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Looking for a place to shed your 9-to-5 self and let your fun, alter-ego strut their stuff? Jason Odio and Marcelo Medina’s nightclub La Otra might be the perfect place to unleash that other self, let go of stress, worry, and fear and simply have some much deserved fun. Jason Odio and Marcelo Medina are arguably two of Miami’s most influential entrepreneurs and they are shaking up Wynwood’s nightlife with an elevated nightclub experience. The Miami-industry based leaders’s latest venture offers delicious craft cocktails, unbeatable vibes, and gorgeous aesthetics that are sure to complement and entice both new and loyal clubbers. With its two incredible, seasoned leaders at the helm, La Otra also sets the tone for the exciting evolution of Miami’s immensely entertaining nightlife. 

How did Jason get into the hospitality industry? What drew Marcelo to the industry?

Jason: I got into hospitality from being around it at a young age. My father’s core business was commercial construction. He was very social which led him to building most of the nightclubs and high end restaurants on South Beach in the 90’s and early 2000’s. That led him to owning a few different concepts himself. From there, I started working for Roman Jones who was a close family friend while I was in high school. In 2014, I decided to try my hand at my own hospitality venture and opened Sidebar. 

Marcelo: From a young age, I was always drawn to throwing parties and bringing people together. I started hosting high school parties with my friends and DJing at different events…Those days are long gone. I then began our promotions company, MAGMIAMI and started throwing the best Latin parties in Miami which are still in effect today.

A7307295How did these two awesome masterminds join forces? 

J: Funny enough, we’ve both worked in this industry for a long time and have a lot of mutual friends. Yet, we never met until another industry veteran, Aramis Lorie, introduced us when we were making decisions on the future of Sidebar.

M: We instantly clicked and La Otra was born.

According to Jason and Marcelo, what is the recipe for a successful partnership? Or, put differently, how does each person complement the other to enrich their business ventures?

Jason: I think the recipe for any successful relationship, business or personal, is communication and respect. Luckily for us, we have plenty of both. We are also very complementary to each other when it comes to our respective worlds and our strengths in business.

Marcelo: Respect and loyalty to each other and to what you’re building, understanding each other’s strengths and weaknesses and working as a team, hyping each other up and constantly supporting one another.

A7307161 1Jason, you have several hospitality ventures. What inspires you to take on a new project? What do your ventures have in common? How are they unique? What are you most proud of when it comes to the impact you are having on Miami’s hospitality industry? What challenges have you faced?

I think everything I’ve been a part of has been unique. However, they all have the same core value of adding something good to the Miami hospitality landscape. I’m proud to be from Miami and a part of its growth, especially in hospitality. I think one of the biggest challenges I’ve faced is being naive when giving people an opportunity and also navigating personalities/egos that fuel a big part of our business. 

Marcelo, you built La Otra with your family. What was that experience like? What did you learn about the business by making your loved ones a part of it?

We have always worked together and have multiple ventures together. The biggest challenge is not taking things personally and being highly aware that our interests are in the same place. Being impartial and open to new ideas makes things flow a lot faster. There’s also an inferred trust in doing things which takes a lot of the stress away. We respect each other as individuals and we all thrive in very different areas which eventually all complement each other. I also saw another side of the industry because their perspectives brought new and fresh ideas to the way I managed things by myself and, of course, this was such a big addition to the dynamic.

You both have your hearts based in family which is a beautiful value and characteristic to impart on your community. How are your businesses like families themselves? How does your appreciation for family relate to your treatment of those around you in the business and beyond?

J: Like I mentioned before, we believe this is one of the more important parts of our business. We love to see our family grow, learn and enjoy the fruits of their labor. Historically, especially in nightlife, there wasn’t much hospitality. Staff was treated poorly and constantly yelled at or belittled. Guests were treated poorly and almost had to beg to get a door person’s attention or wait forever to get a bartender’s attention. We’ve been on the receiving end of this, and we have made it our goal to make sure no one undergoes any of those experiences at La Otra. 

M: The core of our business is family and we certainly work in an ambience of closeness and total confidence. I think this kind of partnership brings out the best of us and it’s so important to us. Not only because it’s our job,  but also because this vibe is fully transmitted to the club, which translates directly into our parties and the guests who frequent them. 

A7307187As two of Miami’s most inspirational entrepreneurs, it’s significant to ask: who inspires you? What inspires you? What prompts you to move from the inspiration phase to the creative/ entrepreneurial phase? Discuss your process.

We believe in getting excited about the possibilities. Seeing a space come to life while it’s a blank canvas. How is the neighborhood going to react? How do we complement it? Envisioning our friends who inspire us and how they would receive it. The music playing, the warm spot lights dimmed just right over every table, the reaction after trying our food or drinks. Once we wrap our heads around that, it’s putting the pieces of the puzzle together. Like other things, we want it to be unique. I don’t think there’s an exact formula to the process, more of a feeling of how we’re going to achieve what we want. We reset completely when starting a new concept and think of how much fun people will have, we think of every detail.

What’s the key to evolving with Miami’s nightlife and keeping up with its many changes and developments? How do you keep your finger on the pulse of SoFlo culture?

J: Miami is changing, undoubtedly, and Marcelo does a great job of mentoring the next wave of nightlife entrepreneurs. We do our best to stay active visiting other venues, events, parties, etc. We also enjoy traveling when we can and that helps us to understand what other cities are doing well and how we can implement that in our businesses. 

Each location has a personality that you two obviously know how to introduce to your audiences and attendees. What goes into the process of attracting a diverse clientele while also respecting, honoring, and taking advantage of the location/ event space?

Like we mentioned previously, we both come from different worlds, even though they overlap a lot of times, which makes our crowd unique and complimentary. Even though Miami is predominantly Latin, we have guests that have lived here all their lives and never been to a “Latin club” but enjoy and frequent La Otra. Our range of programming helps bring diversity but they keep the same intention of a quality experience.

What inspired La Otra’s name, aesthetic, and overall vibe?

J: I think we were inspired differently by the name. Personally, I loved it because it wasn’t Sidebar anymore it was, the other club. I kept it light hearted and not so serious. 

M: In my opinion, La Otra is not the side chick everyone talks about, but rather the playful girl that comes to our club, leaving all the stress behind and bringing up the highest version of ourselves, kind of like an alter-ego.

What sets La Otra apart from other bars/ nightclubs in Wynwood? How does it fit into the fabric of one of Miami’s most “happening” districts? 

One of the first things that sets it apart is that we are able to stay open until 5 am, while the rest of Wynwood closes at 3 am. Most of the other bars in Wynwood have a more casual approach and we went for a place that would have typically been seen on South Beach twenty years ago. We like to see our guests wear their best outfits for a Saturday night of dancing. We believe that Wynwood has something to offer to a broad range of people, and that’s what makes it so attractive.

You have both a beautiful bar and a thrilling nightclub. To what extent have you considered people’s desire to get up, dance, and mingle as well as enjoy a craft cocktail in an intimate space? How  does this “best of both worlds” element relate to the evolution of nightlife?  

La Otra has both a large outdoor and indoor space, and we want people to feel welcomed even if they’re the first ones there to take advantage of one of our craft cocktails. No one likes to be the first person at the club but we’ve created inviting nooks with plenty of foliage and warm textures to make people feel comfortable. Those same benches that you can lounge on you’ll eventually stand on and dance your heart out. Nightclubs have evolved a lot from the days of “smoke & mirrors”. People aren’t fooled anymore. They are looking for value. We provide value by giving good service and a welcoming attitude. We are focused and proud to be a club and in the other case a bar, and we strive for bringing the best of each experience without trying to be something we are not.

Discuss what folks have to look forward to at La Otra. What cocktails, menu items, and events should people expect?

M: Expect the best quality cocktails with top notch garnishes and very warm customer service, we are big on Tequila and Mezcal and they should definitely try Jason’s Mezcal SACRVM.

For more information about Jason and Marcelo’s La Otra go to https://la-otramiami.business.site/ and follow La Otra on Instragram @laotramiami for more updates.

