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August 2020

Lora Nefiodchina - F&B Manager at Mandarin Oriental

Meet Lora, F & B Manager at Mo Bar, Mandarin Oriental, Miami. The gift of hospitality abounds
in her blood and has evolved among restaurants. She started her career at 18 years-old
inspired by her mother. “I love the ability to show how I see the world with different flavors” –
Lora expresses as a mixologist. She’s the mastermind behind Mo Bar’s new cocktail list, and
me, personally, a fan of her job. She does not only craft cocktails, but she styles them
beautifully. The presentations are a complete feast that combines the best aromas, flavors and
visual appeals. Each one of them has perfectly mixed notes, herbal tones, and spices. In a
quick chat, she tells us more about her.

What’s the best part of being a mixologist?

The best part of being a mixologist, I think is the ability to share with guests “things you like”. Ability to show how you see the world with different flavors.

What’s your favorite cocktail?

I don’t have a favorite one. There are specific liquors I like, for example, I love scotch and
mezcal. I always give a chance to new things. But if I go to the bar I will definitely try 1 classic
drink (Manhattan or Old Fashion) and a signature one its always great to try, to see, to learn. Of
course, I have flavors which I prefer

Do you prefer your cocktails Shaken or Stirred?

One of the burning questions at the bar. Me personally I prefer stirred.

What’s your favorite place to have a drink?

Besides liquors, I enjoy having a glass of wine. So most probably if I go somewhere it will be a wine bar or a classy bar similar style to MO Bar.

Do you prefer Wine, Cocktails, or Spirits?

It really depends, I love to try cocktails, but if the bar where I go is really busy I will choose wine
or liquor. Also if I will go to the restaurant most probably it will be wine.

If Miami would be a Cocktail… what would it be?

I would say it will be made with some tropical fruits and definitely I would add some spiciness.

Can you please describe the featuring Cocktail?

This is our ultimate gin and tonic – Ladies and GINtleman. We blend our own gin in-house to
give the balance of citrus and herbal notes. The cocktail can be described as Asian inspired cocktail,
we use sesame oil, anise stars, juniper berries, and yuzu tonic to highlight our connection with
Asian culture.

Screen Shot 2020 08 23 at 12.23.16 AM
Image by Dulce Escalante

Ladies and GINtelman

1.5oz Blended Gin
0.15oz Lemon juice

1 drop Sesame oil
Yuzu tonic



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Veza Sur Celebrates Three Year Anniversary

On Tuesday, August 18th, the Latin-inspired cerveceria Veza Sur Brewing Co. will mark its third anniversary with a Birthday Box Giveaway, a beer release, a launch of new merchandise, local specials, and many more incredible opportunities. If you have never heard of the Miami-craft brewery that boasts “grew brews” and “hella good vibes” these incredible deals are sure to pique your interest. Leading a diverse, fun, and motivated team, Veza Sur has also expanded its presence throughout Florida so that individuals statewide can enjoy their products and positive vibes. Veza Sur’s refreshing beers, or cervezas, are available in supermarkets, spirit, and craft beer shops, as well as in convenience stores across Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, Tampa, Jacksonville, and Tallahassee. 

Beginning Wednesday, August 19th, Veza Sur will release a new collection of limited-edition merchandise which will include a bandana, a tie-dye t-shirt, a cafecito cup, a bucket hat, a lighter, and a domino set! Liven up your personal and social life with these exciting items that range from $2.00 – $35.00. These Veza Sur products will be available for shipping nationwide via Shopify. Visit the “shop” section on www.vezasur.com to purchase Veza Sur merchandise and celebrate the third anniversary in style. 

Then, on Thursday, August 20, Veza Sur’s Instagram Live series Mas Que Cerveza with Head Brewer Rhett Dougherty will feature special guest Spaint. Spaint is the artist behind Veza Sur’s latest creative label design for the brewery’s anniversary beer release, Selva Negra––a Chocolate Cherry Stout aged in bourbon and molasses barrels. According to Veza Sur’s press release, this anniversary brew “will form part of the latest 22oz barrel-aged bottle releases from the brewery. In this decadent, full-bodied brew, the chocolate provides a robust foundation, while the notes of cherry give it a nice bright accompaniment (think: a luscious chocolate bar with a delicious maraschino cherry filling)”.

In addition to the release of new, swaggy merchandise and incredible virtual series, Veza Sur will also have a pallet drop all weekend long to show its appreciation and admiration of the Miami community. During this period, fans of Veza Sur’s refreshing cervezas can get a case of 24 beers at just $25.00 per case (while supplies last).

