Imbibe 75 Person to Watch: Derek Brown - Imbibe Magazine Subscribe + Save

Imbibe 75 Person to Watch: Derek Brown

As Imbibe‘s 2015 Bartender of the Year and former operator of the now-closed Columbia Room in Washington, D.C.—one of the country’s most respected cocktail bars—Derek Brown showed countless people the pleasures of drinking well. His lifestyle and career came at a great personal cost, though, and after seeking professional help to deal with his drinking, he’s now embarking on a new mission: showing people the pleasures of drinking mindfully well, and helping those looking to cut down or eliminate their alcohol consumption.

“Our industry is so used to hard drinking that the obvious signs of problem drinking are often seen as badges of honor, from lack of sleep to hangovers,” Brown says. His first foray into changing that discussion was the early 2022 release of Mindful Mixology: A Comprehensive Guide to No-and Low-Alcohol Cocktails. The book is only one facet of his new career emphasis; last year, Brown received certification as a wellness coach, and launched Positive Damage, Inc. “It’s about changing the way we drink; I want to help create a culture of mindful drinking and make room for everyone at the bar,” he says.

He’ll be creating programming for companies and individuals, and consulting with bars to help them launch and improve their no- and low-alcohol drinks programs. He’ll also be offering a live, online course called Mindful Bars, available at Positive Damage For Brown, it boils down to fostering an atmosphere that enables people to make the best choices for themselves.

“Mindful drinking isn’t about judgment or giving up anything; it’s about knowing why you drink and making choices that support where you want to be,” Brown says. “If that means not drinking alcohol, cool. Let’s create some options. If it means drinking some alcohol, that’s cool, too. More options. I’m not telling anyone they shouldn’t drink. That would be straight-up ridiculous; I’ve made half my career on alcohol. The next half is yet to come.”

Click here to read more about some of 2023’s other Imbibe 75 People and Places to Watch.

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