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Tremendo Garnish Founder and Bartender Angel Gomez, aka Angel de la Blanca, originated from Ecuador. In 2009, before becoming a bartender, Angel pursued a postgraduate degree in Argentina. Looking for work while he completed his studies, Angel became a cook in a restaurant. One day, his manager asked him for assistance in bringing supplies to the restaurant’s bar area. After seeing Angel’s hospitality skills at work, his manager gave him an opportunity to be his assistant at the bar. His manager explained everything he knew about the bartending profession and how the career had a lot to do with service. Angel had a lot of potential because of his own value of helping people and tending to their needs. Angel’s manager also taught him about wine and Gin because he was English and Gin was a part of his culture. It was this friendship that introduced Angel to the world of cocktails. He was so enamored with this world, with the hospitality industry, that he forgot about his graduate degree and became a bartender. He is currently the founder of Tremendo Garnish which he started during the pandemic and he sat down with 2ozMag Founder Helena Jose to discuss his booming new business. 

Screen Shot 2021 11 04 at 9.48.09 AMDespite the pandemic’s previous threat to the hospitality industry and its professionals, Tremendo Garnish has been a successful business because of Angel’s passion, ingenuity, and dedication. However, it was a long, difficult journey to that point. “It was a crucial moment,” said Angel, referring to the COVID-19 pandemic. “The bartenders and the cocktail union suffered a lot as well as other unions.” Angel’s job also suffered because they were used to receiving customers and generating an entertaining environment that could not reach its full potential during the pandemic. In fact, Angel went straight into survival mode during the pandemic. He got a job at a construction company, but quickly realized that his heart and his expertise remained in hospitality. “I saw many colleagues developing their own ideas,” said Angel. “Based on my experience, I had the opportunity to create a brand called Tremendo Garnish, which is a product that bartenders use to decorate cocktails.”

Screen Shot 2021 11 04 at 9.55.23 AMAngel noticed that there was a need that existed in his profession that he could offer and thus improve life for his fellow bartenders. He developed his idea and created Tremendo Garnish. With Tremendo Garnish, Angel created a series of garnishes, decorations that bartenders place on cocktails, to satisfy the need for bartenders to create unique, artistic drinks. According to Angel, Tremendo Garnish works on the design and modification of garnishes and makes artistic proposals through dehydrated fruits and other elements for the bartender. “We massify the creation of the bartender, which usually takes time to create and replicate that detail,” explained Angel. “We save him a workload, because many times that detail is aimed at up to hundreds of cocktails, through Tremendo Garnish, we can save [the bartender] the extra work and time he spends doing it. We deliver the garnish ready to use.”

Tremendo Garnish offers aesthetic solutions for cocktails. Dried, seasonal, and exotic fruits characterize their garnishes. They have dragon fruit, golden dragon fruit, kiwi, macadamia, blood orange, limes, oranges, and many other flavors. “The first line we took was with dehydrated fruits which is an ancient technique that currently takes us to another level,” said Angel. “The dehydration technique allows us to preserve the fruit. Previously, there was a problem in the cocktail bar because perhaps the fruit was beginning to rot and we did not know, or we had to waste it and throw it away.” As a result of the dehydration, the fruit garnish maintains its condition better and lasts up to six months. The dehydrated fruit also maintains its appearance because it is not wet or decomposing. With this garnish, the bartender has an opportunity to add more elements such as spices, syrups, etc. They can place gold on the garnish, or other herbs and have a more captivating finished product. Angel added, “We also have our own creations, such as edible gold lamination, CBD gums, emulsions, and soon a line of 6-7 salts inspired by Mexican culture, such as “Sal de gusano” (worm salt), Sal de Hormiga (ant’s salt), chipotle salt, and others.”

Angel and his success as the founder of Tremendo Garnish reveal the payoff in trusting one’s intuition and developing one’s passion. Find Tremendo Garnish at around 70% of the bars in Miami or visit their website at www.tremendogarnish.com for more information.

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Gorilla Kie is a self-made mover and shaker. Her best qualities as a mixologist, bartender, and entrepreneur are being creative, innovative, and motivated. According to Kie, you have to be innovative to be creative, and to be creative, you have to be innovative. One cannot exist without the other. This Gorilla Kie Mixology motto is the code that she lives by, and her creativity, innovation, and motivation allow her to turn everything she touches into gold. With her Midas Touch and signature gorilla moves, Gorilla Kie pays homage to her ambitious, artist self and her Haitian culture. Kie has also made a name for herself and set herself apart as one to watch as her charisma and charm catapult her to local stardom. Gorilla kie is currently a Bar Manager at Syndicate Wynwood where she also created a cocktail menu with her very own consulting company, Gorilla Kie Mixology.

Tell us your story and hospitality background. 

I’ve been in the hospitality industry for about seven or eight years. I’ve been bartending for about seven years. I have worked for corporate restaurants such as Darden. They have Bahama Breeze and Red Lobster- I’ve worked at both. I’ve also started doing creative cocktail making which is what people know me for today. I’ve only been doing it for about two years. I am self-taught. I never went to bartending school. I’ve taken a couple of classes online as far as certificates to better understand my craft. Everything, for me, is just an art of expression.  I like to say that I am a spirit serving the spirits to spirits. So my spirits need to be crafted and delegated in a manner in which people can respect, enjoy, and understand what it is that I do and why I do it. 

What inspired you to become a mixologist? What influences your mixology?

I have always had a great fascination with people throwing bottles in the air and then making beautiful art. I do not have anyone who I want to be like. If anything, I’m probably going to be the first of my kind. I am definitely paying homage to the people who have been in the industry for many years, especially the Blacks that traveled North to own their own restaurants and bars in the D.C. and Chicago area. Blacks were creating the Mint Julep, for example, which is huge for the Woodford Reserve Kentucky Derby these days. I definitely pay homage to things of that nature, however, when it comes to my craft, everything is inspired. I’m an artist. I’m a creator. I try to make the best out of anything and everything that I do. 

Gorilla Kie MixWhat are the key characteristics of being a successful mixologist? 

Anybody can be a mixologist. Once you taste something and you fall in love with it, you just start to create ideas. Anyone can do that. What makes me “Gorilla Kie,” what sets me apart from any and everybody else, is that I take it a step further. Mixology is one of my reasons to connect with humanity. These days people are on their phones. There isn’t a lot of social activity going on between one human and the next. When people come to my bar, or when I go to people for private events, it is a perfect opportunity to be able to talk to people. It’s a perfect opportunity to be able to say, “Hey, how are you doing?” It’s great to have a conversation with people for people to open up. Spirits can be a really good thing or a really bad thing. A lot of people like to call it the Devil’s Juice, but I like to call it Gorilla Kie’s Juice because it is a therapeutic, medicinal method. 

How do you differ from other mixologists?

I give a beautiful experience to people. I try to change people’s perspective and understanding of what it means to come to a bar. For me, as a woman, a person of color, and the L in the LGBT, I want to be able to change perspectives. I am the minority in this industry so I want to leave a positive imprint for people. Most importantly, I want people to take a positive message when they leave my bar: they may come in one way, but they will leave another (happy). That is the most fulfilling aspect when it comes to this craft.  It’s not just cocktail making. It’s getting to know people. It’s getting to love people. It’s getting to build those relationships that can last a lifetime!

Is there any advice you would impart to individuals who don’t see themselves in the industry but who may want to be a part of it?

What I would say to people who want to be in this industry, who happen to identify as a minority in any way, is to understand what it is that they love and if they can see themselves doing it every day.  One of the ways to be able to do that is to practice that craft and ask yourself if you’ve become exhausted or tired of it. That is not necessarily to be misconstrued with being burned out because anybody can be burned out with something they love. Everything in moderation. If you don’t feel like it is something you can do on an everyday basis, then it is not your passion. But if it is, find creative ways to make it your best. Have conversations with fellow people about your line of work to see if it’s something you really want to do. Once you figure that out, maximize to your fullest potential.  No matter what color, creed or walk of life people are; ask and inquire about some knowledge to become the best at your craft. Not only will You find this most rewarding, but you will  further understand that this is a great way to becoming your best self. 

You are known as “Gorilla Kie”. What is the significance of the Gorilla?

Gorillas are my spirit animal. My mom is an American educator and my father is an immigrant from Haiti who became a Master Electrician and Contractor. I grew up in a strict household when it came to education and when it came to what my brother and I were fed on television. We couldn’t watch cable during the week. All we were left with was Bill Nye: The Science Guy, the Discovery Channel, etc. Within that process, I used to love watching documentaries about animals. I fell in love with gorillas. You know how they say that lions are the kings of the safari? Well, gorillas are the king of the jungle. I stay true to that. This industry is a jungle within itself so I am that gorilla. I am that king. I am a queen in every way, but I am a king as well. I believe that one and the other are a unit. They are still royalty. They are still top tier. I am an androgynous individual. Yes, I am female, but I have a lot of masculine qualities. I see myself as “king”. Loosely based on that, I put “Kie” for “Kierra” for short.  