Still thirsty for more? Contact Veza Sur at beer@vezasur.com and stay up to date on additional events, perks, and opportunities by following Veza Sur on Instagram @VezaSurBrewingCo and Facebook @VezaSur

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Chris Fierro - Rum_bassador

Rum Brand Ambassador Chris Fierro lives and works with heart, passion, and a strong sense of community. It is largely his personable character, his willingness to grow, and his dedication to his brands that allow him to make a name for himself in the Rum Industry. Fierro travels long distances from West Palm Beach to Miami for work. He communicates with bartenders, restaurants, and mixologists to learn from those around him. He is also professionally and personally present for those in the industry that he considers a part of his family. His personal touch and community-oriented approach not only makes him a beloved member of the community, but also the perfect mentor, friend, and contributor to the South Florida Rum Scene.  Similarly, to his first brand ambassador job at The Real McCoy, Fierro is undoubtedly the real thing.

How did you get started as a Brand Ambassador?

In 2013, I was working as a bookkeeper for The Real McCoy brand. During my second year working for The Real McCoy, I started helping out the brand by seeing what I could do on my end to help promote it. We were a startup. I went into local bars where I had good relationships with the managers and asked them if they could bring in my brand because I would like to drink it at their bar. They said sure and I kept following up every week. After the first month, the manager told me that The Real McCoy rum was at the bar and you can order whenever you want, anytime you come. I did the same thing with my other favorite restaurants and bars. I was persistent. Then, Founder and CEO Bailey Pryor took notice and appreciated the work that I did for The Real McCoy brand. Mr. Bailey Pryor guided me and showed me how to transition from my role as a bookkeeper to a brand ambassador. 

How do you differ from other BAs?

When The Real McCoy left West Palm Beach and went to Connecticut, I picked up a new brand and started on my own in the industry. I said to myself that the only way I’m going to be successful is by working hard, being very passionate about my work and the brand, and making sure that I could make the industry better.  supported everybody in the industry. Succeeding in the market involved supporting the bartenders, bartenders craft, my brand, the bars and restaurants. That was my formula. I brought my passion to every restaurant and showed them who I am and what I’m bringing to the table. I’m not saying that nobody has ever done that but with every account that I had, I show them a great appreciation for their support. I caught people’s attention with my approach and a lot of people told me that I’m different from the brand ambassadors that they’ve seen in the past. I tried not to worry about other brand ambassadors with competitor brands. I focused on my work and what I could do to continue growing.

Who in the industry has inspired you? How has their inspiration impacted you?

I did not come into this industry knowing everything. I followed people that I admire and learned from them. Ambassadors like Gabriel Urrutia, Cesar Diaz,  Freddy Diaz, and Jessica Stafford were rock stars to me. My biggest mentor was Robert Burr. He’s the organizer of the Miami Rum Festival and he gave me a lot of guidance. Forrest Cokely is another amazing person that inspired me. He’s a genius with spirits. He’s like a Guru. These individuals gave me a good reason to be in this industry and to learn what it is all about. They taught me how to give back to my community and how to help the next guy that’s coming into the industry by mentoring them and continuing to give my support. 

After The Real McCoy, what other brand did you represent?

After The Real McCoy, I started working with Richland Rum. To give you a little bit of history about Richland Rum, it is from Georgia, made from molasses, aged up to 2 years in brand new American Oak barrels. It was a new brand to the Florida market when I accepted the brand ambassador/sales role. I knew it was going to be a challenge to sell a bottle at $40.00. Richland Rum was a new product to the Miami market with a premium bottle price. I had to sell it with few tools to impact the market (sell sheets and t-shirts). I knew that the only way to sell this rum was to be active on social media and show my buyers and followers my work and what I was doing with all my accounts. My schedule was working after lunch hour until midnight, sometimes to one o’clock in the morning. Drive back home and wake up early in the morning to research on Facebook. I would look into what bars and restaurants are busy and offering great craft cocktails. Then I would hit the pavement to visit accounts, introduce myself to new potential accounts, and do my follow-ups. With a lot of hard work, I started seeing results in the market with Richland Rum. I even expanded my market from Key West to Jacksonville with the help of my friend Cesar Diaz. My name became known and was easier for me to sell at new accounts. I felt like after I was done with Richland Rum, I truly became a brand ambassador. 

Screen Shot 2020 08 16 at 12.21.53 PM
Image credit by Gato Delix

What have you learned about Rum that fascinates you?

Learning about the brand is helpful to understand the spirit.  At the Miami Rum Festival, I met a lot of distillers and was interested in hearing about their distilling and aging process.  I also learned a lot from brand ambassadors like Stilo Pimentel and Zan Kong. I read a few books about rum too. The Real McCoy brought me into this amazing industry.  It was my loyalty to the spirit that pushed me to learn about other rum brands.  My two favorite rums to drink neat are The Real McCoy Rum and Grander Rum. 

What are some challenges of your job?

