This downtown Phoenix cocktail event spotlights women in the bar industry

Arlene Magaña began her hospitality career as a dishwasher in Chicago at the age of 16. The kitchen she worked in was largely dominated by men, but Magaña was inspired by her hardworking grandmother. She had dropped out of school at a young age to help raise her 13 siblings while growing up in Mexico, Magaña says.

She would tell Magaña stories about street vendors in Guanajuato selling fresh, cold fruit. Magaña imagined what it would be like to use similar fruits to make cocktails, “inspired by the idea that the street vendor creates so much from what seems so little,” she said. Phoenix new times in October.

After weaving her way through the noisy industry, from dive bars to movie theaters and high-volume hangouts where drink orders were swift, Magaña started shaking drinks inside. a glamorous train car in Arcadia’s popular Century Grand neighborhood in late 2019. There, she’s part of a team of women leaving a lasting impact on Phoenix’s cocktail scene.

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Platform 18’s Arlene Magaña moved to Phoenix to take her bartending career to the next level.

Grace Stufkosky Photography

Women currently make up 60% of all bartenders in the United States, according to research by Zippia, an online jobs and data analytics site. This stat challenges preconceived notions about who should drag drinks in the bar.

But in 2018, “only 4% of management positions in wine and spirits were held by women,” according to SevenFiftyDaily, an online magazine that covers the alcohol industry.

Valley nonprofit Another Round Another Rally seeks to change that through its Skylight Hospitality mentorship program.

For the past two years, the program has matched non-binary Phoenix-area women, women, and bartenders with “industry icons who have shattered the glass ceiling and paved the way for others to do the same,” according to a press release.

At the Skylight Hospitality Cocktail Showcase on Monday, November 7, this year’s mentees will serve custom cocktails at the Rough Rider in downtown Phoenix. For $75, ticket holders can sip sample cocktails from the mentee and mentor pairs while enjoying hors d’oeuvres and chatting with the bartenders. There will also be a silent auction featuring rare and premium liquor bottles.

The eight bartenders selected from across the Valley for this year’s six-week program vary in levels of industry experience. Participants like Magaña are more recent on the scene. Others, including Libby Lingua, have been in the cocktail business for over a decade. Lingua is the co-owner of the dimly lit and inventive cocktail bar Highball, located at Seventh Avenue and McDowell Road.

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Libby Lingua plans to use her training from the Skylight Hospitality mentorship program at the Highball Cocktail Bar.

Kyle Ledeboer

“It’s definitely a male-dominated industry,” says Lingua. “So the opportunity to network with other prominent women in the industry, locally, nationally and internationally, has been great.”

Alongside Lingua and Magaña, who just won the national Paloma Punchout bartender competition, program mentees include Aspen Bingham of Garden Bar Phoenix, finalist for the Tales of the Cocktail Foundation’s Most Imaginative Bartender award, and Krissy Contreras , who is a bartender at both Platform 18 and Sumo Maya. Decker Dunlop of Tratto Phoenix, Taylor Moss of Ghost Donkey, Jenna Natole of Buck & Rider and Kelsi Savage of Rough Rider and Restaurant Progress are also participants.

The Skylight program was created by Another Round Another Rally, a nonprofit founded in 2018 by CEO Amanda Gunderson and COO Travis Nass.

“There was a big hole in the industry that needed to be filled. We noticed a lack of emergency assistance, health care and access to legal aid in the volatile hospitality industry,” said Gunderson said. “And then there are disparities for women, the LGBTQ community, people of color, and immigrants. We hope to address all of that through our organization.”

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the nonprofit organization was in the right place to help businesses and workers in the hospitality industry through its many programs, ranging from emergency assistance and mental health assistance to meditation classes. Currently, the Skylight Hospitality mentorship program is based solely in metro Phoenix, but Gunderson plans to replicate it nationwide soon.

“Next year we hope to add eight attendees who work on the management side of the hospitality industry. We are aiming for a meal with paired beverages for the 2023 showcase, and will eventually expand to different cities,” says Gunderson. .

The mentorship program pairs mentors and mentees to address not only cocktail making, but also issues such as feeling like you can freely share your thoughts and opinions in the workplace, diversity and inclusion practices, tackling unconscious bias and social stereotyping, bar management, resume writing and interviewing. These questions are all critical to discuss, as the C-suite isn’t the only area where women in the cocktail industry tend to lag far behind, says Gunderson.

According to a 2016 study by the Tales of the Cocktail Foundation, a non-profit organization that has held an international cocktail conference in New Orleans for the past 20 years, women in the industry earn less money and are less represented in higher paid and more prominent bartenders. positions than their male counterparts.

Buzzfeed analyzed workplace harassment complaints between fiscal years 1995 and 2016. In an article published in December 2017, it found that over the 20-year period, “by far” most complaints were filed by service workers such as those in the restaurant and hotel sectors. .

“Experts say workers who rely on low-paying, tip-based shift jobs are more likely to experience sexual harassment,” Buzzfeed reported. The study found that women filed 83% of the 170,000 claims, while men filed 15% and 2% did not specify a gender.

“I want to start the conversation about not putting up with harassment in the industry, whether it’s from management to kitchen staff, server to server or customer to bartender,” Gunderson said. “You can feel safe in the hospitality industry no matter who you are or what you look like.”

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A bartender takes notes during a Skylight Hospitality Mentorship Program training session held at MercBar in Phoenix.

Skylight Hospitality

The Psychological Safety Mentoring Program session was particularly impactful for Lingua, she says.

“That old-fashioned kitchen mentality doesn’t fly anymore. It’s possible to exist in a work environment where you feel safe, recognized, and part of the team,” Lingua says, explaining that it’s something something she continually strives to build at Highball Cocktail. Bar.

She can’t wait to launch the cocktail she worked with mentor Charlotte Voisey to create at Showcase. Voisey heads the ambassadors for William Grant & Sons USA, the distillery behind luxury brands like Hendrick’s Gin and Glenfiddich Scotch Whisky.

Lingua’s cocktail uses Hendrick’s Orbium gin, which has a more complex botanical construction than the original, with quinine, lotus flower and wormwood extracts. She plans to pair the spirit with flavors such as lychee, bergamot citrus and Peychaud bitters to concoct a “citrus cocktail, light and refreshing with tannic tea notes,” she says.

In an industry heavily influenced by men, the cocktail showcase will provide an unusual time for women to show off their vast skills. While sipping on imaginative cocktails and munching on delicious bites, attendees will also have the opportunity to celebrate diversity in the beverage industry.

“When I was learning cocktails, I started out as a bar,” says Gunderson. “There was a ceremony at the end of my training when I became a bartender where I earned my braces. So my prize for progressing was being able to dress like a man. This industry has to change, and I’m happy to be a part of that.”

Skylight Hospitality Cocktail Showcase

Monday, November 7 from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.
rough rider

1001 North Central Avenue

602-675-0439
Tickets are $75 and can be purchased here.

Robert M. Larson