Detroit

A city of motors – and yeah – we saw the greatest number plate upon arrival on one of the new Corvette’s MY RUBY.

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Detroit – having had boom years through the automotive industry felt the economical strains 2 years prior to the overall US recession. There was clear signs the vast area of Detroit had been abandoned in various areas. Old and gorgeous art-deco architecture sprawled out – encountered with graffiti-ed windows and broken glass.

Even as an outsider it was itching my fingers to get my hands on one of these gorgeously large and architecturally attractive houses to do up into major loft conversions. In any other State or city these houses would have been made up and developed during the previous house booms – which gave major development possibilities for Detroit. It must not have been the most happening place over the past 5 years.

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I had it explained that the area of Detroit could take the whole of Manhattan, San Francisco and Boston within it, and the view over the city used to be even more impressive than Manhattan itself. What went so horribly wrong – with a previous population of over 3mn to have gone down to a number closer to 1mn there was no wonder the streets of Detroit felt pretty empty. Traffic was in comparison to Chicago extremely light and although you saw people rushing around – nothing like busy. I would add some of the areas we drove through were not really where I would want to park the camper overnight.

Our first port of call was with the recently opened Wright and Company and meeting up with Noel – the female in the bunch. The venue is hosted in an attractive – yet pretty derelict – area where again the houses boasted abandoned – while it seemed the loft conversions were creeping up and being developed.

Wright was situated on the second floor – and after a maze of stairs and corridors we entered into a crazy tall ceiling height and a delightful dining area with a long bar stretching most of the room. Several bartenders were shaking and the background adorned by a large painting.

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We had noticed most of the cooler places we had visited throughout the USA had gone back to the era of hanging the hunting trophies on the walls – Wright was sporting a gigantic moose head just above the service area. The chandelier made up for the elegance and the rustic flooring with an art deco ceiling welcomed us to Wright.

Firstly we met with Andrea who had been part of the wedding party at Sutton Bay and she showed us in. Not wanting to sit in front of the camera she asked if Noel could take the interview. Noel who had just gotten back from the gym – gave the honours instead to Joe – another of the talented bartender pool at Wright and Company.

He mixed up a fantastically well balanced grapefruit, gin and lemon juice with Rhuby. He called it window seat – and I certainly had nothing against hanging by the Victorian bay window ordering this at the venue.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=HXia-JboLAA&list=UUxer2c19CyHdxfjWGh1MX8A  

The team at Wright and Company could not have been friendlier and we headed off towards Sugar House to meet another crowd – but also the head bartender at Oakland – which unfortunately was closed –while Kaytee would meet us at Sugar House. As in most cities the craft cocktail bartenders know one another and work to support one Another.

We entered into Sugar House – which again had a myriad of hunting trophies on the walls with a dark and slightly boudoir feel to the décor. Of course the darkness could have something to do with the absolute storm of a weather pouring down outside of the venue. Just the week prior certain parts of Detroit had been seen under water and the current storm was all but light.

The bartender on shift was Yani – with his muscular and tattooed arms shook us up the Rhuby Heart containing white rum and Campari which gave both sweetness and bitterness.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LiX8ul1PqyA

We spoke to both Kaytee and Yani about their perspective of women in the industry and gained a lot of fantastic commentary.

While Pepi was interviewing I was at the bar talking through some of the history of Detroit and trying to understand how and what kept the city alive. After the car crash – the IT and quick finance had become major investor in Detroit – and the car industry had re-allocated from outside the city to drive their main HQs in actual Detroit. Apparently the economy was picking up and some of the rougher areas in the city was seeing some entrepreneurship taking place. The location Sugar House was a clear demonstration as the immediate neighbours were not the most up-scale. It did not seem to matter too much as the clientele at the Sugar House had most likely made the trip to have a great cocktail anyhow.

I asked about the older building and why they were still empty and had it told to me that unfortunately many of them were looted to – meaning electric cables down to sewage pipes. It was not much left of them but simply the shell so the investment required to do them up was considerable – and people were cautious unless in property development. He did say that it may be one of these days he would take the plunge as he sure agreed the architecture and the facades were simply gorgeous.

Next stop was to Two James – a distillery with what they call having a tasting room – most likely one of the very few (if there are any others). With the strict alcohol laws in yet another control State I gathered why they called the tasting room a tasting room. Most other people would have probably called it a bar.