Some challenges happened during my start. I worked with small brands that didn’t have a distributor, budget for marketing, sales support or POS. They lacked the necessary tools to stay competitive with bigger brands.  It was also difficult to work around the established brands when I didn’t know anyone and when I didn’t have any relationships in the market.  The Miami market, which is one of my favorite markets to work in, is very competitive.  If you make it in Miami, you can possibly make it in other rum markets. 

What are some rewards?

My rewards in the market have to be meeting a lot of amazing industry people and making new friends. 

How have COVID-19 affected you personally and professionally? How has it influenced the Rum industry?

I’m currently on furlough. It affected me to see my accounts that are closed and thinking about my friends being out of work.  Of course, it is important to prevent the spread of the coronavirus but I know that people are being affected by the virus emotionally and financially. I see everybody in this industry as a family so I’m always thinking about them and what I can do to help. For most bartenders, this industry is their livelihood and it can be upsetting not to work.  I may have a backup plan but they may not. They could be in a worse situation than I am in. I try to support them and travel from West Palm Beach to Miami as much as possible to meet for a drink or a bite at one of my accounts.  It helps sometimes just to talk or get out of the house and share a good conversation.  

How will you celebrate National Rum Day? Do you have a favorite cocktail?

On National Rum Day, my favorite cocktails are the classic Daiquiri and the Jungle Bird. I am going to stay safe at home with my family. I might do a barbecue in my backyard with my family and drink some delicious rum neat and in a cocktail. I might also do virtual cheers with some of my industry friends that are willing to celebrate National Rum Day.

Name three things needed for an awesome National Rum Day.

First, be safe. Second, stay positive. Third, make sure you have your favorite bottle of rum next to you throughout the day.  

What do you do in your free time? Tell us about your hobbies?

I work in my backyard. It was a disaster back there. I had a lot of weeds. I had a lot of holes because my dogs loved digging. I finished installing my fence and I stained it. I started gardening and built wooden planters for my new plants. I kept myself busy to avoid anxiety or depression. I also go on long, three-mile walks with my dog. This helps me get in shape so I can be stronger physically and mentally to be ready when it’s time for me to go back to work. 

I’m also enjoying my free time. I have two amazing daughters that I adore and love. We are bonding more. We watch movies that I used to watch back when I was a teenager. Recently, we  watched Pretty in Pink, The Breakfast Club and Better off Dead. Valley Girls is the next movie to watch.  We watch 80’s movies that aren’t boring for them. I’m not trying to put on a combat movie and have them be on their phones. It helps to watch movies that they can relate to and enjoy. We also enjoy the evening with some ice cream and pizza.

Are there any businesses that you would like to take a moment to highlight/support?

Some of my favorite restaurants that are still open are Vista, Shokudo, No. 3 Social and The Butcher Shop.  I’m always happy to support local businesses. 

How may we follow your journey?





Facebook: Chris Fierro

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National Rum Day 2020 your way!

Where to Celebrate National Rum Day in Miami

This upcoming Sunday, August 16th is National Rum Day and, despite the pandemic, the third most popular spirit in the United States will be celebrated with festivities, fun, and fervor. Restaurants and bars across Miami are thrilled and prepared to give patrons a National Rum Day that is safe, exciting, and full of tasty cocktails. 

Rum’s recorded history began in Barbados in the 1950s. It was formally named “rumbullion” and by 1967 it was traded and dubbed “rum”. Rum takes on many forms with diametric extremes in its expression from the light-bodied rums of Cuba and Puerto Rico to the heavier and fuller flavored rums of Jamaica and South America. What better way to celebrate the nuisances and history of rum but with a cocktail?

Wynwood’s beloved food hall and hot spot, 1-800 Lucky, will be holding a Jamaican themed celebration for National Rum Day. Jammin’ every Sunday from 6 p.m.-10 p.m., musical artist Dubwise will be playing the best in Reggae, Dub, and Roots. Tying into the island theme, 1-800-Lucky will be offering $10.00 Appleton Estate cocktails which are the oldest and most famous of all of Jamaica’s sugar-cane estates. 

In addition to the Appleton Estate cocktails, Rum lovers can try a new cocktail, the Hiroshima Mon Amour ($16.00), in honor of the special day. The Hiroshima Mon Amour features Santa Teresa 1796, the first Venezuelan rum, Chamte Sparkling Sake, Mint, Lime, and Blackened Pineapple Syrup. These cocktails are available on 1-800 Lucky’s outdoor dining patio or in a “lucky cat” to-go bag–––all drink and cocktail specials will be honored for take-out to ensure the customer’s safety and to facilitate a wonderful rum day experience. These rum-based cocktails are also perfect alongside new dishes from the monthly Vietnamese pop-up series Tam-Tam which is apart of Wynwood’s Asian food hall. 

1-800 Lucky isn’t the only hotspot that will celebrate National Rum Day. Casa Florida Miami is hosting a movie night. They will show The Rum Diary and offer specials on Rum old fashioned, daiquiris and mojitos. 

