When quarantine and lockdowns swept the nation, Brown and Balanced and founder Josh Davis 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 one Friday each month, featuring a special program to highlight different perspectives from the Black Hospitality Community talking issues that matter.
The program kicked off with Joe Witkowski, a former barista, incredible bartender, member of the LGBTQIA+ community from New Orleans, who shared about his life, experiences and imparting style into everything he does.
The next episode – airing on the Portland Cocktail Week Facebook page on Friday, October 9th – will feature Brittany Clark, mixologist at Dot Dot in Charlotte, NC. Clark will speak about her life, experiences and control state bartending and will create a cocktail with SKYY Vodka.
Name, City/State, most recent place of employment.
Britt Clark, Charlotte, NC, Dot Dot Dot
What are your pronouns?
What is the best part of being a Bartender to you?
The community behind social drinking! I love how cocktails bring people together. It’s very much like food and how communal it is.
If you weren’t a Bartender, what would you be doing?
I think I would be in Design. Specifically on the content creation & marketing side, for sure!
How did you get started in the industry?
My big sister used to work at a restaurant and growing up I would always come by because it was so close to the mall. The GM at the time would always comment on how nice I was and since I was there all the time they offered me a job! I was only about 15 and a half but they bent the rules for me to start as a hostess.
Being a Black/Brown Bartender, what are some of the issues you face?
As a Bartender who happens to be Black and a Woman I definitely get some kickback from both sides of the spectrum. I work at a well-known cocktail lounge, heavy on bourbon and whiskey, so some older men or so-called “bourbon bros” will always overlook me when it comes to recommendations. Sometimes I’ll say something and it’s in one ear and out the other, but if my older, white boss says it, it’s a fact. I used to get hella annoyed, but now I just take up more space and “nerd out” with guests to show them I know my stuff. I love seeing their faces completely change when I dive deep into a specific distillery, style of cocktail, brand, or spirit.
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 it’s simple: Just give everyone with the credentials and drive a chance. It’s obvious the playing field has never been level and it does a great disservice to every industry that isn’t inclusive and diversified. I think the sooner people uphold these practices, the better, more productive, lucrative, and happier people will be.
If you could describe yourself as a cocktail, what would it be and why?
I would definitely be a Boulevardier, hands down! It’s bright, spirit-forward, somewhat bitter, a little sweet, like me! Oh, and it means “French Socialite”. I’m Creole so I always laugh about it just so happening to be my favorite cocktail!
With the social climate in the world today, our industry feels like a microcosm of society. How can you see Black/Brown Bartenders using their platforms to enact change in what we see across the bartending community?
I’m a very vocal person, but sometimes and most recently, it gets very exhausting standing up for your beliefs and what’s right. I honestly feel like BIPOC just need to continue being our beautiful & resilient selves… we’ve known deep down our entire lives that we matter & anyone that doesn’t understand that basic sentiment will have to deal with their own karma. Racist people’s disease isn’t POC and POC shouldn’t be their medicine.
If you could pick a dream team – a starting 5 of Black/Brown Bartenders from your city to open a new place – who would they be and why?
Oh, this is a good one! It’s kind of funny, because most of them are my friends, not only because there aren’t many of us, but they’re actually all dope in their own regard hah! My Dream Team would include Ev Clark from Counter, Justin Hazelton from Leah & Louise, Yashira “Yoshi” Mejia from The Crunkleton, Ivoren “Evy” Diaz from Merchant & Trade, and Christina Crout from Tattoo. Ev & Justin because I love how they don’t over complicate their cocktails— they’re well-executed, concise, and well balanced. Yoshi, because her attention to detail and presentation is alwaysss A-1! Also, Evy & Christina because they’re such sticklers for the core of our industry: hospitality. Honestly, our new concept most likely wouldn’t ever open because the majority of us are fire signs & we’d probably kill each other. Evy would definitely be the first to go, because she’s a Scorpio and poor Christina would be the last man standing, because her Libra self didn’t want to get involved in all the chaos! That’s just how I personally see that story ending.
If you could have drinks with anyone dead, alive or fictional, who would it be and what would you both be drinking?
Probably Snoop Dogg. After thinking this one over and trying to be deep, I honestly think I’d just love to kick it with him. Oh, and I’d want to drink some super bourgeois, vintage Champagne at the perfect temperature for that specific varietal. He’d probably insist we make it a nuevo French 75, tho. I’d be cool with that too.
Being a Black/Brown Bartender, and also being a part of the LGBTQIA+ community, what are some challenges that you have faced in the industry, and how have you overcome them?
I mean I could go on and on about this one… however, as a cis presenting femme I recognize my specific privileges in this area. I personally have it much easier than some of my fellow LGBTQ folx that don’t present cis to our heteronormative world.
Bright SKYYS Ahead recipe + preparation
- 2 oz. SKYY vodka
- .75 oz. Aperol
- 1 oz. Spiced Citrus & Orange Blossom Syrup**
- 1 oz. Fresh Lemon juice
- .75 oz. half & half
- 1 Egg white
- Topo Chico Mineral Water
- Garnish: Edible Flower Petals
Prior to building your cocktail, grab two small plates and pour a little of your spiced syrup onto one for rimming. Pluck the petals off of your edible flowers and place them on the other plate. Set your garnishes to the side.
Grab your shaker tin and add all ingredients, minus the Topo Chico, with ice and shake. Strain out the liquid into one side of the shaker tin and discard ice into your sink. Proceed to Dry Shake for aeration and to build a solid, smooth froth (About 30 shakes). Set Shaker tin aside for now.
Take your tall, Collins-like glass and a paper towel that’s folded a few times to create a “brush like stroke” and “paint” a half-inch thick stripe up the glass with your spiced syrup. Hold glass over your small plate with your edible flower petals and sprinkle over the vertical “stripe” on your glass. The petals should stick to your glass where the syrup is and will appear to be floating on your cocktail – voila! If you don’t feel like fussing with the stripe, simply take your tall, Collins-like glass and rim the top into your spiced syrup and gently press into the edible flower petals you’ve placed onto a small plate. All petals will be on the rim of your cocktail. Either way, your glass is garnished and is now ready for the main event!
Grab your shaker tin and strain cocktail into your garnished glass. Let it “set up” for about 15-20 seconds. Place your straw (preferably metal or compostable) a few inches into the center of the drink and slowly stream the Topo Chico down the straw to force the mineral water below the surface of the cocktail until the glass is full. Now after all of your hard work – enjoy!
**Spiced Citrus & Orange Blossom Syrup:
Add the peels from 1 orange and 1 lemon (try to avoid the pith), 1 cinnamon stick, 1 cracked open cardamom pod, and 1 cup of water to a small saucepan and bring to a rolling boil. Once the water comes to a boil, lower heat to a low/medium, squeeze in the juice of the orange, 1/2 cup of local wildflower honey, and stir. Let simmer for about 5 minutes and turn the heat off. After the syrup is cool strain into an air-tight container and add two bar spoons of orange blossom water to the syrup. Feel free to leave the cinnamon stick in syrup. Makes about 1 cup of syrup.
Our Best Stories Delivered Daily