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, August 27th with Chicago’s Jarmel Doss.
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 Jarmel Doss, assistant bar director at Chicago’s top cocktail bar, The Aviary. Read on for more about Jarmel’s journey and what to expect from her Brown and Balanced appearance.
As you keep reading to get to know Jarmel 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.
Jarmel Doss Chicago, IL Aviary
What are your pronouns?
If you weren’t a Bartender what would you be doing?
My degree is in Biochemistry and I spent a lot of time actively applying to Medicinal Chemistry Ph.D programs. I wanted to create new medicines and spend my days in a lab. Unfortunately, I’d been bartending for too long at that point and couldn’t make the shift to making barely any money while pursuing another degree.
How did you get started in the industry?
I started out working as a server and saw friends working downtown Chicago making way more money so I decided to learn to bartend. I was working at an Italian restaurant that stayed busy especially on the weekends, so I purposely asked to work the service well as often as possible to build up speed.
Being a Black/Brown Bartender what are some of the issues you face?
I think there are two major issues I face regularly: 1. People not believing you are Black when they hear about you or your accomplishments. I can’t tell you how often someone asks to take a picture with me at an event to be able to prove to other people later that I am in fact Black. 2. There is a constant struggle to be taken as seriously as men and women who are Caucasian and be given the same opportunities and considerations that they are given. I’ve spent years being passed over for job opportunities and considerations because I don’t look the way they think I should.
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 am proud to be someone that bartenders just starting out can look up to. In me, they get to see one avenue of what they can accomplish within this industry. I never thought of myself that way or even now really think of myself that way, but I have people reach out to me regularly and it makes my soul happy.
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?
There has to be a shift in expectations and what people are expecting to see when they think of an accomplished bartender. I think we all should be judged and considered based on our merits and not based on who you happen to know. Cronyism in the industry is very real and can negatively affect prospects when searching for a place to work. It doesn’t allow everyone the same chances to learn and grow and that needs to change.
If you could describe yourself as a cocktail what would it be and why?
I’d be a Negroni I think. Very simple on the surface but with a depth of flavor that changes and lingers on the palette with each sip. You have to keep sipping to pick up on all of the nuance and figure it out but before you get there you realize your cocktail is empty and you need another one.
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?
I’ve seen so many important conversations being had in public for all to see that before probably would have only been between friends or colleagues in a social setting. There’s so much being said in your face now through social media platforms that it’s impossible to pretend you’re unaware of the problems and inconsistencies plaguing our industry. Businesses and people are actively being called out for problematic behavior and practices, and this is a direct result of POC using their platforms to get the message out there. We are all being given the chance to learn from situations and effect change within our sphere of influence now.
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?
My job immediately switched to to-go options and it really made me have to think and consider how to bring our unique style out of our physical space and translate it into an at home experience. There has also been so much online content to choose from and that really helped with feeling engaged even when we couldn’t go out and socialize. I’m finding myself engaging more often than ever on social media platforms as a way to stay connected and inspired. As strange as it sounds, I also found a level of peace in 2020 that I’d been missing. I started reading fervently again and focusing on my health and so 2020 was actually not that bad for me because I was able to get both my mind and body healthier.
If you could have drinks with 5 people dead, alive, or fictional who would you choose and what would you be drinking?
Maya Angelou, Prince, Barack and Michelle Obama (they count as a unit right?), Common, and my late brother Edmond. The energy, creativity, and brain power in that room would almost be overwhelming. I feel like it would become an all-nighter of thought-provoking conversation and laughter. I’d definitely be drinking bourbon neat or Añejo tequila neat with sparkling water on the side.
What is the best advice a bar mentor of yours (official or unofficial mentor) has given you?
The best advice I’ve been given by a mentor was to know my worth and trust my palette. They told me basically that flattery and exposure are both nice but flattery and exposure are not currency. We all bring something unique to the table but I had to learn to trust in myself and my process so that I wouldn’t allow myself to be taken advantage of.
If you could go back to the beginning of your career what is some advice you would give yourself?
I’d probably tell myself to just go with it and never stop pushing boundaries. I am the sum total of my experiences both good and bad so I wouldn’t change any of it.
Endless Summer cocktails recipe + preparation
- 1.5oz Montelobos
- .5oz Espolon Anejo
- 1.75 oz Cantaloupe Syrup*
- .75 oz Lime Juice
- .5 oz Ancho Reyes
- .25 oz Aperol
- 5 drops (4:1) Saline solution
Shake with ice and double strain into glass
Juice cantaloupe. Add 20% sugar by weight (multiple weight of juice by 0.20)
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