The name derived as an honour to the founders two fathers who had both passed away – while were named James. The location was pretty much across the street from Sugar House and yet again a sign of young talent driving the town forward.

A small craft distillery it did most things from gin, vodka, bourbon to rye and looking into other categories to explore. The bar sported majority of their own labels and pride themselves on organic produce and simplicity. The staff was enthusiastic and seemed very well versed in how the distilling side worked – taken many of them conducted tours to the general public as well.

We met with Laura Finlay who had been with them since the beginning. She liked the place very much and spoke with passion how the owners allowed the bartenders to come up with their own juices, modifier and looking at developing a range of bitters. It was a similar set-up to that of which we saw in Duluth with Vikre and how they wanted to evolve their tasting room into more of a bar potential. A great way to manage cash-flow and get another source of income. In addition it seemed the Two James’s could sell their products straight to consumers in addition to a rather large range of merchandise containing everything from T-shirts to hoodies and mugs. I can only wish them well as they have done an amazing job up until now.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iJhBtYCdLWM

I read through their notes of distilling and they had made the process for each of the product categories they served simple and easy to understand – making it a popular venue to simply go and learn and later enjoy the drinks at large by the circular bar in what was known as the Tasting Room.

Outside the rain poured and simply getting to the RV outside we had to change cloths to set off again. We were delighted having agreed to move forward with Great Lake Spirit and Wine and having had great endorsement for RHUBY – but importantly engaged with many female talents wanting to partake and compete.

I could see myself coming back to Detroit at the beginning of next year when the painstakingly slow processes of registrations and government approvals would hopefully be done. Prior to that – many venues with craft cocktails simply brought with them the spirits they needed from travel. Many of the smaller brands who did have a challenge to sign one of the larger distributors had a beyond challenging task you get on shelf. These craft venues looking for the higher quality and better products coming out from frequently smaller family owned business + the potential of social media was often the only reason they survived.

From what we gathered the likes of Binny’s out of Illinois must be doing great to get some of the craft cocktail spirits into the heavily controlled States – as they would otherwise be challenged to be able to complement the standard selections taken the rigid rules to get the product into the State.

Luckily we see some change within the rules hang-up from prohibition and legal systems being challenged by the crafty entrepreneurs behind the new and innovative brands coming out to form part of the new spirit selection in the craft spirit venues.

Sutton Bay

Having tried to get the R&R for the past 5 years in the UP region (now I know it means Upper Peninsula of Michigan) and failed to a certain amount – we were starting our decent to Detroit. Prior to hitting what has been nominated as an excellent cocktail city by Esquire Magazine and meeting Great Lakes Wine and Spirits – I contacted my long distant friend Cindy – whom I met in France about 22 years ago.

Having recently hooked up on social media I knew she was living in Michigan and with some further research understood it was indeed only 4 hours away (which we have realised is next door in the USA – so buckle up….)

With at least 5 hours of notice we then headed towards Sutton Bay in Northern parts of Michigan to end our weekend. Taken the bad notice she had to work the evening in Omena – a very cute town along the coast line – in a venue called Knot just a bar. The evening was offering a major wedding reception and we decided to simply hang in the bar.

Once the wedding celebration arrived to the bar I was informed they had already had dinner and drinks in another venue and this was the end of the night. Let’s simply say there was a lot of happily intoxicated people swaggering into the bar. To our delight we met a few bartenders along the crowd – who mainly were downing shooter this time in the morning.

Andrea – a girl working as a back bar in Sugar House told us the bar scene in Detroit is great. The venue she worked was highly respected and to our delight had a great woman working behind the bar called Noel. We assured her we would get in touch once down in Detroit and simply continued to view the party getting into a state of celebrations potentially in the edge of flipping over.

We that night learnt the control state of Michigan had very stringent rules on how to handle and serve alcohol. Coming from a background in Sweden I knew it well – while after just a few hours into the evening a few people were stopped being served and not knowing exactly why they closed the venue condemning the wedding party to be too highly intoxicated.

The laws in Michigan actually go after the venue serving the alcohol in case somebody gets into a car and drives away with alcohol influence. This I did feel was unjust as we are all (supposedly) individual in our own right making our own decisions and a venue should not be judges by poor judgement of the clientele as the rules are clear – not to drive under the influence.