While some restaurants are still able to offer incredible events and drinks like 1-800 Lucky and Casa Florida’s aforementioned festivities, it is important to remember that everyone is capable of making their National Rum Day one to remember. Miami restaurants and bars that offer gorgeous, spacious outdoor/patio seating such as The Citadel, No. 3 Social, Astra, The Butcher Shop, Nikki Beach Miami, Shokudo, The Deck at Island Gardens and Vista Restaurant and are great places to celebrate safely. However, if you are unable to visit local restaurants or bars, consider supporting local businesses and liquor stores by buying your favorite rum. Esotico is offering 2 new cocktails to go the Dan’s especial and Paradise city for the Rum weekend August 14th and 15th. And don’t stop at the alcohol, make sure you bring the party by grabbing a responsible number of family and friends, having a barbeque, a cookout, or simply creating your very own extravaganza to celebrate rum in style. 


All Images by @Blazinvisualz

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Juan Tapia - Top Notch Mixers

Top Notch Mixers Creator, Juan Tapia, was always built for entrepreneurship. From working multiple jobs throughout his adolescence and adulthood to doing side projects, it was only a matter of time before one of Tapia’s endeavors became a sensation. Recently, Tapia, a bartender and liquor consultant, has actualized his ambitious goals and created his own business, Top Notch Mixers. Top Notch Mixers brings the best aspects of the bar experience home: quality drinks crafted with expertise, creativity, and love. Further, Tapia personally crafts these mixers and delivers them to communities throughout Miami-Dade County and Broward County, demonstrating his passion, dedication, and appreciation for his creations.  

How did you go from being a bartender to being an entrepreneur?

I have had a little bit of entrepreneurship in me. I was always trying to start businesses and come up with different programs. They weren’t very successful because I was young, inexperienced, and focused on other things. But, for the most part, this led me to learn from my mistakes and take my time. I learned to focus on one specialization which was bartending. I excelled in it and when it got to a point where I was getting compliments from big-name people, organizations, and owners, I had to take a step back, pause, think, and realize that I was doing something right. I thought that there was a way to make money out of this or at least start my own business and become my own boss…I’ve always followed social media influencers that were their own bosses and took mental notes. Most of these influencers have their pros and cons. I try to take the pros of everyone I meet. That is how I started this project, doing what I am doing now full, focus, and full throttle. 

What inspired you to create Top Notch Mixers?

Through the years, you go from being a “drink maker” to learning science, chemistry, tools to help you alter the cocktail creation experience that people expect when they walk into a bar. I started considering Mixology. I saw people choose the Mixology experience over the basic quick drink experience. Sometimes people want a quick drink. They want to get in and out but most people want an experience, so that highlighted my work. I felt like I was doing something right, something that was not average. I had something on my hands and I started wondering how to take these high-quality bar experiences home. I have a bar where I work and a company that pays for everything: the produce, the equipment, the tools. But when I want to bring the experience home or show someone how to make a drink at home, I wondered how to make that possible. That was the question I asked myself many times. Then, I started developing concepts that would work. Coronavirus happened and that forced us all to either figure it out or quit and figure something else out. For me, the pandemic put pressure on me to figure it out. I came up with Top Notch Mixers and it’s pouring the love of making something with fresh ingredients, craft, high-quality products, and effort. 

How do your mixers stand out from other mixers?

Top Notch Mixers does not offer alcohol. It’s just a mixer but the approach that I took towards it takes into consideration the bar experience. It’s called a “mixer” and people who usually think of mixers think about cranberry juice, pineapple juice, Sprite, or Coke. Top Notch Mixers are actual pre-mixed cocktail recipes that are just missing the alcohol. When I make these recipes, I take into account all types of ideas. I think: Is it exotic enough? Is it different? Am I opening their minds? Is it a new flavor that they have never tasted? Is it a flavor that they have never heard of? When the client reads the ingredients, I try to make their eyes open wide. I want them to think, “Wow, that sounds delicious!” or “I’ve never thought of those two flavors together, but I love those two flavors individually so I’ll try it.”

I also use fresh ingredients for these gourmet cocktails and we make our own garnishes. I do my due diligence to go around the city and get fresh ingredients that are 100% fresh. There is nothing artificial in anything that I put into these bottles. The mixers are also in glass bottling and since I am using fresh juices, there is a shelf life. My products have to be refrigerated and sealed tight. But what is the best part is the handmade feel to my mixers. There is a love that I pour into my mixers and you can tell when you look at the product because of its quality. 

You cannot get the same quality of product at my prices. Usually, you’re looking at $10-12 a cocktail at a bar. My first bottle is about 18 oz so it accommodates 3-4 people for $30.00 (delivery fee included). I also offer a 33.75 oz bottle, I call it a party size, and it accommodates 6-8 people for $55.00. I also started creating shots for $5.00. If you want to do a flight, a sample of all four flavors, that is $15.00. For someone who wants to try the flavor first, or if they want to buy a specific product but also want to try another one without committing to buying a whole bottle, they can get a sample. This helps people try different things without breaking the bank, especially during these times. 