2021 04 26 Woodford Reserve Chose FR 14019 EditedYou are also known for your signature Gorilla moves. Where did these moves originate?

My moves developed over time. A lot of people don’t know that I practiced Martial Arts when I was younger. Because of muscle memory, my foot movement carried over to my shaking methods. While shaking or when I scream, I’m literally calling on the ancestors. I am aiming to make sure that, before I give the cocktail, it is gifted with the spirit’s presence. That might be the Haitian in me. I move accordingly depending on what cocktail I’m making or who I’m talking to. It’s not choreographed. I just go with it. I am all about physics and alchemy. It is all a form of energy being put into that spirit. It has to be perfect. If it’s not perfect, it’s unconducive with me. That is the meaning behind ‘the shake’. 

On your IG you say, “I AM, THE Mixologist/Bartender who turns everything ‘TOUCHED’ into GOLD.” When did you learn that you had the Midas Touch and how has it impacted your professional and/or personal life?

I am a very powerful individual. I mean that in a spiritual and a courageous way. I am very confident in knowing that anything I do will be done to the best of my ability. Whether it’s a conversation, making a cocktail, or taking my lovely wife out to dinner, it is going to be a golden moment. Gold, other than diamond, is one of the most precious stones in this world. I am gold. I see myself as gold. I see myself as unbreakable. I am a stone of color. Gold is very powerful and so I want any and everything I do, touch, or say, to be impacted on that next individual equivalently. 

How would you describe Miami in three words? How would you describe the Mixology scene?

I was born and raised here in Miami. If I can describe Miami in three words I would say breeze, hot, and fine. That is Miami. When it comes to the Mixology scene, I’ll be honest, and say that we need a lot of work. I am well traveled when it comes to the Mixology scene in the United States. I don’t really know a scene here. I am not one who has been in the game for a long time compared to some individuals not living in Miami. There are ambitious professionals in the game of mixology. They go to different distilleries and learn how to become Master Blenders- hopefully one day.  I don’t see the same charisma down here in Miami. For me, personally, that is a challenge and I would really like to help change that. 

Discuss Gorilla Kie Mixology LLC. What are some of your services?

I have been asked to start a business for the longest time. I was thinking to myself, “How would I start a business?” I’m the last person in my family to become a business owner. I’m the first person in my family to be in this line of business. I wanted to monetize and maximize my business with what it is that I do. I started to create cocktails for pop up shows. I would pre-package them. I thought, number one, it’s a great way to network. Number two, it’s a great way to get your name out there. Number three, it’s a great way to find out what these Gorilla Kie cocktails are all about and also setting up a safe, creative space for people to come and see me outside of the bar. I can have more personal interactions with them. These were some of the incentives of starting a business. Another incentive was being able to be a cocktail consultant. One of my most recent projects, there is a new bar called Syndicate Wynwood, that is getting ready to open. I was responsible for creating one of their menus. That was a lot of fun so I was thinking that I could make some really good money off of creative cocktail making. I could have conversations and find out what people like. I try to meet those expectations which is something I do on an everyday basis. 80% of the cocktails that I make at my bar are for the first time. Why? Because when people come, I do not like to offer what’s on the menu. I like to talk to them. I like to find out their favorite spirit. I like to find out what kind of flavors and food they like. Then, I make a masterpiece cocktail off of that, right there. I also do freelance bartending at weddings, anniversaries, etc.  For pricing, people can go through my instagram.  

Are you able to discuss your upcoming Cocktail Bar Syndicate Wynwood Miami? If so, what was the process of pursuing this venture? How did you meet your business partner/ creator friend Andres Gill? What inspired you two to go into business together?

Andres Gill has an extensive resume when it comes to bars in Miami. He is very well known within our community. I was introduced to him by my cousin. Once he and my cousin got together, and she let him know who I was, the opportunity for Syndicate Wynwood was later extended to me. Being that over a period of time, I was able to say this is what I have been able to do and these are the pictures I’ve taken. I showed my charisma when it comes to creative cocktail making. When I make a cocktail, this is how intense it is for me and how serious I take it. I think that I was able to hit all the nails in the wall with one strike. That is why they reached out to me when it came to creating the menu. 

On your IG, you write that you are the woman with the hat that dreams. What is the significance of your hat? When did you start wearing it and how does it relate to your approach to your craft?

I started wearing hats on an everyday basis back when I met my wife. That was in 2015.  I have always been a lover of hats. On my mother’s side, who is American (her mom is from Mississippi), these southern women are always known for their extravagant looking hats that they wear when they go to church on Sundays. Even though I didn’t have any hats, I would always wear my grandma’s hats whenever I went to church with her. As far as my Haitian side, my grandfather is known for his fedoras with their feathers. He would have his Hennessy or his Barbancourt while he’s playing dominoes. I just think of the confidence. The way he walks. He is a man to be respected. He has always had this spirit on him. You walk differently when you wear your crown. My hair is my crown. My mind, most importantly, is my crown. I never leave the house without my hat because it is a reminder to carry my mind with me when I walk through the door. For me, that is the reason I take such pride when it comes to my hats. They’re an extension of me. I wear the hat. The hat does not wear me. It is personal. I wear these hats well because they are where my ways of life stem from. 

What is the best way to contact you?

Follow Gorilla Kie on IG @master_gorilla_kie, @go_kie_mix, and @thegorillakieshow


*All the images credits goes to @52chefs 

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As a sommelier, mixologist, and Co-Founder of Mijenta Tequila, Juan Coronado has been in the food and beverage industry for more than thirty years. Whether serving as the founder and Creative Director for Colada Shop or embarking on a brand new venture, any brand or business that Juan graces will thrive as a direct result of his experience, passion, and community-oriented mindset. So too, as a writer, Master Distiller, and passionate student of all things Tequila, Ana Maria Romero Mena brings her experience, expertise, and admiration for Tequila to the forefront of Mijenta’s aesthetic. As two incredible individuals in the rapidly growing industry, it is no wonder that the renowned Master Distiller Ana and Industry Vet Juan have joined forces to create Mijenta Tequila’s stylish and stunning look. With her impeccable designs, Ana has captured the essence of Mijenta Tequila which is as delicious as it is respectable, as smooth as it is captivating, as versatile as it is celebratory. At a glance, consumers will notice that Mijenta Tequila is a brand for the land, for the people, and for life. 

Tell us your story and hospitality background. What’s your connection? 

JC: I jumped into the hospitality and service industry about 30+ years ago. I have a background in Engineering and Art. I also have an interest in the hospitality industry which led to my curiosity in cocktails, spirits, wines, and distillates. I went to The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) and became a sommelier. I got interested in diving into wine. I used to be part owner of a champagne bottle bar called the Bubble Lounge in San Francisco and New York. Then, I ventured out and did a Mixology craft cocktail bar. Afterward, I started working with brands through consulting. The whole deal with Brand Ambassadors was not a position that existed. Due to my knowledge, I got into a position as a Brand Master with Bacardi years later. This was a great opportunity because I took part in the production and marketing. I used my voice to design certain rums and to market to different countries. I became the Global person and figure for Bacardi while also being a part-owner of Colada shops, Serenata, and Bresca. I had three businesses in Washington D.C. In the case of Serenata, it is free for all for Latin spirits and Latin-inspired combinations. We cover every distillate from Patagonia to Spain. 

I did approach Ana Maria Romero. For us, it was instant Tequila love. I could tell that she was the right person to create this beautiful, delicate, aromatic, and traditional profile through the phone. That’s the way I like to describe it.

AM: I started studying wines 30 years ago. I studied at Davis University, not as an oenologist but as a sensory evaluation.  It was my passion to know about wines, and as I made visits to different parts of the world, they asked me about Tequila. There is a specific case that happened to me when I was visiting the Martell wineries.  Someone asked me, “Hey, aren’t you from Jalisco? Well, let’s talk about Tequila.” I didn’t know anything, just the basics. I knew that Tequila was a liquor that came from agave. I began to study Tequila. I visited all the distilleries, and I learned that Tequila is sophisticated and complex.  It does not have a unique process. It has several ways of being made. Even if it is a single plant, it behaves differently depending on the region, the climate, and the processes. I started doing Tequila sensory evaluation seminars. A client in 2007 told me, “if you like Tequila so much, why don’t you do one?” And he invited me to work in his factory. That’s when I realized that this is what I liked. I liked to understand Tequila, what happens in each process, the grinding, and each phase of the process. That was how I discovered the olfactory imprint of Tequila. I have an aromatic circle of Tequila. That is how I started working with big brands until I got to know Juan Coronado, who wanted to develop a Culinary Tequila. I said yes, and today I am a Tequila designer.