Having stepped over the bride laying on the floor in the foyer it became apparent why the bar had closed but now started the interesting chapter of having an all-female team in the bar fighting off an angry wedding party having more or less been thrown out. The head manager was a lady in her mid-thirties and the back-up bartenders and servers were all females.

The first exchange started at the bar next to me with a recently graduated attorney handing over his card and explaining the venue would certainly hear from them going forward. This was followed with pretty abusive verbal language.

Then comes the payment of the bill which was handed to the father of the bride – obviously not in a great mood by now – where a certain chauvinistic air had landed.

Let’s simply say the party would have ended sooner allowing the guests simply to drink themselves senseless and get on the bus than the circus instigated due to the closure (one hour ahead of the time agreed prior between the venue and guests.)

Having been in the industry through my own formative years of college and university and later doubled up here and there prior to taking on a supplier role with a large Corporate I had seen this so many times. One of the biggest reasons I never continued in what is an industry and business I love. However as the person managing the bar (and please understand this was NOT a raft cocktail venue) I often had to deal with over intoxication and the fact people always need to negotiate with a woman vs. simply accepting the fact there is a decision laid down and please move on.

I can guarantee the same scenario simply would not have unfolded had there been a male behind the bar having informed the guests. The lack of however allowed major kick-off which lasted long after their original closing hour.

Taken my friend needed to close out the till and sort out the bar – we stood privy to the frustration, adrenalin and general screams from the manager as she was trying to calm down after almost 2 hours of polite negotiations where the end aspect was simply to return back next morning or sign the bill.

Let’s simply say – the tip was nothing one should really talk about…

However needing to be mentioned is the stunning natural beauty of northern Michigan. Again lake Michigan sported clearer than clear waters with the most amazing fossil stones, wonderful architecture and the town of Leland with its fresh fish and picturesque sophistication.

This is certainly a place to come for great wines and great lakes – the company I was seeing next thing in the morning – Monday.

I very much like and feel familiar around the Great Lakes as the nature is similar to where I grew up in Scandinavia. The difference is again the size – the great lakes is something to truly be experienced.

 

Little Hiawatha

In the Swedish Disney characters there is Hiawatha – the little native American boy who has the father being the chief and a very nice and helpful sister. A boy always ending up in trouble for being slightly naughty an mischievous. Next stop with two of those in the camper (my twins) had to be the national park and checking out the Pictured Rocks in Munising. Again tracking along the top part of Lake Superior we were surrounded by fabulous nature.

Coming closer into Munising the beaches started to sprawl out and Böda Sand in Öland (an island outside the Swedish Coastline) had a lot of similarity to where we were finding ourselves right now. Although a fresh-water lake the appearances had more to do with the clear seas. I simply loved Lake Superior – and surely liked all the great Lakes – while this one was of course the most impressive.

Having pulled up the RV more or less on the beach with gorgeous sunshine, boys ready to go – my computer decides to crash. So with them off to enjoy the day I ended up with computer distance technology help for the next 5 hours in a camp where the WiFi consistently had some failures.

When sitting inside the camper with a computer not having been backed up at all since starting the trip and with all the content of the trip on this very one hard drive, boys here and a necessity to get things on the road again – the real pressures of being an entrepreneur, professional, financially tight and a mother can seem overwhelming to say the least.

The past 5 years had seen no holiday whatsoever and the Upper Peninsula I had promised myself to spend at least 3-4 days with the boys (having been without them for almost 5 weeks at the beginning of the trip).

The middle ground was to continue with the painstaking, frustrating IT support, while I managed to book a boat-trip for the Pictured Rocks that evening.

I left the computer in the office of the campground as internet connection would otherwise be hopeless – having paid almost the same value as the computer to have somebody fix it remotely.

We left for the boat.

Munising is not a major city – but a small village with basically a tourist attraction of the rocks, and many natural gems and waterfalls surrounding it. I could see that a winter night would be both cold and lonely out here.

The boat took us out on Lake Superior and I was trying to get the excitement to see what I had been told was amazing sculptures from nature in massive blocks of sandstone. Once turning the corner and getting outside of the natural harbour of Munising, protected by an island at the inlet, the rocks stood tall and straight up along a major stretch of coastline. The high elements of minerals, iron and weather conditions made the patterns on the rocks almost like canvasses having been painted individually pending on where you were located or simply how the sun was shining on the rocks.