Top Notch Mixers LineUp scaled
Image by Blazin Visualz

What has been the most memorable experience so far?

The most memorable experiences have been the mistakes and errors I had to overcome as well as the walls and obstacles that I had to jump through. I experienced everything from finding a company that would deliver produce to me to figuring out how to manage a business. We’re a small business and usually, most businesses require a minimum amount of ordering so it was a process to do that. Then, we had to figure out a delivery schedule, figuring out the customer base, and coming up with a product. We also had to put our products together, make them look nice and authentic because they’re all done by hand. There’s no factory pumping out the product. That’s been the most prideful thing. I notice myself as I’m doing it and I’m excited. I’m cooking stuff and I’m excited as I look at all the ingredients. I look at my orders and the sales keep growing. It’s humbling. I didn’t think it would go as well as it has. I’m also eager to have strangers that don’t know about Top Notch Mixers find us and give our products a try. I want people to give it a try and if it’s not for them, it’s not for them. I’m very confident that the moment they try it, they’ll realize the product’s high quality and over the top taste. If this unmatched experience is something they’re looking for, Top Notch Mixers will be the company for them.

What has been the biggest challenge/reward of creating Top Notch Mixers?

The biggest challenge is staying consistent, especially during these times. Look at this week alone. We have a pandemic going on. We have even more requirements. Now, they’re fining people for not wearing masks. Then, on top of that, we just had a hurricane scare. I can’t take time off. I have responsibilities to do every week. Staying on top of things is one of the hardest challenges. The challenge is to stay consistent and consistently deliver the same product, the same taste, the same everything, which is difficult considering that everything is handmade. But the biggest reward has been all of the testimonials. People give me great feedback. Everyone’s telling me how incredible the mixers are. There’s nothing more rewarding than an authentic compliment. I’ve never once asked anybody to repost anything about our product and every single person is reposting. They’re taking amazing pictures and tagging us. I’ve even had a Tequila brand approach us. They wanted to work with us and do a giveaway for a bartender which we did. 

What’s next for Top-Notch Mixers?

Every month, I am bringing in a new flavor. We already have something spicy, something that is fruity, something sour, and something exotic. I’m going to bring a new mixer that’s going to reflect a feel for the holidays. It’ll be something more dark and sweet. I cater to the client’s specific drink preferences. I suggest what liquor would go well with the mixer that we make. For example, the Funky Fresh goes better with Rum or Vodka. You can do Tequila with it but there are specific spirits that will match better. You don’t see the dark liquors as much in Miami but I don’t want to ignore the people who like those either. I’m always coming up with a new mixer for people who might not be a Vodka, Rum, or Tequila drinker. I have something that goes well with Scotch, Cognac, whiskey…The mixer that I am releasing soon will be good with either of those. I want to keep growing in that sense. As well as the evolving menu, I want Top Notch Mixers to grow to the point where we can start, shipping out nationwide and then internationally. 

What’s another service you offer?

In addition to individually buying the mixers, Top Notch Mixers also offers a service in which small businesses, bars/restaurants, can buy wholesale from our company. Through the procurement service, Top Notch Mixers will provide small, private businesses with mixes every week to create a more elevated experience. These recipes can be offered however in another form of business if they want. If these businesses want to make the experience a step further, I also offer menu curation as the consultant and I will sit down with businesses to create an exclusive mixer recipe just for that establishment. If businesses want to pursue consulting, Liquid Chef Hospitality is the company that umbrellas Top Notch Mixers. 

Mixers Menu

How do we order your product? 

You can order our product on Instagram or our website: www.topnotchmixers.com 

To contact Juan or follow his journey:

Instagram: @TopNotchMixers @juan_in_a_million_5 @liquidchefhospitalityllc

**All the images credits goes to @blazinvisualz

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Helen Kim - Oori Bakeshop

Image by Blazin Visualz

A flair for business runs in Helen Kim’s blood. The local bartender, baker, and businesswoman grew up watching her parents work in their restaurant so it is only fitting that she has now started her establishment. After the pandemic hit, Kim, like many people around the world, took to baking as a labor of love. However, unlike new bread baking fanatics, Kim used her passion to open up Oori Bake Shop––Oori which means “us” or “our” in Korean. Although it may seem like Kim wears many hats (bartender, baker, businesswoman), there is a lot to learn about the way she pursues her passions and continues to infuse joy in all aspects of her life. 

How did you go from being a bartender to becoming an entrepreneur?