Screen Shot 2021 05 19 at 9.54.08 AM

What inspired you to create Mijenta? 

JC:. Behind the inspiration of Mijenta Tequila is a strong feeling for the land, for what Arandas means. We wanted to create a Tequila that brings and exposes all the biodiversities, aromas, flavors, and colors of the land of Arandas. That unique red soil that governs the whole terrain is unique because of the nutrients and the iron content it possesses. We wanted to bring everything into the production and the design of Mijenta Tequila’s profile. With an eye on sustainability, an eye on the land, and an eye on the people, we can bring it all together and bring it to life. Our motto is por la tierra, por la gente, y por la vida.   

AM: All Tequilas are made from the same plant. However, when a customer asks you for something specific, and you see through their eyes, being able to satisfy that dream is fascinating in the development of the product. If they tell you,“ I want a Tequila that is Mineral, that represents the earth, that speaks of tradition,” you have to know what points you are going to focus on for that product. We implement a much longer cooking time for the agave. We select agaves only from regions close to Arandas, an Alteña region because that is the area we want to know. We know that its reddish color is due to the high concentration of iron that is present. We also know that there are other components that we are learning about to create the Añejo, which has more time in the barrel than another Tequila. We are studying whether the Ph influences that or not. Another topic that we found exciting when designing Tequila was selecting the yeast. We discovered which yeast would highlight all the characteristics of the highlands region. We did a study and chose one. From there, we went on to fermentation. The long or short fermentation process gives us the aromatic characteristics, and finally, the distillation issue. We also decided that this Tequila was not filtered so as not to remove aromatic characteristics. When you take care of all the points of a process, you do not need any fixes. This consideration was part of the philosophy requested by Juan Coronado and Mr. Dolan. Our Reposado is to express everything that we achieve in the Blanco, with very used barrels and very new European and American barrels. We want the barrels to be a framework for our drinks. Let Tequila not become wood. We want to transport people to what Tequila is when they taste it, and we succeeded. 

Screen Shot 2021 05 19 at 9.54.51 AMWhat are Mijenta Tequilas Values? How do these values intersect with your principles and standards for yourself as well as for the industry?

AM: The first thing is that it is a real, honest Tequila. It is a Tequila that expresses the naked soul of the agave. This Tequila brings us its letters of nobility through the attributes of the land. We investigate, see, and talk with the agaveros that have good agricultural practices. For us, it is very important that they take care of the soil and land. We firmly believe that without soil there is no agave. We want to take care of it and from my point of view as a Tequila teacher, people fall in love with Tequila.

JC: For us, it is very important to have safe practices when it comes to production. We consider the agricultural methods. We deal with the jimadores. We don’t own the land, but we care so much about the practices that happen on the land. We want to make sure that the voices in our work of the jimadores are understood. We want to make sure, during our process, that the hands of our team, the production team, and Ana Maria and I, the rest, are important. We want to get the final product into the right hands. We also want those with the right hands to come to understand when they taste our product, all the care that was taken during the process. Our motto is por la tierra, por la gente, y por la vida. For the land, for the people, and for life. We take these practices seriously because they involve all the pillars of Mijenta. If we do not have a good agave, we cannot create a great production. If we do not have good production, we cannot have a good product or good Tequila at the end of the day. The land is the most important thing. The hands of the people that work the land are the most important thing. Those are the true values of our brand. The care of the land, the care of the people, and how we celebrate life is our main difference. 

What contributes to a successful business partnership?Screen Shot 2021 05 19 at 9.55.30 AM

JC: We believe in doing right. At Mijenta, we believe in doing right by doing well. We want to create a good flavor profile that respects traditions, Mother Nature, and the processes that we are establishing. We always say that we are not in a rush. The product will be ready when it is ready. We cannot force Mother Nature to give us what we want. It happens when it happens, and we take that presence from Mother Nature, and then we turn it into an art. That’s what we are trying to do. It takes time, so we are very patient. Ana Maria and I, when it comes to production, ride the wave with Mother Nature. We cannot isolate the process. We are getting used to spending time and using our senses. When all distilleries smell like Mijenta, we know that we did it. It takes time. 

AM: It is very important to have common points of view about the product and the management of the image. Because in the end, each taster is a taster who will say yes or no to the product, which is a high commitment. We also consider the global vision to make a high-end product and take it to international markets. We selected very successful, capable people with a good track record to carry out this task. They are capable of not only developing a Tequila. They are also, with the correct marketing, capable of making and taking it to the people. We also believe a lot in the educational part of Tequila. We believe that the commitment to lead people to learn about our history, our land, and how to enjoy Tequila is very important. We want to have a community that buys our Tequila because it is valuable and conquers the senses. That is the educational part that we want to achieve.

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Ana Maria Romero

What do the two of you bring to Mijenta separately? What do you bring to the brand collectively?

AM: I have contributed my experience and my knowledge of the industry. I have also contributed to doing different things, but at the same time in conjunction with Juan. Juan can understand the tastes of American palates and European and Asian ones because of his background as a world Mixologist. That vision has made this process and this product very enriching. We work together by adding ideas. We talk about creative processes, etc.

JC: In my case, since I have more than 30 years in the beverage industry, I have been able to tame the knowledge of understanding. I have been moving forward when it comes to forecasting. I bring in knowledge from the wine industry. I have made wine. I have made beers. I have consulted for big brands such as King Cognac. I have worked with Gins, Vodkas, Rums. I have experience in production and the knowledge that I have in consumers, the market, and the trends. Each market reacts differently. All of this has given me the ability to be the eyes and ears of our brand Mijenta. 

What have you enjoyed the most from all the processes creating a Tequila?

JC: My favorite part of my journey through Mijenta is the interaction with consumers and bar professionals. I have been doing this for years. It makes me feel like I’m in my grandma’s house with my big family. I love sharing good energies and stories among ourselves. It’s key to foster what is the need, where the trends are going, and what are the challenges that we are facing. I love the communication part of it. Sharing is caring for me. At Mijenta, of course, we have a beautiful product that we would like to spread the gospel of Mijenta. We would like to spread the values of Mijenta all around. Of course, the history and traditions of Mexico are key. We are a brand new brand. This is going to be a long journey. I enjoy it. I am going to be able to go to market and impact others. I  let them know the best part about creating a good brand versus us staying still and waiting to see what happens. I am a go-getter. I am always going to be out on guard when it comes to the teaching of the Tequila and the process that we meticulously create with Ana Maria. I am going to be the guardian of it forever- that is my favorite part of it. 

AM: What I have enjoyed the most is the leadership. I love that people get motivated, do the work, train the staff, share their knowledge with others, in addition to designing Tequila, which is my passion.

Screen Shot 2021 05 19 at 10.09.01 AMWhat have been some challenges of being a New Tequila brand next to the others with many years of history?

AM: The challenge is to have your own personality and achieve your own style. This is a differentiating characteristic from powerful brands that may be our competition. That is different. That people can say, this is a Mijenta.

JC: I echo Ana Maria. The real challenge here is not us being a new brand. The real challenge is just us creating a unique profile. We can taste thousands of Tequila, but there is always room for improvement. We have improved and taken Tequila to a different platform because we are hogging the platform of tradition and authenticity. We are also in love with the Culinary experience. We wanted to have a GM that is so smooth and delicious that people can sip it. Or, they enjoy it with ice or in a cocktail. Being able to understand the meaning of that Aranda’s perfume, as Ana Maria said before, is key for us. If there is a challenge, it would be for the other brands looking at us. 

Ana Maria, how do you differ from other Master distillers? What qualities should a successful MD possess?

AM: A deep knowledge about the processes is the differentiating aspect. Know each phase from the agricultural part to the creative part. One of the things that distinguish me is the creativity of not always falling into the same thing that everyone else does. I look for different things, different opportunities. I play with different variables that can occur in the process. This approach makes a difference in a successful MT, but also the part of forming a good team.

Ana Maria, you just recently won Best Maestra Tequilera 2020  by Tequila Aficionado Magazine. What was it like to receive such recognition? Who has helped you along the way? 