Being an avid amateur nature photographer this was a moment where I could enjoy just to be, see, breath and take pictures. I selected the trip prior to the sunset out of concern for two VERY tired boys – but also to allow the great pre sunset lighting to play on the rock face. Even the boys were excited with a crazy captain more or less driving into the sides.

Along the route there were waterfalls and natural imagery displaying all kinds of imagery – pending on your mood and imagination.

A good thing to do and get a better mind-set prior to coming back to the campground to pick up what was a crashed and non-functional computer.

Once boys happily went off to bed – which by the way is the table we work from – I sat outside the camper on the pick nick table almost too scared to open the computer up.

Luckily they had managed to restore at least some functioning e-mail settings and my Microsoft programs had been re-installed. On the screen there was a message – we are sorry we have not been able to solve your problems – please contact us. Yeah – real easy to contact people when the majority of time on the road is without any stable internet connection – let alone having any time to actually sit still for a few hours to solve these issues.

With a half functioning PC we pulled out after what was a stormy and wet night towards Traverse and Sutton Bay in Northern Michigan as my long-term friend from studying in France was living there with her family. Not only was she a friend – she is also a female bartender.

Duluth

Possibly not a town we had on the map for craft cocktails – while we heard from the distributor there was some great venues we should visit. Instead our reason to visit Duluth was a town who had run the rhubarb festival for +10 years now in Minnesota and by so doing having created a city (and nearby vicinity) to a week-long festival which donated towards charity.

What made this rhubarb festival excellent was their collaboration with the culinary scene. The organiser – Mary Schmidt – was a fantastically energetic and enthusiastic individual. Full of life and giving all there was to the annual festivity by involving more and more people every year. Her creativity knew no boundaries and she had managed to get all the local businesses involved one way or the other. She has been responsible the past 7 years running and still has major vision how to expand the reach – fantastic positive energy.
In her own little way she has managed to get the local restaurants donate foods made with rhubarb, a very high end craft cocktail venue (not what we thought we would find in Duluth) made desserts and donated every $ generated during the festival.

The amount of rhubarb pies being generated was almost a joke. The way they managed to get all people involved was simply by having local volunteers collect rhubarbs in each and every garden patch in and around Duluth – allowing the rhubarb festival to continue its growth and reach. Luckily most people in Minnesota have a garden patch with rhubarb and are happy to donate towards the charity. Even the Wall Street Journal made the trip last year to share the vision and the simple way of how the entire village shared the rhubarbs to ensure the success of the festival.

In Minnesota they say that once rhubarb grows there is nothing stopping it. People use the lawn mower similarly taken down the rhubarbs while mowing the lawn.

The organisers – and Mary – all simply loved the inspiration behind RHUBY as the majority of the people in Minnesota had the same experience from childhood –punching a juicy stalk into a cup of sugar and biting off the frayed ends.

Mary explained that some of the volunteering churches behind the charity simply could not keep up with the pie making during the festival and they had a famous local chef come in and make a recipe of the crust and simply made thousands of them and placed in a freezer. Each participating church could then ask for a specific number of crusts and they got the chopped and washed rhubarbs + crusts delivered to start baking the pies. This changed the game and now the rhubarb pies coming out of Duluth has no comparison.

In addition a silly and crazy commercial was generated locally in regards of burritos containing rhubarb as a joke. Joke or not it made several hundreds of people asking for the burritos. Of course a creative chef went ahead and made a rhubarb burrito – this is now sold in thousands throughout the rhubarb festival in Duluth. Nothing seems to be stopping this rhubarb to grow…

Last year Mary’s team raised more than 68.000 dollars towards charity and the homeless. The next year vision from Mary is to simply beat that.

She is known in town as the rhubarb queen and everybody is well aware and look forward to the festival each year. It contains the standard festivities for any festival.
1. Who has got the biggest rhubarb
2. Eat a raw rhubarb and take a photo for the most silly rhubarb face
3. Children activities
4. Culinary experiences containing rhubarb
5. Drinks and competitions

In comparison to our own rhubarb festival in Sweden – held week 21 (May time) – it has come a long way to get the buy-in from the people. Our kick-off is a major farmers market with a focus on rhubarb and various hotels, restaurants and anybody with a possibility to align with rhubarbs do so – while it is a large geographical area and much harder to get a central feel. The great news with the stationhouse and the new store opening up outside the bottling hall in Åkers Styckebruk – I can have LOADS of rhubarb activity for the general public the entire week. Mary has given me a myriad of ideas to implement and share with all other fellow rhubarb festival participants.