Baking is not my first endeavor. I own a consulting business called Liquid Culture as well. I consult with any service industry related item: beverage programs, hospitality training, product training, branding, etc. I have been in the bar industry for a long time. I started in restaurants. My parents had a small restaurant and then I started bartending when I was about 19 or 20 years old. I’ve been doing this for a very long time. Then, about three or four years ago, I realized that I didn’t want to be a manager or work for someone else. I wanted freedom. I like doing events and I wanted to do more events. I wanted to have the freedom of doing the nerdy cocktail stuff but also the fun events. Forming my own company was my way of trying to appease both sides of my life. 

How did you start Oori Bake Shop? What’s your baking journey?

To be honest, I was just doing the bakeshop as a hobby since March. I was like, oh, I’m at home. Why not? I started baking and doing little projects and then it took over my life. I would schedule my entire days around baking. I would schedule it around dough making and fermentation. I would wake up and start baking. A lot of my close friends, who I used as my guinea pigs, told me that I should sell my products. People would message me and ask if I sold my products and if they could buy them from me. I did a little here and there but nothing serious. One day I just woke up and I was like I should just do this. I’ve grown up in the kitchen my entire so I was like, why not? My family owned a small deli bakery. We did like Brooklyn style water bagels. My dad baked all the bread so we did hoagies and croissants. He did all the baking and I loved it.  I like the early mornings and the smell of fresh bread. Then, remembering all those aspects of life that I enjoyed while doing my hobby, I could see myself doing it for a living. Here I am three-four months later.

So you are a bartender, a baker, and a businesswoman. How do your passions inform one another?

It’s a full-circle thing. I started in the food industry with my parents. Then, I started working as a server because there’s more money there. There’s always more money in front of the house. I was cocktailing at a bar and I wanted to start bartending. I wanted to learn. It just seemed so fun. I started as The shot girl. From there, I started bartending and I’ve been doing that since I was 20. Now, I am back into food. I construct cocktails the way that I would construct food. I am always thinking about my base flavor or the main component of something. It’s like a layer of flavors. That’s how I do cocktails and now that’s how I do food. It’s like one full circle.

What are your favorite aspects of the job? What are some challenges?

I’ve been in the bar and restaurant industry for quite some time.  I love being a bartender.  I love the culture, the people… I get to meet awesome people. It gives me so many opportunities and it’s such a people industry. But there is the flip side to it. It is a booze industry. As I’m getting older, I’m thinking about the late nights and the constant drinking. Although the mindset is changing and becoming more health-conscious, I am starting to look at other things. I’m working on my yoga certification right now. For people like myself, and I think a lot of people are in this position, I feel like the pandemic has allowed me to just try to change my life without having a schedule to abide by. I have all the time in the world. Why not? Let’s just try it and see what happens. 

How has COVID-19 affected you personally and professionally?

Professionally, I’ve been officially unemployed since March. I am now self-employed. I guess I was always self-employed…I still have my other company, but it’s event and hospitality-based, so there is not much work coming in right now. But personally, it’s been great because I was working as a brand ambassador. I covered all the southeast. I traveled a lot so personal time was very little. Even if I did go out, like dinner with friends, when you work in accounts or for a brand, it doesn’t ever turn off. The pandemic has allowed us to be able to do different things. You can say to yourself, “You know what I’m not working right now, like literally not working, and I am just not gonna look at social media for like two or three days” and be totally okay with it. I love that. At first, it gives you anxiety but once it settles in, I love it. I love doing my own thing. I love making my own schedule. I don’t answer to anyone. It’s awesome. 

What, if anything, do you hope a Post COVID-19 Word resembles for you as a person and as a member of the hospitality industry?

I’d like to continue doing what I’m doing. I just started. I am in my first week and let me tell you there are a lot of learning curves. Hopefully, my baking becomes a profitable business where I can sustain myself without having to work the late nights. That’s what I’m trying to avoid. I was working at jobs where I was up till 5:30 in the morning. Now, I’m getting up at 5:30 in the morning to start my day. It’s opposites and it’s an amazing feeling because I get so much done. I feel good. When you live the vampire life, even if you don’t drink, it takes a toll on your body and your spirit. It feels very weighing. I don’t want to go back to that so I’m in a really good space right now.  I want to keep this energy and take it forward and see where it goes.

What are your favorite pieces of bread to bake and why?

I love a true sourdough loaf.  That is my favorite thing because it’s so technique-driven. I wouldn’t say that I’m a master sourdough baker but I am just obsessed with it. Sourdough is one of those things that is ever-changing. You’re constantly learning new things. Then, your environment changes and that changes your bake. It’s just like when life throws you a pandemic and you have to pivot. Sourdough does the same thing. Somehow, for some reason, it is five degrees warmer in my house and now everything is proofing so much faster and now I’m doing this, and this all at the same time. It’s fun. The Japanese milk bread that I have on the menu right now is also one of my favorite things to bake. It just reminds me of childhood. In Asia, most of the breads that we eat are fluffy, soft, white breads. For me, it’s very nostalgic and the little loaves are pretty. 

