A Conversation with Charlotte’s Tamu Curtis for Brown & Balanced

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, April 30th with Charlotte’s Tamu Curtis.

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 third Featured Bartender of the season will be Tamu Curtis of Charlotte and proprietor of Liberate Your Plate and The Cocktailery. Read on for more about Tamu’s journey and what to expect from her Brown and Balanced appearance.

Keep reading to get to know Tamu 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.

Tamu Curtis, Charlotte, NC, self-employed: Liberate Your Palate / The Cocktailery

What are your pronouns?

Her /She

If you weren’t a Bartender what would you be doing?

I would have my own Marketing and PR Agency

How did you get started in the industry?

Not the traditional way by any means.  I created a popular customer-focused experiential bar and restaurant cocktail program here in Charlotte which also found some success in Charleston. With that I found myself immersed in the hospitality industry. I cultivated numerous friendships and relationships with bartenders, owners and customers.  I have always liked being in bars, drinking and eating at the bar, chatting with the bartenders until last call so it was only natural that those conversations and the insight I was privy to started to rub off on me. Liberate Your Palate started hands-on cocktail classes in 2015 and I had different bartenders teach the class. I actually started doing small cocktail catering events first in 2017 and then started teaching all of the classes in 2018…

Being a Black/Brown Bartender what are some of the issues you face?

Having my credibility, spirits knowledge and business acumen constantly questioned or ignored.

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 being able to change people’s perception of what bar industry professionals look 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 believe they can be more intentional in providing opportunities to Black, Indigenous and People of Color.  Being intentional means seeking these people out when you’re hiring, providing adequate training, putting them in the front of the house, not in the back and providing a pathway for growth within your organization.

If you could describe yourself as a cocktail what would it be and why?

I’m definitely in the sour category of cocktail.  Sweet, tart and extremely versatile.

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?

Right now we have a spotlight on us and we are in the position to educate society at-large about our history in this industry and what contributions we have made and continue to make to society as a whole.

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 was able to make a pretty quick pivot and transition my company to the virtual space. I started doing my first paid virtual cocktail classes on Zoom by the end of March of last year, which really gave me a head start in that space. I was able to refine my offerings to adapt quickly to this virtual world and the needs of my corporate clients. My early start allowed me to grow a very robust roster of repeat customers and clients. As the pandemic continued on and the popularity for virtual experiences grew throughout the year, I was already positioned as a go-to company for virtual cocktail experiences.

What is the best advice a bar mentor of yours (official or unofficial mentor) has given you?

Taste your cocktail before you serve it.  Consistency matters.

If you could go back to the beginning of your career what is some advice you would give yourself?

If you’re actively doing it you’re not an imposter. You’re just doing it your way.  You belong!


Envy is Green

  • 1.5 oz Espolòn Reposado Tequila
  • 1 oz Ancho Reyes Verde
  • .5 oz Montelobos Mezcal
  • .75 oz Lime Juice
  • .75 oz Fresh Cucumber Juice (juiced with peel on)
  • .5 oz Light Agave Syrup
  • .5 oz Fresh Pineapple Juice


Add all ingredients into cocktail shaker.  Add ice and shake vigorously. Strain over crushed ice into drinking glass

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