Mary was fantastically enthusiastic and wanted RHUBY there for next year – 2015 – where she invited us to take part. As I have now opened Minnesota as a State where I sell RHUBY – of course we shall partake.
Via my distributor Wirtz in Minnesota I was given a few venues to visit during the time in Duluth. The surprising cocktail venue – Zeitgeist – was an avid social staple within the community. For 2015 festival we offered to donate all RHUBY free of charge so all cocktails containing the Rhuby liquid would be donated towards the charity CHUM which Mary ran for the homeless.

Another venue we were asked to visit was the local fish restaurant which was very active with the festival as well – while time did not allow as Michigan was the next port of call.

We did see the part-owner of Pickwick – Amy – who gave us a great re-cap of her 100 year old venue with a scenic panorama view across lake superior. She had been the owner for the past four years and she openly stated it had taken her that time to be respected and be able to have suppliers and other third party understand she was the one taking the decisions – not her husband. As the owner it was OK as they had no other way to go – even though it took a lot longer for them to gather that this was the situation and did not change from week to week.

One of the area we enquired about was the split of women to men behind her bar. There were no more women vs. herself running the bar as a bartender. The majority of the serving staff however was female. When we asked if the girls had been given the opportunity she simply stated two reasons she believed right:

1. Firstly the majority of the girls and women she employed wanted to have the opportunity to hide away once in a while in kitchen or doing something else. In the bar you are fronting every time and there is not one single moment to be away from the customers.
2. The pay and tips were simply higher in the kind of venue that Pickwick is. The bar staff maybe get equal pay on a Friday and Saturday – while the average across the working week – the waiting staff had the biggest cheque at the end of the day.

The waiting staff and money had a similar view even from Zeitgeist who pride themselves on the cocktails. They had a few females working a few shifts but none of them employed by the venue on full-time basis.
Pulling out of Duluth we did have sensation it held some older values and beliefs vs. many of the other cities we had visited. Hopefully PYD and the entire philosophy behind RHUBY – for women by women – empowered and inspired more of the females to come forward.

We did meet with a few of the waiting staff and some of them did state they were not given the opportunity vs. simply not wanting to make it behind the bar.

Again it comes back to the entire philosophy of not waiting to be given the opportunity but instead grasp it and take it. – Carpe Diem –

Boone and Crocket

Wisconsin had a lot more to offer than what many gave it credit – particularily when it comes to the craft cocktail scene. John – owner of amongst other outlets – Boone and Crocket – agreed. He said we live more cosmopolitan and have an opportunity to get a great drink around here – meanwhile still being neighbourly and small. He simply loved the ease to move around and not have the pressures and crowd from the larger cities – while being able to offer the same high quality drinks.

Having travelled through almost 17 States by now I kind ‘a had to agree with his thinking. We had met and drunk in venues where the barstaff came from the large cities, looking for a slower pace – while simply wanting to continue the craft cocktail trade – still being able to have more of a lifestyle balance in conjunction. The majority of the bartenders we met lived a few minutes away from the venue the either owned or worked at – while this could frequently be an hour commute in NY or London. This slightly younger generation had an amazing drive, great knowledge and were striving to find balance – much more than the generation before them, I included.

He echoed the trend of cocktailing having started to take off in Wisconsin and his female ace behind the bar – Mary Oglesby – explained that the scene had indeed changed. The females of today went out to have fun, not to be entertained or find a partner. In previous years she told us she had often had a guy throw a credit card behind the bar – while this was not at all as frequent any more. Women worked and independence made them want to pay for their own drinks and even buy one or two for the guys in the gathering. The equality in front of the bar and behind the bar had changed over the years.

Mary did agree that being a woman behind the bar did take a few challenges more – and to work really hard to be respected. The amazing aspect from her side was not the respect of co-workers (which she found easier) but actually the clientele often having a preconceived idea that a guy would simply mix a better cocktail. Of course, this is a hang-up from the industry being male dominant and people used to the waste coat – while a tattooed woman behind the bar did not mean she was not able and educated. Frequently that lady had to go a few further miles to get respect, make sure she knew her booze and frequently be amazing with orders, till-takes, speed and simple organisation behind the bar.

The organisational side, the up-keep and the friendly and softer atmosphere is something a lot of the male owner we encountered along the route – Sean Muldoon included – echoed. Women bring this in heaps and bounds to a venue and makes it a softer and smoother experience which is hard to achieve with just guys in a bar.

