Eva Pelczer - Portland Cocktail Week

Honeycut (Los Angeles, CA)

*at time of award

“As I’m writing this essay in Los Angeles a week after finishing Portland Cocktail Week, I’m involved in two different projects in their nascent stages with bar professionals from two different cities.

A monthly event is brewing in a Portland cocktail bar that moved past a crucial hurdle because of a suggestion I made based on a similar project’s successes and failures in LA.

And I’m looking forward to trying a friend’s take on a Rusty Nail that had a Drambuie rep exclaiming that Portland was the leading edge of craft cocktails (we’ll see about that!). All of this is because of my four days at Cocktail Week.

The funding from IAM not only provided a vehicle for getting there but also lent my attendance an undercurrent of encouragement and legitimacy that propelled me to get the most out of the experience. It’s an exciting and rewarding thing to have surpassed one’s expectations and goals over the course of an event like this, and that’s the best way to sum up PDXCW for me.

In all of my interactions and attendances, I saw myself as a representative of not only my own brand, but also as one of IAM’s pool of grant winners. In situations where I found myself in groups where I knew no one, having IAM’s backing gave me an extra reason to initiate conversations, introductions, and the exchange of ideas.

In the same vein, I made the most of my short down time from classes by running over to old colleagues’ bars to see what they were working on. These few rich, hour-long conversations between events may have been let to slide in the time crunch without IAM’s grant motivating me to push myself in the time I had in Portland.

I met innumerable bartenders, brand reps, and bar owners through all of this networking, and these interactions were part of the reason I was offered a guest bartending gig with a major liquor brand on my last night in town. This gig allowed me to meet some of the top-level regional managers within the company, and to demonstrate my bartending skills to some of the best bartenders in the industry.

Every single one of my classes and speakers had relevancy to what I want to do in this field in the next five years, and I’m excited to have been able to lay the groundwork for coming up in this industry nationally.

I got press training as a bartender, heard from professionals who’ve succeeded (and failed) as ambassadors and consultants, and learned the basics of successfully applying for sponsorship from liquor brands. I made strong connections with some of the best bars in small cities all over the US, which I think will be coming up as important hubs for the craft industry in the next few years. It was truly an invaluable experience, one that will continue to reverberate professionally with me for a long time to come.”

Bobby Navarro