AM: It was unexpected. When you love your work and are passionate about it, you don’t expect recognition because you were hired to do something excellent. However, I am very grateful to Tequila Aficionado magazine for giving me that recognition. I believe that it commits me more to doing better than not keeping what I have. Having this type of recognition is a commitment because you have to inspire others.

Ana Maria, what other achievements/ opportunities have you had or hope to have in the future?

AM: I write books. My first book won 3rd place in Le Gourmand Award which is a very powerful gastronomy contest in France. I took third place globally with this book on the theme of the pairing of Tequila. I aspire to continue educating people who want to believe in Tequila, to continue promoting the culture of Mexico and its values. I also want to inspire women who believe in their dreams. Talent does not have a gender. Talent is talent. I believe that when talent is real, it opens doors and tranverses borders.

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Juan, how do you want to position Mijenta in the consumer’s mind?

JC: Mijenta will find its niche in Culinary applications and opportunities such as restaurants, tastings, degustations, etc. In the case of the Blanco, it is the best partner that a cocktail may have. The cocktail will taste like Arandas, and it will have the olfactory sense and taste profile of land that is so unique and pristine. For consumers, I always tell everybody to bring their favorite Tequila and taste it next to Mijenta, and you’ll decide what is good for you. We don’t want to sound cocky because we are humble people. We took all the Tequilas that we tasted in our careers into consideration. 

Juan, What is your vision for Mijenta?

JC: We wanted to deliver something that has an opportunity on a table. Mijenta Tequila is best enjoyed with friends. If my Tequila can pass the test of culinary dishes and be fine with citrus dishes,  cooked stews,  salads, and desserts, we’re somewhere. Everywhere two or three people have a bite to eat, there is room for Mijenta. There is room to enhance their experience. 

How may we follow your journey? 

Instagram: @mijentatequila

Facebook: @mijentatequila

Website: https://shopmijenta.com

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By launching Unfiltered Hospitality, Co-Creators Gui Jaroschy and Ben Potts boast a consulting company that “make experience better.” In addition to creating Unfiltered Hospitality, Jaroschy has designed menus or collaborated on products with Williams Sonoma, British Airways, The Smithsonian Museum, and The James Beard Foundation and won recognition as a mixologist, director, and personality. Potts is also the co-owner and creative director of award-winning bars The Sylvester and Beaker & Gray, one of the Top 10 Best Bartenders in Miami as well as the former director of training and bar education for Blackbird Ordinary, Purdy Lounge, and The Bar in Coral Gables. Their process-driven, experience-focused hospitality development strikes a balance between the professional and the personal to find sustainable, applicable solutions to problems within the industry. Their approach stands on four pillars: process, people, product, and performance. These pillars suggest that process and people are as fundamental as product and performance in efficiency and success. Unfiltered Hospitality allows clients to acquire the tools and the knowledge to feel empowered and achieve the best results. There is also an emphasis on coaching and consulting to build and develop lasting relationships that clients then cultivate with their employees and partners. Through their Beverage Consulting, Coaching and Development, and Brand Strategy services, industry professionals Jaroschy and Potts offer a quality investment that stems from a combined thirty achievement-filled years in the hospitality industry. 

How did you two meet? Tell us where your journey intersected. 

GJ: Ben and I met each other as far back as 2008 through mutual friends. I started to manage the Delano Hotel bar in 2009 and around that time Ben had started a hospitality headhunting company. He invited me out to lunch, we hit it off very well, and we became fast friends. Some years later, Ben was bartending and becoming quite good at it. He rose through Blackbird and some other places. He was leaving those places to open Beaker & Gray and I was managing Broken Shaker in Miami. I thought he needed a job for 3 months tops, and ended up working at Shaker for over a year.

How did you two become the co-creators of Unfiltered Hospitality?

GJ: During the pandemic, we had a little time on our hands. A project came up that [Ben] got and he brought me in this time. We decided that we wanted to do more work together.  

BP: We’ve both done consulting separately over the years. We saw that the traditional consulting model doesn’t always produce the desired effect. When we got first together, we were like let’s just take this on, have a couple of extra bucks in our pocket. We saw that there had to be a better way. It started with consulting and it’s something that we still do but that consulting led to a revelation that we had. That revelation was that management, and hospitality professionals in general, are severely underserved from an educational standpoint. 

What inspired you to create Unfiltered Hospitality? 

BP: We found that there is a great opportunity for us to share our experience and knowledge, from the years that we’ve had working behind bars, with those management and hospitality professionals. That led to the second arm of Unfiltered. We still have our consulting practice. We try to make it a much more comprehensive process. We’ll get into something that we called the four pillars. Every part of our business goes through the four pillars which are process, people, product, and performance. These pillars are ingrained in each of the things that we do. For the educational component, right now we have one product that helps people make better menus because the menu-making process is a nightmare. It is all over the place. If you don’t have an organizational system and you don’t set it up right or engage the team, you end up taking on all the work yourself, forgetting to do a ton of things, and being out of the product.

GJ: To a lot of people in hospitality management, it feels like a dead-end job. For me at least, when I was managing my first hotel bar, I was working my ass off six days a week to make 45,000 a year and two promotions ahead of me were my worst nightmare. At that time, I wanted to get a brand job and bartend again. At Shaker, one of a couple of things happened. One, there was a product that I was passionate about and I was working with people that I was good friends with. Two, because Shaker is such a big name, I was invited to participate in a business development program. That process was super good for me because I got to see how to balance professional and personal and how to set goals for myself to move forward. That changed my career forever because if you’re making it, you ultimately choose how fulfilling your job will be. The more you set goals and work on improving the business, you have a reason to go to work every day. 

How do you distinguish Unfiltered Hospitality from other consulting companies?

GJ: We  are set on changing the conversation, not just being paid to fix a problem and have that same problem pop up in six months. The first part of education asks how we can invest in management to where the ownership and the business get a better product but the managers themselves can have a life and see a sustainable version of a long-term career in hospitality. That’s what is exciting to us. We are still figuring out day by day to make that a reality. As Ben said, it has kind of taken its shape when we do more traditional consulting because we spend all of this time figuring out how to help people develop systems to keep things moving forward. Now, when we do consult, we approach it in a different way. We develop the team and the management to embrace the consulting and take it a step further. 

BP: It’s not something that lasts three to six months. It lasts three to six years. Not to say that the cocktail menu should last three to six years, but making sure that [management and hospitality professionals] feel empowered enough to create their own next menu. Everything that we do is with the idea and intention of making the hospitality experience better. Everything on our website is better _____ because that is the intention behind our company. We know that there is a better way. We know that we can help people get there by doing some of the work ourselves which is essentially what we are doing with consulting but then also helping them figure out their own path. We always use the term “coaching” in a lot of our materials because you have to do the work. 

Why the emphasis on education?

BP: I was very fortunate with my upbringing. I went to good schools. I was able to go to college and graduate school. I received a ton of education. Before working in hospitality, I worked in investment banking. I was in Mergers and Acquisitions Advisory for a long time. To get to that point requires training and education. When I started in hospitality in 2009, I got the standard bar back training. I didn’t get anything about what the company is about or what my role plays in the grand scheme of things. It was basically like ‘these are the tasks that you have to accomplish.’ As I progressed through the industry, I noticed that that never really changed. Even when I had experience working in smaller organizations and large hotel groups–––the training is all the same. With my experience of having so much education going into the finance industry, I was like maybe if there were better education and better training in the hospitality industry, the whole industry could get better. People could have a better experience, not 1 out of 10 times, but 5 out of 10 times which would be an incredible improvement. The lack of education was a systemic issue that we could work toward solving.  

What inspires you to create (Bar design, menus, etc.)?

GJ: Connect with people. What we try to do when we are making a menu for someone, or if we are teaching someone else to make a menu, is to understand the concept. There’s the What, Why, and How. The Why is that beautiful thing that connects with people. It is why you’re doing it in the first place. If you can make your offering near that, or best accentuate that, or tell that story…that’s what really connects with people. Shaker is such a strong brand because they get that. The Why is the same and the four properties could not be more different. There’s an outdoor bar in Miami with a garden. In Chicago, it’s indoors in a basement. But they all have the mission statement: create an extraordinary experience that connects on a personal level. Go higher with the details but make sure it connects with people personally.   

In addition to Consulting, what other services does your company provide that you would like to highlight and promote?