Mary had taken the plunge to join Boone and Crocket due to friendship and being a venue where she frequently hang out as a bartender in another venue. Again this is a story we felt repeated as many of the women having been given a chance to come in behind the bar in an excellent venue was often the bar people knew of them or knew them personally.

This was different to how most of the guys interviewed answered. They often hinted at a competition or serving somebody who simply was out to hire and find somebody for a venue.

So the whole ethos of women vs. men behind the bar is not a simple layer of getting a girl hired – but actually the entire process to be found, the respect from the people working the bar – but above all the respect of the people frequenting the establishment. This we have heard is a harder task in the business hotels where you mainly have after work and suites – as they tend to go towards more pf a guy approach.

We don’t know – we simply repeat what the trade is telling us and simply wanting to share with ALL, including the general public – to simply respect each bar person for what they are no matter what background or sex.

 

Wisconsin

Coming into Wisconsin we felt like being back in Scandinavia. The similarities were present and the nature similar with weather patterns and seasons. Not ony did we see places selling herring but there was acquavit and other Scandinavian delicatessen in the stores. For sure this must be a dense Scandinavian population if even some of the crisp breads had made it.

To my delight most supermarkets had been selling rhubarbs for the last 2 States so I knew people living in Minnesota or Wisconsin knew what rhubarb is.

In Wisconsin we had the pleasure of being able to stay in a friends drive-way and simply ended up sleeping on their floor as it was far more level than the drive-way.

After a great BBQ and wonderful food – massive and delightful steaks from COSTCO – we actually crashed for the first time in a house having spent a long time in the RV.

I simply had to give a paragraph to the experience at Costco as it was my first. For you Europeans following this blog – let’s just say most of our cars are not big enough to carry the majority of the packs being sold at the venue. The saying everything is bigger in the USA was to a level I could never even imagine. The containers and triple packs of massive sizes was even heavy to lift up for me – let alone an older generation – I had no idea who the target was for this place more than value was a real driver. Taken our sitiuation in an RV – the space was simply not at all suitable for this kind of venue as the space was cramped as it was. We got our steaks and tried to find the smallest packs of other essentials. Even the milk packages was 2L x 3 in the smallest containers they were retailing. Of course, the value of the merchandise they sold – like Calvin Klein jeans at $19 – was consumerism at the highest level – and the low prices for the high quality produce being sold. I wasn’t entirely sure what I felt walking out – while was happy about our smaller grocery stores and individual outlets at home. Not at all the same value in regards of money – while the sense of shopping and the feeling of normality completely went out of the widow at Costco. Even the healthy options, such as the salads were bigger than the fridge we had in the camper. Of course, this comes from the eyes of a Euroepan living in a tiny town – where if a major chain hitting town would kill any possibility of smaller entrepreneurs having a go.

Although sleeping straight onto the carpet we had the space to stretch our legs, be in different rooms and simply (and literally) not stay on top of one another. The challenge with the place was the absolute lack of connectivity where even my Verizon US phone had a challenge to actually give me a signal.

The situation made the research, contacting venues and bartenders – and in general being professional – a real challenge. To my very big appreciation I found the local library which was not only spacious, it was quiet, massive in size and with great Wi-Fi connection. So while the others hit the factory outlets slightly outside of White Water I simply made sure we got our appointments set up and ensured for Milwaukee the following day. Wisconsin would not slip away without proper PYD meetings.

The only State where I had not arranged with the distributor meeting was Wisconsin – as the Chicago office had promised to help out with the details, samples and in general make the introduction.

Without confirmation and people on holidays I found it difficult to get through to the right people. Once I finally did, I realised pretty quickly that the meetings and introductions had not been made – but instead the man in charge of craft brands in Wisconsin informed me he had absolutely no time at all to see me or indeed meet up in such short notice. Having asked for the meeting a few months earlier via my other connections it was disappointing.

At least we had the chance to get some RHUBY samples to him and hopefully this was better than nothing.

Being on a tight schedule and with a distributor meeting which never happened we felt we should now focus in on a few great on-trade spots and move forward as our next state would be Minneapolis.

