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, December 10th with New Orleans’ Scott Hicks (he/him), a bartender and mixologist based in New Orleans, LA. Since the pandemic, Stanard has gravitated more towards a mobile program, while still keeping a foot in the door to the industry she is attempting to diversify and change.
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.
Keep reading to get to know Scott Hicks 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.
Brown & Balanced in Conversation with Scott Hicks
Name, City/State, most recent place of employment.
Scott Hicks; New Orleans, LA – Bartender at Cure
What are your pronouns?
If you weren’t a Bartender what would you be doing?
If I wasn’t bartending I’d probably be working somewhere behind the scenes in the music or entertainment industry. I worked at an arena setting up concerts and events back in college.
How did you get started in the industry?
My first proper industry job was at a rib restaurant called Stevie B’s when I was 15. I worked all of the front of the house positions from busses to bar over the years and grew up under the bartenders and managers that are still my good friends to this day.
Being a Black/Brown Bartender what are some of the issues you face?
The issue that really is consistent in our industry is the strive to be taken seriously. I can’t count the number of times I’ve greeted a guest at the bar who assumed I was the barback.
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 thing I love about black and brown bartenders is that we approach our careers with the same flair and attitude we do everything else. We have a unique perspective on flavors, style, and presentation, and those show in everything we do behind the bar.
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?
While we’ve made strides there’s still a huge dearth of BIPOC representation behind the bar. I’m part of a program here in New Orleans called Turning Tables where we mentor young POC and teach them the skills to become cocktail bartenders.
We need more programs like this nationwide along with decision makers willing to provide opportunities to people starting out in the industry or to advance into management.
If you could describe yourself as a cocktail what would it be and why?
If I was a cocktail I’d probably be a Negroni. It’s a spirit forward classic that’s versatile and can be adapted to any situation.
How do you see Black/Brown Bartenders using their platforms to enact change in what we see across the bartending community?
With the social climate in the world today, I feel like our industry is a microcosm of society. It’s really been incredible to see my peers not only using their voices, but creating their own platforms like Brown and Balanced to reach out with conversations on “tough” subject matter. We always find a way to mix in some fun but the conversations on social justice and the black experience have been some of the most illuminating ones I’ve been a part of anywhere.
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?
The pandemic has really forced people in our industry to look at themselves as something beyond just an employee. During the shutdown, I was able to pivot and do some fun virtual bartending projects. My favorite was a collaboration with Bon Bon Vivant, an incredible local band, where I’d do cocktail demos during their weekly online streaming concerts.
If you could have drinks with 5 people dead, alive, or fictional who would you choose and what would you be drinking?
Honestly I’d love to just be able to get back together with my old cabin mates from Camp Runamok one more time. It’s really great to be around friends that are also incredibly talented and fun. As far as drinks, I’d love to crack open a bottle of Wild Turkey Rare Breed.
What is the best advice a bar mentor of yours (official or unofficial mentor) has given you?
The best thing I learned from a mentor was to give thought and care to the order of operations behind the bar. Being efficient makes even the craziest nights a bit more bearable.
IF YOU COULD GO BACK TO THE BEGINNING OF YOUR CAREER WHAT IS SOME ADVICE YOU WOULD GIVE YOURSELF?
If I could give my younger self any advice I’d say to be confident and proud of what you do without worrying about anyone else’s perceptions.
Talisman – Cocktail Recipe & Build Method
- 1.5 oz Cynar
- .75 oz Wild Turkey Rare Breed Rye
- .25 oz Mint Syrup
- 1 barspoon Braulio
- 5 drops Saline Solution (6:1)
- 1 Strawberry
- Lemon Peel
- Mint Leaf
Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass and muddle strawberry. Add ice for a quick stir. Double strain into a chilled rocks glass over a single large format ice cube. Express and discard 2 lemon peels and garnish with a single mint leaf on top of the cube.
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