BP: We are very excited about the human development of hospitality professionals. We also offer Brand Strategy for companies and suppliers that are trying to launch a market. Gui and I have both been buyers for six-plus years. We have been approached by thousands of brands over the years. We have found that experience to be lackluster. We wanted to find a better way to improve a product launch. We’ll help with anything from product launches to how to enter the market in a more effective way and how to talk to buyers. We apply the four pillars to just about everything that we do. It works in Consulting. It works in Education and Coaching. It works in Brand Strategy. 

To follow Gui, Ben, and Unfiltered Hospitality’s journey or sign up for their services:

Website: https://www.unfilteredhospo.com

Instagram: @guibme, @benpottsbenpotts, and @unfilteredhospo

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Entrepreneurs and power couple Ana Luis Monis and Richard Monis understand that resilience, perseverance, and passion are the keys to a successful business. After bartending for sixteen years and creating his own craft cocktail catering company called Craft Cartel, Richard realized that for his side of the hospitality industry to survive the pandemic, he had to offer a product that championed the best parts of the craft cocktail business. With her Psychology background, Ana infused a sense of positivity, wellness, and jubilation that gives Jolly Hour boxes their vibrant, inspirational, and aesthetic appeal. Jolly Hour is a craft cocktail company that packages the taste, the excitement, and the joy of the cocktail industry into its boxes. Richard and Ana also support local businesses.  They locally source their ingredients  and their team consists of bartenders who have been disenfranchised by Covid-19. Jolly Hour boxes are an affordable way to bring delicious mixers into homes, corporate Zoom calls, and date nights from industry professionals who want to spread happiness and elevate everyone’s quarantine experience. 

How did you get started in the Hospitality Industry in Miami?

RM: I’m from the Northeast. I moved to [Miami] eight years ago. When I started Craft Cartel six years ago, I looked into the market to see what was out there. There were craft cocktail catering companies but, not to my surprise, there was one in San Diego, one in Hawaii, one in Chicago, one in New York, and nothing in South Florida. Nothing against South Floridians, because I love it, I live down here. We’re about eight to ten years behind every major city in America. When something trends somewhere else, it takes a long time to start happening down here. I think it’s important when new companies try to make a splash in a big market pop-up down here and try to make Miami, South Florida their home. Supporting these companies in the biggest and best way possible is immensely important. 

AM: I don’t come from a food and beverage background. Richie and I met in Mexico, while I was working at the beach for a summer, once the summer was over I went back to my city SLP, to work in the hospital -I am a Psychologist, but then when Richie and I started dating, and we moved to Miami, that is when I had to reinvent myself. I started working in hospitality because it’s Miami, and there are so many opportunities in the hospitality industry and I also have always liked working with people. From hospitality, I started focusing on marketing. There is so much psychology involved in marketing. I found a way to do my passion and connect with people. I started working in JW Marriott Miami Turnberry Resort & Spa for events and sales. Then, Covid hit. 

Vodka Box S

What inspired you two to co-create the Jolly Hour?

RM: This whole thing came about because I had this craft cocktail catering company, and I suddenly couldn’t do events. We just had a baby girl in January. We just bought a house in March. Everything went to shit the second week of March. I’ve been doing this for six years, so I knew that we had lost the rest of the season. I knew what the summer was like so I’m staring down the barrel of a loaded gun. I have eight months until I maybe see a dollar again. My wife was on maternity leave, and she wasn’t going back. She was an event manager for JW Marriott Miami Turnberry Resort & Spa. They weren’t going to take anyone back in events. They laid everybody off because no events were happening. Now, we’re two people who doubled all of their expenses, a baby, and no business that I can operate. I didn’t have consumers because the market wasn’t comfortable with events. I benefited tremendously from the person [Ana] that I’m married to because my wife is a very positive-minded person. It’s all positivity, whereas I take things as they come. My wife made me realize that lots of good things have come out of really bad situations.  

AM: Everything goes in a perfect direction. We started Jolly Hour, and I said we could do this. It’s a great idea. It’s something that [Richie was] passionate about.  I like marketing and figuring out the look for Jolly Hour. I wanted the box to be pretty. There is so much love in the recipe that it had to translate in the box. Everyone likes when you have a present, and the gift is pretty on the outside too. We really try not to cut corners. We make a product that we believe in from start to finish, even in the packaging. Everything is well thought out, and that is where my input goes. You get the whole feel that we intend to share with everyone.

You are also the founder of Craft Cartel. How does that company differ from Jolly Hour?

I have had Craft Cartel, a craft cocktail catering company, for six years. I built a local following because my market is local compared to Jolly Hour which is across the United States. As I built up Jolly Hour, I understood the need to get local awareness, presence, and support. I support other local businesses as well. Even if they’re my competition, I still support them because I want the event industry to be strong in South Florida. With Jolly Hour, we sell things all over America, but we want to have things on lock at home too. I want people in South Florida to know that we are here and that a company like this exists. 

What are some key characteristics of being an entrepreneur? 

A good friend of mine said that business does not make the entrepreneur, the entrepreneur makes the business. It doesn’t matter what you do, Richie. You have a natural entrepreneurial spirit inside of you, so find a way to do the next thing. Just give it your all just like you did the first time. I had to do things differently because Covid has made the world slightly different. That’s literally how Jolly Hour happened. If I can’t go to an event space, set up my bars with my bartenders and fancy glassware, and make you fancy, cool cocktails that you can enjoy, how else could I do that? [The answer] was sticking everything in a box and shipping it to people’s front doors.

Jolly Hour Edited 103What has it been like to create these Jolly Hour boxes?

There was red tape. We can’t ship alcohol. I’ve been doing this for six years with Craft Cartel, and if there is one thing that I’ve learned it’s that the magic in what we do in the craft cocktail industry, those individuals that work behind bars, it’s not the alcohol that is the art of what we do. We don’t make alcohol. There isn’t a bartender in the world who distills his own Rum, Vodka, Gin, Whiskey, or Tequila. Other brands have that job and that is their expertise. Bartenders build a Rolodex of ingredients and information. We understand flavors and ingredients and how to pair those things together, how to properly prep them, and how to put them together intricately and uniquely so that people can add the one element which is alcohol. 

How do your mixers stand out from other mixers? 

The idea behind Jolly Hour boxes is that we are doing everything that you can’t go to the store and buy. We make these boxes from scratch. We work with only seasonal ingredients. We use a book called The Flavor Bible. In the back of The Flavor Bible, there are like a hundred pages of ingredients indexes. We use these indexes to come up with recipes, and then we work ingredients into the cocktails in a way that we think is the best. When we use bitters, we make it ourselves at home. Every single cocktail box on the market doesn’t do this. In other companies, the majority of the items in the subscription box are promo items. The market of craft cocktail boxes is primarily subscription-driven. You get one box, and you don’t get to choose the box. The items aren’t made by the company that sold you the box. At Jolly Hour, every item in the box is made by us. We make the bitters. We dehydrate our own fruits and flowers for garnishes. We make all the syrups in-house. We only use seasonal ingredients, so everything is at its peak. We’re having less of an impact on planet earth by doing so as well. We can also source locally by using what is here. We represent South Florida. When we do cocktail recipes, we want to make people freezing in Ohio feel like they’re in Miami. That’s what we do. We make cocktails that speak to the masses. It’s about tastiness, freshness, and unique, interesting recipes. 

Tell me some characteristics of your product: name, packaging, cost.Jolly Hour Edited 099

RM: We sell you a box that has twelve cocktails for $50.00. When you add a bottle of $12- $30, it costs you $7.00 a drink for a craft cocktail that is prepped, thought out, and just as good as a cocktail that you would find at a brick-and-mortar bar for $13-$14. 

AM: We want our product to be quality and sustainable. We don’t want to do what other companies are doing. We want to do what we like which is good products, good recipes, and good craft cocktails. When you get a box and everything has been sponsored, you don’t see the company’s value in it. We put value into our boxes. We put heart in our recipes. That’s not something you see everywhere. It’s very unique because we are creating everything from scratch. 

What can consumers expect from Jolly Hour Boxes?

You get to try different stuff every month. Different flavors are coming out. We do four different seasons. It’s a great way to take the liquor cabinet in your house and find something to do with it. It’s a great gift. It’s a great thing to do with your husband, wife, girlfriend, boyfriend, friends, corporate Zoom calls, etc. We want you to be blown away. We make bitters that no one makes on the market. No one makes Kaffir lime bitters, banana bitters, or salty date bitters. The only way to have those flavor combinations is to do it on our own. We handle the whole process. You don’t wait more than a week or ten days. We do five-season craft cocktail boxes a month- all based on one main spirit. We do a Vodka box, a Tequila box, a Whiskey box, a Rum box, and a Gin box. We do that because, no matter what spirit you like, there is an option for you. 

