice and top with Cinzano Prosecco.
Garnish with two pineapple leaves on a cocktail pick.
*Cacao Nib-Infused Campari
- 1.5 tablespoons Cacao Nibs
- 350 mL Campari
Combine in a container and let sit for 12 hours before straining.
- 2 cups Demerara Sugar
- 1 cup Water
In a saucepan over medium heat, combine demerara sugar and water. Stir until dissolved, remove from heat and cool before using or storing.
“Many of my cocktails are inspired by popular culture and that is no different for Sunny Inside,” explains Walwyn. “This cocktail draws inspiration from the SZA song ‘Good Days,’ which was released in late 2020. SZA speaks on how it can be challenging to navigate your past mistakes but also reminds the listener that good days are ahead. Reflecting on 2020, this hits home considering the pandemic and the many difficulties that have arisen. This past year has forced everyone to spend more time inside than we ever imagined and the effects will last for a long time to come. With that said, I’ve never been more inspired by the acts of compassion, resilience and innovation I’ve witnessed.”
“The name Sunny Inside is not only a lyric in the song but a silent nod to the millions of individuals that have managed to turn lemons into lemonade this past year.
In this cocktail, both the Campari and cacao nib’s bitter components are unconventionally paired with pineapple, hazelnut, Demerara sugar and sparkling wine, creating a bright and tropical low ABV Spritz with an approachable bitter element and lasting finish.
Sunny Inside is an ode to finding beauty in unconventional situations and refusing to let your past dictate your future.”
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