How Hospitality Workers Are Navigating an Uncertain Holiday - Imbibe Magazine Subscribe + Save

How Hospitality Workers Are Navigating an Uncertain Holiday

Holiday celebrations are all about festivities and traditions, but in 2020, nothing is as it once was. Recognizing that this year’s holidays are very different and challenging for so many people, we asked a number of drink pros how they’re navigating the season. 

“With everything going on in the world, it’s opened me up to bring the people I cherish closer to me. So, if all of my friends and family make it to the holiday season, I’m good with whatever’s in store.”

Dante Wheat, Beverage Manager, The 502 Bar and Bistro, Louisville, Kentucky

“This is a time of darkness, uncertainty, and loss. It’s also a time for radical awareness and much-needed change. My family and friends are the silver lining in all this, and the light that gives me hope in these unprecedented times.”

Isaac Shumway, Co-Owner, California Gold, San Rafael, California

“For me, this entire year has been about investigating my preconceptions of myself and adjusting my actions and mental space to reflect what my life’s evolving into. I’ve owned Small Hand Foods for more than a decade, but last year I opened my own bar, and I thought I would run both of those businesses for years. Since losing my bar, I’ve taken our canned cocktails and released them as a line of bottled cocktails under the Small Hand Cocktails label. I’m also now being paid to write about drinks, something I always loved, but now I have the time and attention to devote to developing.”

Jennifer Colliau, Founder, Small Hand Foods, Oakland, California

“With the permanent closure of two of my restaurants this fall due to COVID-19, the holidays this year will be an opportunity for our staff to come back together and share some good times, rather than work constantly throughout the busy season. Rum cake and several gallons of Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s eggnog shall be consumed. We can’t control the damage being inflicted on the hospitality industry, but we can celebrate the lifelong friendships we’ve made here.”

Ed Rudisell, Owner, The Inferno Room, Indianapolis

“This holiday season, I’m looking forward to checking in with my people and finding where I can spread comfort, necessities, and hopefully, joy. The one thing that can carry us through the turmoil of this time is the bond of our community. In connecting with the ‘industry’ family, I might have the ability to help this season, and helping is maybe the most important thing I will do before the new year.”

—Sean Johnson, New York Hennessy Brand Ambassador and Former Head Bartender, Gabriel Kreuther, New York City

“I’ve spent many a holiday alone—some by choice, some because life is as it is. I do know that Christmas will be with a couple of people that have revived my love of the holidays, and revived my love of life, more than I can ever say. There will be so much to enjoy, there can be no space for the list. There can only be the thankfulness that comes from knowing what is, is beautiful.”

—Steven Liles, Bartender, Smuggler’s Cove, San Francisco

“Family has been so important to me. I’m a mother, I’m a grandmother, I have three beautiful grandchildren. I become Martha Stewart during the holidays. I always travel for Christmas, that’s my getaway—I most likely won’t be able to do that this year, and that has me rethinking what I can still do to celebrate life and joy, because there’s been so much sorrow this year. I’ve lost family members to this virus, I’ve lost friends of family to this virus, I’ve had great friends who are sick. And so many friends are out of work; I ran the beverage program at Blackbird for years, and they had to close permanently because of COVID. So many people are scrambling and trying to figure out how to survive, it’s something we all need to be aware of.”

—Lynn House, National Spirits Specialist and Portfolio Mixologist, Heaven Hill Brands, Chicago

“As we look toward the holidays, the usual thoughts of putting up decorations and planning menus has been replaced by a singular torrent: I can’t believe we’ve made it this far. After months of losses, layoffs, national tumult, and nearly a million deaths from the pandemic worldwide, I’m amazed at the resilience of our business, staff, investors, and customers. While there’s so much more on the horizon, both things known and unknown, I’m satisfied that we’ve achieved our goals through persistence and determination. But also, by working together.”

—Derek Brown, Founder, Columbia Room, Washington, D.C.

“My favorite tradition we’ll certainly be able to keep is our Winter Solstice candlelight breakfast, and we’ll likely make that a bit more decadent and special to mark the season—of course, including the family tradition for oranges and walnuts in some form.”

— Maggie Campbell, President and Distiller, Privateer Rum, Ipswich, Massachusetts

“New rituals are almost certain this year, but I’ll keep some of the old ones, too, like finding comfort in Brandy Old Fashioneds on cold nights. I’ll raise my glass to the hard work of our distillery’s employees, the support from our community, and the love from our family and friends.”

—Jeff Wuslich, Co-Founder, Cardinal Spirits, Bloomington, Indiana

“For years, I’ve often taken a go-it-alone approach to the holidays—I moved out on my own at 18, and have done solo Christmases, friendsgivings, wild nights out for New Year’s Eve, all depending on what I needed at the time. My takeaway is that a holiday is a time to refresh oneself. Sometimes, following a traditional route accomplishes this, at other times, venturing off the beaten path bears unusually refreshing fruit. This year, I’m giving myself permission to do it different—it’s more important than ever, given the uncertainty lurking around every corner. One thing is certain, however: A glass of bubbly never hurt. I plan to raise a glass to the good things in life, no matter what may come.”

—Shannon Mustipher, Bartender and Author, Brooklyn

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