First on the list was Goodkind – a venue with co-partner and owner Jessica Sidel and amongst other shareholders – Katie Rose. Katie being a well known face in the craft cocktail industry as one of the strongest fenale bartenders in Wisconsin. Jessica told us they owned further venues, amongst them Burnth Heart which was referred to as the ’baby’ and most lkely the venue that kicked off several bars to follow.

Jessica was a humble and pretty introvert character and not too delighted to be on camera. However with some persuasion from Pepi she agreed to a few short questions. She is an inspiration to many and simply one of the women having taken the step out and actually is now fully engaged as an owner in her own business. She may have a background role in what she does today – while her personality is driven, ambitious and hard working.

She informed us that prior to actually owning a place of her own she had not held the respect or understood the hard work of the organisational side, management of venues – keeping the books, payroll and in general why the owners not manning the bar or being visible – what were they doing? She had had a belief the bosses in reality did not do very much – something she regrets today. She would be devasteted if her staff would look at her the same way as the work-load and management side was beyond a full time job – and unless well managed did not add the books up to continue or to expand into further venues. A tight ship having to be steered through well.

However, I simply stated the obvious – if her teams would have felt the same about her – they would have left long time ago. Instead Goodkind and the other venues maintain and keep their staff. They have literally not had anybody not staying on unless for personal reasons having to relocate of dedicate further time with family.

Jessica told us she had recently started a family of her own which was a great catalyst to see how she could stay in the industry without having to work the late night shifts all the time. Now after a few years of truly hard work she sometimes reminisces and understands she is lucky having the option to plan the schedules and staff rotations – where people repect her situation of today – doubling up as a mother.

Katie Rose is a bubbly, experienced and well vesed female bartender working closely with the kitchen at Goodkind. She makes all their modifiers, bitters, sirops and even tonic and sodas. Her fingers and nails were ok taken the time it takes juicing and prepping.

She informed us that during the opening of the venue they litterally ran ot of all the home made ingredients she had made and it took her several weeks to catch up and work throughout night after her shifts to make them in pots and pans with her entire apartment filled with various mixtures. We tried a few and it was highly imaginative with a female chef also very much involved and in the loop where I certainly could see great cocktail pairing menus evolving with high culinary fit between kitchen and drinks.

We started hearing the potential lack of respect to some degree of females behind the bar in Wisconsin and this group of highly intellectual females had taken the market slightly up-side down by pairing up and helping one another with a multiple ownership model where the majority was female.

The qualities spanned from kitchen, bartending and management.

 

Minneapolis

In Minneapolis we had some very interesting observations about women and the industry.

A view which was so different from the ones we had just experienced in Chicago. This may be that the cocktail craze was slightly behind – fewer females out in the market – but however we discussed the scenario – it seemed to come down to something else.

The first time ever the issue of cattiness between women came up or simply the rivalry between women vs being supportive and build the career of the younger talent. One of the young and possibly most written about bartenders in Minneapolis, had some strong views which we could relate to.

Minneapolis currently holds few high end craft cocktail bars in the neighbourhood and the city with more and more females coming into the business – of course there is an air of protecting your turf vs. being the one making yourself out of a job. The solution we had experienced in Austin was that many of the younger talent kicked off and opened on their own – a step sometimes pretty scary to do – while sometimes the only solution if the employment market was completely choked and there was not many places to talk about e.g. a place loaded with opportunity.

We kicked off the visit with Charlie at East Street Social where she was the only woman bartender on the scene in the venue. She openly stated she would be supportive of taking another female talent in – while similarly made sure it would only be one she felt was absolutely perfect fit and where no politics or ‘cattiness’ could be crept in as the current balance in the venue was pretty much perfect.

It made me think of the harsh reality of some of the bartenders I knew and had the pleasure to work alongside. Many of them had done +12 years in the industry and paved the way for the women of today. They would most likely defend their situation at the time of building their career vs. allowing others to shine around them. It simply was true that the women who had come into the limelight had fought long and hard – plus the fact they never saw a difference between man and woman behind the bar themselves.

All the women we met and constantly meet are self-confident creatures where attitude of ‘a can do positive’ slant in conjunction of never ever being intimidated. These are two qualities seemingly necessary to be climbing to the top.

We later had a chat with the owner of Parlour – Jesse, a +40 something charming and handsome fellow who had been highlighted to be one of the people supporting the females in Minneapolis and had helped many of them to have confidence in what they do. He thought one of the reasons females were not as common in the bar is the fact they need to go in behind the bar and run it as their own – feel part and equal to all that this entail. Of course this could sometimes be challenging as respect from customers was often not equal to the guy standing next to them.