How may we order your product?

You can order mainly through Instagram. I’m handling all my orders through direct messages on both my personal and the big shop account.

Oori Menu
Helen Kim - Oori Bakeshop 519

To contact Helen or follow her journey:

Instagram:  @helenkimchi, @ooribakeshop, @liquidcultureco

**All the images credits goes to @Blazinvisualz

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Norbert Cruz - Blazin Visualz Photography

Norbert Cruz is a bartender and photographer who has always been fond of art. He did not always know what medium of art he would pursue, but he was confident that art would be a significant part of his life. When he became a photographer, Cruz discovered a liveable outlet for his passion. Finding himself inspired by the portfolios of other photographers, Cruz bought a camera and began using his talents to capture not only the people in front of him but also the feelings that motivate them.   

How did you start your photography journey as Blazin Visualz?

I started my photography career by helping my homegirl. She was a yoga instructor and I started practicing my photography at her studio. I took photos for her and then I met Anthony Nader who is a photographer and the owner of 52Chefs. I ended up working with him in a bar and he took me under his wing. He guided me and I got into the cocktail photography business. I’m into all sides of photography, but mainly the food and cocktail, portraits, etc.

Who/what inspired you?

Looking at other people’s photography inspired me but it’s not just one specific type of photography. I wish I knew their name but even during the Black Lives Matter protests, there was a very powerful image that spoke to me. It’s seeing things like that. A still image can project a lot of feelings. I used to just look at a picture and think it’s just a picture, but now I look at it and I’m looking at the details. I’m looking at the different things that create the composition of it. I look at it very differently. When I find something that sparks my attention, it never gets dull to me. It always stays fresh. 

How would you compare photography and bartending?

Bartending has helped me a lot with photography. I’m able to break the ice with people a lot easier. I like to meet different people and learn about them. Either they teach me something new or I teach them something new. On the bartending side, bartending has helped me a lot with making people feel comfortable when I take pictures. If someone has never done a photo, I like to teach them new things. I also like candid moments so I am not someone who stages shoots. I am not staging you to be perfect––I like natural movements. 

How do you capture a candid photo? What’s your process like?

Another thing that’s helped me when I do bartender shoots is that I’ve bartended myself. I look at the bartender that I am shooting and I can anticipate their next move so I can pretty much capture the perfect moment as opposed to someone that probably doesn’t bartend. Someone else might take continuous shots trying to catch the perfect moment but I can pretty much snap it right at the perfect moment. 

What’s your dream event to shoot? What is your ultimate goal as a photographer? 

I have creative ideas come to me but I would not say that I have a dream event to shoot right now. I do want to take a road trip and shoot a lot of landscape and nature photography. 

My goal is to give people the chance to shine. People who don’t normally get the chance to shine.  Or even local spots, like when I do food and cocktails. I like to shoot local spots that haven’t gotten that much attention or new spots that need help from the community. I want to give them the chance to shine and to make it easier to have a photographer help out businesses. I’m getting into the scene now and I’ve heard that a lot of photographers are pretentious and hard to work with. I am very humble and down to earth. I want to be someone that is easy to work with. I want to make time for people and give them a quality product. 

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Images by Blazin Visualz

How has COVID-19 affected you personally and professionally?

As far as being a bartender, I lost my job during the lockdown. I had to depend on unemployment which was very unreliable. That was the worst part for me. I’m someone who always likes to try to take the positive out of the negative so it didn’t really affect me so much negatively. As soon as I found out where we were locking down, I mentally prepared myself and told myself to be ready to stay busy and have a schedule for myself.  I’m a workaholic. I usually like to have like five days bartending because if I have too much free time, I tend to either procrastinate on things or go out and just start spending money. The lockdown actually mentally helped me keep myself scheduled with the productive things. Honestly, right before the whole lockdown and everything, I was in the process of getting my editing together. I wouldn’t say that I was as good as I am now. Those few months gave me time to practice my editing and get it right. I did a lot of editing and Anthony Nader gave me his praise so that told me that I was going in the right direction. His praise meant a lot to me. I used this time productively. I’m taking off with my photography more so my experience has been positive. 

What other services do you offer? 

I am very open with my photography. I do portraits. I do yoga photography. I do event photography. I am not just based on one main thing. I enjoy doing food and cocktails and portraits. I like being creative and playing with light, colors, etc. 

**Cruz also currently shoots for 2oz Magazine and is rapidly building an extensive portfolio.

To contact Norbert or follow his journey:

Instagram: @blazinvisualz

Website: www. blazinvisualz.com

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The Fall 2020 Release of Johnnie Walker 200th Anniversary Blends

The wait is almost over! Johnnie Walker, the world’s No. 1 Scotch Whisky, is releasing four new brands of whisky this Fall. The highly anticipated release will celebrate the 200-year-old legacy of the beloved brand that a Scottish grocer, John Walker, invented centuries ago. The brand itself has delighted over 180 countries since its founding and these new whiskies strive to uphold the centuries-long legacy of good quality whisky set forth by its namesake. Three out of the four newly crafted whiskies will hit shelves in the United States. 