Why is it important to support new businesses that come to Miami?

We need more of an industry in this city than just food, beverage, and tourism. We can’t just keep selling the dream because eventually, as we see with Covid, things can take the dream away real fast. It doesn’t matter how many days of sunshine we get when you can’t get down here because of Covid. Suddenly, everyone starts struggling. That is actually how Jolly Hour was born. 

What services does your company provide that you would like to highlight and promote?

In addition to the Jolly Hour boxes, we do virtual mixology classes. 

How do we order your product? 

You can order Jolly Hour boxes at thejollyhour.com.

How may we follow your journey? What are your social media accounts?

Instagram: @jollyhour and @craft_cartel

Facebook: @jollyhourbox and @craftcartelcocktailcatering

Twitter: @jollyhourbox

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As a published author, freelance writer, educator, and tutor, Kyandreia Jones wears many hats. Kyandreia is a Posse Miami Scholar and Graduate from Hamilton College where she received her B.A. in Creative Writing. She was born and raised in South Florida. Kyandreia’s poetry and prose have been published in various college literary publications such as The Black List Journal and The Underground. She is also the author of two children’s books: Choose Your Own Adventure SPIES: James Armistead Lafayette (2019) and Choose Your Own Adventure SPIES: Mary Bowser (2020). Kyandreia continues her career as a freelance writer, educator, and visiting author. Kyandreia has recently begun screenwriting in the hopes of writing for film and television.  

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

I realized that I wanted to be a writer in the fourth grade. When I learned to write expository, narrative, and persuasive essays, I tried applying those same techniques to writing my own stories. Once I realized that I could use the tools I acquired in class to write my own short stories and books, I wrote like my life depended on it. However, I ignored my desire to write and flirted with the idea of becoming a veterinarian and a Zoologist. I didn’t think that being a writer was a possibility until the fall of 2017. In 2017, I connected with Choose Your Own Adventure® Associate Publisher Melissa Bounty about writing a book for their SPIES series.

What are you most passionate about writing?

I am most passionate about bringing diverse, funny, and thought-provoking stories to kids and adults. I love telling stories and connecting with others through the art of storytelling. We are all more alike than we think. Sometimes it just takes a good story to remind us of our similarities and that these shared values, experiences, and passions are strong enough to bridge superficial divides.

When did you write your first book  and how old were you?

I wrote my first book when I was in seventh grade. I was around 13 years old. The book was about a girl named Torey who goes on a mission to save her kidnapped foster dad with her older, foster brother Nick. This book became a trilogy that I completed in tenth grade.  I published my first book Choose Your Own Adventure SPIES: James Armistead Lafayette at the age of 22. When asked to write a Choose Your Own Adventure® book about real spies from American History, I was particularly captivated by James Armistead Lafayette’s story because it was a tale that I would have loved as a child. I did not know that there were real-life heroes whose stories teach children and adults alike about loyalty, liberty, and, most importantly, empathy. I would have been thrilled to learn about James, a former enslaved person turned spy, who helped America win its independence while his fellow brothers and sisters remained in bondage.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?

After writing Choose Your Own Adventure SPIES: James Armistead Lafayette and Choose Your Own Adventure SPIES: Mary Bowser,  I learned that kids are ready for the big stories. They are ready to talk about empathy, kindness, and resilience. They are ready to discuss the topics of race, country, and what it takes to become a good human. They are ready to make impactful, informed choices if allowed to explore different possibilities and adventures. I was both inspired and surprised to discover this truth about today’s children.

What do you think makes a good story?

Honesty makes a good story. I ran hurdles in Track and Field. I perform Spoken Word Poetry. I am a good listener. I love laughing at my own ridiculous jokes until my friends slap their foreheads…So my stories have track stars/ athletes and great public  speakers and characters who listen and jokes that make readers giggle and snort and slap their foreheads…Lean into what makes you interesting, unique, beautiful, strong, smart…Your stories will thank you for it.

What has been your experience writing for 2ozmag?

I started writing for 2ozmag because I wanted a job that took me out of my comfort zone. I am an introvert, so I always experience anxiety when I talk to new people and face new experiences. I also don’t drink alcohol, and I enjoyed the irony of writing for a bar magazine.  The opportunity to improve my interpersonal skills and to interview passionate people excited me.  I could not have imagined how thrilling and fulfilling my new role would become.  Working alongside Helena Jose and watching her vision come alive has been an inspiration and a testament to what women can accomplish when left to their own devices. Helena pushes me to become a better writer, interviewer, and collaborator.  She also encourages me to pursue all my passions and bring my best self to each project. I have also been incredibly moved by the bartenders, sommeliers, entrepreneurs, and other hospitality professionals that I have had the pleasure of meeting virtually. At 24 years old, I am excited about knowing so many cool, friendly, and driven people in my own backyard.

What are your goals?

My professional goals begin in the Publishing Industry and extend into the Film and Television industry. I plan on publishing a new book every year or every other year. I also aim to find a director to produce some of the short screenplays that I have written so I can bolster my portfolio for graduate school/my filmmaking career. My biggest goal is to write and sell a feature film by 2024. I also plan to continue to write and educate.  My personal goals are to take care of my physical and mental health, to find a balance between pursuing my passion and obtaining financial independence, and to promote universal kindness.

Where can we get your books? 

Shop locally at Books and Books:  

MARY: https://shop.booksandbooks.com/book/9781937133399

JAMES: https://shop.booksandbooks.com/book/9781937133313

My books are also available on Amazon and cyoa.com.

Where can we follow your journey?

You may follow me on Instagram at @kyandreiajones.

What’s your message to all women for International Women’s day?

You are capable of greatness and your success is inevitable. I am constantly inspired and empowered by women and all that we accomplish despite the barriers in front of us. Our strength, our resilience, and our grace ensure the actualization of our goals and the fulfillment of our purposes. Whether in high heels, combat boots, or sneakers, go forth in the direction of your dreams with confidence and excitement. 

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Certified Sommelier Dennis Conger has an incredible new wine course that is worth celebrating. Wine Educator Dennis Conger’s D. Lobo Wine Education, a  program designed for wine novices, experts, and aficionados, teaches students the history, culture, and geography of wine while also offering applicable skills to those who work in the hospitality industry. Using his own experience and passion for wine, Dennis’s course boasts a personal touch that aims to strengthen Miami’s wine community and bolster the evolving industry. Unlike other wine programs, D.  Lobo Wine Education adapts to the needs of its diverse clientele as well as guides and mentors its students during and after they have taken the fantastic course. 

How did you get started in the Hospitality Industry?

In Spain, being a part of the hospitality industry is almost like a tradition in the family. You’re just following what your father did, what your uncle did, and what your grandfather did. It’s a career tradition inside of the family. My family and I always loved to go out and have dinner. Wine was the drink of choice for my mother. As far as I can remember, for example, when I went to my grandparent’s house, my grandmother always had a bottle of wine on the table, waiting for my grandfather and uncles. They would have a quick lunch, have three or four glasses of wine, and then go back to work happy, in a good mood. That’s just part of the culture and tradition in Spain.

How is the hospitality industry different in Spain than in the U.S.?

It’s not like in the United States where if you’re a waiter or a sommelier you can make really good money because you’re a tip-based employee. Over there, it’s one of the toughest jobs. Long hours, maybe one day off out of the week, five or six doubles…You don’t get a table gratuity. We don’t have that system. Spain is huge in gastronomy. It is huge in hospitality, the restaurant, and the hotel industry. There are tons of bars and restaurants on one block. Every family has a bar or restaurant that they have been going to for decades, in some cases, centuries. The oldest restaurant in the world is in Madrid. 

What inspired your move from Spain to the U.S.?

I was living back and forth between Thailand and Spain. I moved away from the restaurant business and got into the importation business. I would sell clothes, art, furniture, anything that I could get my hands on and make money from it. My parents thought about moving to Miami and brought the idea to me. Spain was falling into an economic crisis from 2006 to 2010. We all decided to come to Miami and start a new life. I fell in love with the city because it was a city evolving when it comes to gastronomy. A few years after I got here, a lot of celebrity chefs were starting to come here from New York, Washington, and Chicago. Then, Wynwood started developing and making a nice neighborhood with a nice ambiance of art. It was very trendy and modern. There was a fusion of all types of cultures and cuisines. I fell in love with that. I’m here today after 10 years. 