Many simply assumed the guy (with a beard and a waistcoat) would simply pull the best cocktail, even though the woman could run rings around them for speed and knowledge. This was echoed when meeting Jessica – bar director of the newly opened Loewe’s in town – Bradstreet (establishment being refurbished).

She said – even as the head of the venue and behind the bar she was never given the respect by customers and people often wanted to order from the guy. A tattooed girl as head behind the bar was simply not caught up with the middle aged business people.

Not sure if this is a great idea while a natural one – she has as a result taken more of an organisational, educational role although she loves the front aspect of customer service. We discussed food-paring and the fact she had a degree in bakery and patisserie which she had used over part of her career in amongst other places Las Vegas. Her passion was very much in the ingredients, balance and creation which had a lot to do with the kitchen. Her philosophy which she felt slightly frustrating at times was the food culture having gone much further, as well as the craft beers. People tended to hold onto a brand they knew and had fallen in love with when it came to spirits – not very willing to switch their bourbon brand or scotch to something else. These are fantastic news for the marketers behind these products – while maybe not the best news for bartenders, mixologists and consumers.

This is where the drive and knowledge of the bartender sometimes should allow you to try something you never tried before. We place this trust with food and beer – likewise wine – while if we are an avid Jack Daniels fan – why try Angel’s Envy?

Britt the head bartender of Heyday – she did not feel the cattiness between women – instead felt inspired by the female stronghold and power having created a name for themselves. Every time she felt challenged she looked forward and thought – what would they have done in this situation and gained power to drive something bigger and better every day. If they can do it – so can I.

With Pink Your Drink and sharing these stores – we want to motivate more – so please let us know more and we will share it.

Later Next stop – Marvel Bar to see the venue all talked about in Minneapolis and catch a glimpse of Megan Arts – their female bartender. A speakeasy with a non-descript entrance. We spoke to Matthew as their strong female ace was not on duty that night. We would make an attempt before pulling out of Minneapolis to meet with her as we heard – she was a super creative innovative bartender.

Later we headed over to Saffron. Again we ran into the simple fact the venue was close down a Sunday night.

Take we had the following day completely booked we made the call – unfortunately we simply would not have the chance to meet these glorious bartenders having to pull out towards Duluth to meet the organisers of the rhubarb festival.

We had met 4 female dynamos in Minneapolis and influencers on the scene – all knowing one another – so we left a few samples of RHUBY, literature and the promise of – I WILL BE BACK.

Monday morning started up with a meeting at the Wirtz offices to meet their craft guy and sales director. The one thing that needs to be said about Minneapolis – the people are AMAZINGLY nice and friendly. None of the places we went, none of the people we saw – had any stuck up attitude – but instead a humble and respectful hello. We also must say that Minneapolis is a super cool town. Or the twin-cities as St Paul is more or less attached. The creative juices rival those of NY and LA for sure and the attitude is warmer and friendlier – with nature around the corner, cycle paths across everywhere and a theatre and creative initiative only seen in major cities such as NY – not a bad place to be.

The cocktail culture had certainly stepped up over the past few years and the bars we visited and the cocktails we were served being nothing but superb.

I am taking a wild guess and saying Minneapolis will be a very fast growing town – where a lot of young talent with pool for the future.

The same goes for the people at Wirtz – lovely and delightful. Great handshake, the steady eye and in general a fantastic feeling of normal professional and straight to the point. The meeting was refreshing and our female approach to the market well liked as both gentlemen had daughters. We discussed the importance to be self-sufficient and to stand on your own two feet prior to getting too engaged with guys and then not able to drive your life forward independently.

Of course I was an ‘old’ mum so career had taken a precedent and was simply delightfully happy I had had time to actually do both. I was delighted their salesforce contained a fair few females which they rated highly and there was great understanding and respect for the platform behind RHUBY and Pink Your Drink.

Minnesota – being the most condense State of Scandinavians in the US and with a major love for rhubarb we certainly felt in the right place.

One of the bartenders told us that anytime they made anything with rhubarb on the menu it was by far the most popular drink. The delightful news is that we will move forward working together with Wirtz and Rhuby will now be available in the Minnesota market.

Exciting people, exciting places and a new market for RHUBY and Pink Your Drink. A good day overall.

Celebrating Female Entrepreneurship