According to the Johnnie Walker website, the Johnnie Walker Blue Label Eight is “a smooth, mellow Scotch crafted using some of the very rarest whiskies in the unparalleled Johnnie Walker reserves. Each whisky is hand-selected from only eight legendary distilleries that all existed when John Walker made the first steps on his journey, including some very rare expressions from long-closed ‘ghost’ distilleries.” The suggested retail price (SRP) is $350.00.

Whereas, the John Walker & Sons Celebratory Blend, is an exclusive release that is a “rich and complex whisky” and inspired by “the flavors found in the Walker family’s grocery store in the 1860s and uses whiskies from distilleries which were operating at that time. The exclusive pack design reveals the only existing image of the Kilmarnock grocery store 200 years ago.” The SRP is $75.00.

Lastly, the John Walker & Sons Bicentenary Blend is “a sensorial journey down the fragrant aisles of John Walker’s original grocery store in Scotland. Master Blender Jim Beveridge and his team have drawn inspiration from John’s store and meticulously crafted a whisky with rich layers that re-imagines the exotic flavors that shaped his imagination. It is crafted with rare and exceptional whiskies, all aged for at least 28 years, including whiskies from long-closed “ghost” distilleries such as Pittyvaich, Cambus, and Port Ellen.” The SRP is $1,000.00.

Images credit: Johnnie Walker

The only Johnnie Walker brand that will not be available in the U.S. this fall is the Johnnie Walker Blue Label 200th Anniversary Limited Edition Design which, according to Johnnie Walker’s website, features “bespoke illustrations that bring to life the bold journey and pay homage to some of the great cities and countries that have been part of the Johnnie Walker story.”

Keep a lookout for these incredible new additions to Johnnie Walker’s collection which will be released during the latter half of Fall 2020!

For more information about this exciting opportunity, please check out Johnnie Walker’s website: https://www.johnniewalker.com/en/our-whisky/limited-edition-whiskies/.

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The Pandemic's Effect on Miami's Hospitality Industry

Image by Thomas Lundahl on Unplash

The citizens of Miami have historically responded to hardship by banding together and tackling obstacles from a unified front. Although no one could have foreseen the effect that the Coronavirus, or COVID-19, would have on the nation, it is not surprising that Miamians have continued to look out for one another during this difficult time. The hospitality industry, however, has not seen as much solidarity and support from statewide officials. As record-breaking COVID-19 cases and deaths occur throughout South Florida, bars and restaurants currently face a new round of quarantine orders and lockdown measures. Though this aggressive and cautious approach aids against the long, arduous fight between members of the South Florida community and the virus, it also threatens to put the final nail into the hospitality industry’s coffin. 

Restaurants and bars had already experienced closure when the city first implemented social distancing measures back in March. Further, during the week of May 30th, according to the “COVID-19 Updates” section of Miami Dade County’s official website, “the City of Miami launched the Restaurant Recovery Program, which allows local restaurants to temporarily add or expand outdoor seating areas while still meeting mandatory social distancing rules. The program was created in an effort to help Miami restaurants get up and running following the COVID-19 shutdown.” 

In addition to this program, the Miami Downtown Development Authority(DDA) is also helping businesses in the downtown area by providing free permits for outdoor seating, umbrellas, masks, and even by assisting with marketing support. On the other hand, there does not seem to be any such program and assistance for bars. On June 26th, Halsey Beshears, the secretary of Florida’s Department of Business & Professional Regulation tweeted about the suspension of the consumption of alcohol across bars statewide. This decision has been met with confusion and frustration because restaurants have been allowed to operate at a limited capacity. Dissimilarly, few bars have not been allowed to operate at all, specifically sending a devastating blow to the bar industry. 

Currently, restaurants and bars are being closed again despite many of these establishments adhering to reopening guidelines. It is too soon to tell whether this decision will change the hospitality industry as we have known it. Yet, many bartenders and business owners have taken matters into their own hands in order to survive the pandemic. To support the restaurant industry, go to SaveRestaurants.com and tell Congress to pass the Restaurants Act. To support local Miami bars, be aware that some bars like Lost Boy have changed their business models to operate as liquor stores. Also, these bars not only sell liquor but also some craft cocktails. Bartenders have begun their entrepreneurship journeys by selling cocktail mixers. Mixology Ice also started a new business called Rico Box, selling vegetables. It seems that statewide financial support, innovation, and entrepreneurship may be the only way to save the hospitality industry. 

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The Pandemic's Effect on Miami's Hospitality Industry 527


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