What was your journey as a sommelier?IMG 2418

I have always had a strong wine knowledge because I have always worked at high-end, upscale, fine dining restaurants. In these restaurants, you needed to know a lot about wines because these places had an extensive wine list or the guests required knowledge from the staff when it came to recommendations. In 2012, I joined a Spanish company called 100 Montaditos. It’s like fast food, an upscale concept with tapas and little sandwiches. I was a corporate manager. I got involved with wine at that point and little by little I found myself in the wine world. 

What are some key characteristics of being a sommelier? Discuss your role as a sommelier. 

I’m not just a sommelier. I am also a Wine Educator. I try to inspire upcoming sommeliers or just someone who wants to discover new wines. There are many knowledgeable people who keep their knowledge for themselves. They help themselves but they don’t help the industry. It’s a relationship. I build relationships with my clients and I keep in touch with them. I ask if they have questions and if they’re using what they learned in the class. The perfect or a professional sommelier should know that it is not about selling a specific wine or selling a glass of wine to make money. In my opinion, wine is the most perfect representation of a country, a region, and most importantly, the people who have lived and worked the land for centuries. These people are the ones who create the magic and transform those grapes into an amazing juice that you get to enjoy later with your family. For me, recommending or suggesting a wine to a table of guests is like taking them on a journey. Forget about how their day was and make them travel to the region and talk about not just the wine, but the history and culture of the region. That’s what I try to do. I try to take them on a journey and find the perfect wine that suits them, that will pair perfectly with their dinner, and that might make them say, “This is my favorite wine.” 

Tell us about D. Lobo Wine Education in your own words. 

We focus on providing excellent wine education. Our program is more than just a class or a course. It is full guidance through your career. It is mentorship. Miami was, and still is, a city that is evolving in gastronomy and wine. When you compare it to the wine world in New York, Washington, Chicago, and San Francisco, Miami is behind. These are much older cities that have a lot more culture. Here, I had trouble finding guidance and mentorship. D. Lobo Wine Education is a full mentorship that will guide you through the journey. 

How do you distinguish yourself from the other wine courses? What do you offer that is different? How is your program more personalized?

When you join these wine worldwide famous organizations, they just prepare you for an exam. You cannot call your teacher at one in the morning and say, “Hey, I have an exam tomorrow” or “I just got out of work and I have this question”. It’s hard to have that guidance and mentorship and this is what D. Lobo Wine Education offers. You can text us or call us at any time. We also work with what works for you. For example, I had a client who just joined a new restaurant and it’s a Steakhouse. My course starts with Burgundy, Bordeaux, Tuscany, and Piamonte and then we go on from there. My client said that he didn’t see a lot of those wines on the menu and that he was at an American Steakhouse in North Carolina. I started with California wine instead which wasn’t part of the course. I added it for him and gave him a class on the big wines of Napa Valley and introduced that because that is what was going to work for him. That’s what he needed to know to recuperate the money he invested in his education. I adapt to my client. You don’t see that in any other wine program. 

What else can be expected from these classes?

The classes include basic information about the most important regions and wines that you really need to know. In more advanced classes, we go through the regions of France, Italy, Spain, California. If you’re in Miami, we also go through tasting the wines, which is an additional charge. If it’s a virtual course, I send the client the list and we do virtual tastings. I strongly believe that you can love to read and learn, but when you bring in wines and start tasting as you’re learning, it’s more exciting and you get a better feeling of what the wine is. You’re not just listening, you’re living in the moment and experiencing the wine yourself. It is not just a class or a course about wine. I am teaching you how to sell the wine. I am teaching you what sells. I am strong in selling emotion and feelings. Create desire. I teach you to put all your passion and love into this and that is what will make you money. Sell history. Sell the emotions. My clients constantly receive information so they can keep training. Learning never ends. 

What’s a significant goal of yours?

My number one goal is to be able to educate people so they can earn a living. I want to motivate them and allow them to be financially stable. I want them to set goals and make more money every year to provide for themselves and their families. It’s all about creating a bigger and better industry. 

To contact Dennis Conger or to take his wonderful class:

Follow Dennis on Instagram @D.lobo_wine_education and @DennisCongerSomm.  

Website: Dlobowines.com

*Classes start at $65.00 and the Introductory Course (comprising 4-6 classes) start at $300.00.

Photos Courtesy of Dennis Corgen

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Gardenia Santos started her passion for Yoga and Bartending at the same time. When she moved to Miami, the Bar Scene gave her an opportunity to grow but also took more of her time.  When COVID-19 demanded to close the Bars, she felt the need of supporting the industry with her Yoga Classes. Today, she’s running weekly Yoga Events and Private classes.  

When did you start your bartending career?

I started about ten years ago in Fort Hood, Texas. When I first started, it was more because of the money. But then I ended up falling in love with the concept of serving others. I began to understand more about the industry. I decided to invest more of my time into it create my own cocktails, and learn more about different types of spirits. 

How did your journey as a Yoga instructor begin?

I was married to a Sergeant First Class. He was always working and being deployed. I started filling up my time by taking yoga classes and wanted to understand more about what was going on with my body and all its changes. I took the 200TT AT Breath and Body Yoga in Austin, Tx. After that training, I knew my life had changed in so many aspects. For me, knowledge is power. I took as many certifications as I could like 300TT at wanderlust, SUP yoga, and many more. During all the training, I was still bartending (to be able to pay for them) I was bartending, teaching yoga, and studying. Love and gratitude have been real for both worlds. 

Gardenia 9How do these passions inform one another?

I moved to Miami after a very difficult divorce. I moved here by myself. I did not know anyone. I just came with hopes and dreams and lots of faith. Every job I applied to as a bartender called me back, but I decided to take the job with the Falsettos Companie Ariete Hospitality Group. It was supposed to be part-time, but that didn’t happen. Bartending in Miami is a whole other level. I had to keep up with the industry. The next thing I know, I was already the General Manager of one of the most popular Craft cocktail bars in South Beach, The Scapegoat.  At The Scapegoat, I leveled up my skills with training and certifications such as BarSmart. BarSmart is where I met so many wonderful and very talented people who supported me and who still support me here in Miami. I didn’t have time to teach yoga. Then Covid-19 happened and all I could think about is how can I now give back to all these people who have been supporting me here in Miami?  Yoga was the answer. I started giving live classes online for free on my Instagram. I was also teaching free classes on Zoom. I wanted people to feel supported and loved, even though there were so much negativity and uncertain things going on. I wanted them to have a positive outlook, something to help them escape. Then a beautiful friend of mine, Juliana Arango from Bacardi USA, called me asking to do a yoga session at the beach. We had a conversation about it. Our first Yoga class was just for friends but it felt so good. We wanted to share with others.  20 people signed up for the next class. That’s when Yoga Happy Hour, Yoga Brunch, and all the other events started coming into place.

What kind of Yoga classes do you offer and who are they targeted to?

I offer all types of Yoga classes: Yoga for beginners, Chair Yoga, PTSD Yoga, Aqua Yoga, SUP Yoga, Guided Meditation, and many more. These classes are all focused on your breath; We call it Vinyasa Flow. It is a movement with consciousness, one breath one movement. The target audience is everyone who is looking for a better understanding of their body and who wants to have a better connection with their inner self.

What can we expect from your classes? Gardenia 5

I always start all my classes with intention. Intentions set us up for a better connection with the present moment. I finish the flow with a little guided meditation. We are offering positive energy, uniting us to what exists within the NOW, the present. At our events, we offer all that I just mention plus it’s a different way to connect. Rather than sitting at the bar and having a cocktail, you can enjoy one hour of yoga. You can also gather with friends, connect with yourself and others, and still enjoy a nice low abv cocktail afterward. In each class, I like to leave people feeling better than when they walked in, so I think that’s what stands out with my yoga class or events.

How has COVID-19 affected you personally and professionally?

Covid-19 has helped me come back to my purpose and align me with what matters which is helping people believe in themselves.

Where do you see yourself next?

I see myself in my own space teaching and helping people with yoga. I see myself teaching at my own yoga retreats and creating more events with other people that have the same mentality to help and outgrow people’s fears. I want to spread more love and light into our community because right now, we need to unite the good ones to make sure the negativity has no more room to grow. 

Where can we find your next classes?

You can always find all my classes and events at my IG @yogardenia. 

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