As my last days in Chattanooga are approaching, I’ve found my calendar filled with more cocktail events and seminars than ever before. It has been incredible to see how much interest both industry professionals and enthusiasts alike are starting to show in our city’s growing cocktail culture. People always ask how I’ve ended up getting to travel to cocktail weeks, camps and the like, and the answer is always the same—get involved! Not only on a national level by simply putting in applications and showing interest, but by participating in local events. As they have been telling us for years, knowledge is power. The more you know and the more people you meet, the grander the possibilities that really do lie around every corner.
Check out some of your options around town:
The Whiskey Women
As all things whiskey began to spark people's interest a few years ago, some very determined ladies banded together to create an alternative to the boys club that the whiskey scene seemed to be surrounded by. The result? One fantastic site to access treats and tidbits regarding their favorite spirit, TheWhiskeyWomen.com, and a regular gathering of these incredibly spunky, intelligent and independent whiskey-loving women. For the past few years, the project has been spearheaded and grown under the supervision and undying enthusiasm of Ashley Danford. Their most recent event, hosted at Tupelo Honey Café, featured our city’s native spirit, Chattanooga Whiskey, and led a packed patio of women through cocktail demonstrations. Watching such an awesome group of women muddle, shake and share delightful drinks together was the perfect way to start a Tuesday evening. Be sure to like the Whiskey Women Facebook page, and check their website regularly for new articles.
The United States Bartenders' Guild
Over the course of the past year, we have slowly but surely gained our city a spot on the cocktail map by establishing a local chapter with the United States Bartenders' Guild. While some of us are new to the USBG scene, we are lucky enough to have a leader on the board who had a hand in the success of the Austin, Texas-based chapter before relocating to Tennessee. Marcelo Nascimento, bar manager of St. John’s Restaurant, is excited for things to come for Chattanooga through involvement with a highly regarded national organization:
The USBG runs on the synergy created from its members. The movement brings national and international attention to a city by creating a culture and identity for the community that will have a meaningful impact on tourism and employment. It’s a professional organization that focuses on furthering the craft through education, competition and industry involvement, creating a demand for impassioned bartenders and attracting enthusiasts to visit and boost the local economy. We are very excited to see what a small market can achieve.
Interested in joining? Membership for a calendar year is $100 and gets you into all national USBG events free. Not a bartender? Never fear, the USBG is open to enthusiasts, distributors and producers alike. Questions? Feel free to reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As our scene begins to grow, there is no shortage of events to attend on a monthly or even weekly basis. As September draws to an end, so does National Bourbon Month. To go out with a bang, check out St. John’s cocktail party and dinner Tuesday, which will host special guests from regional USBG chapters. Michael Searles from Atlanta and William Batson from Birmingham, Alabama, are coming to shake things up with Nascimento as the three battle it out in a cocktail competition featuring Angel’s Envy. Tickets for the cocktail hour ($35) and dinner to follow ($65) are available by calling St. John’s Restaurant at 423-266-4400.
Laura Kelton is a recent graduate of UTC and currently runs the bar program at Easy Bistro & Bar. Feel free to reach out to her by email with any questions, comments or requests. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.