7 women and nonbinary bartenders you need to know in Birmingham

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ayon jackson queens park campesino cocktail
Ayon Jackson at Queen’s Park creating New Life, Who Dis? with Campesino Rum. Photo via Riley Campbell for Bham Now

Birmingham bartenders are a staple of local life. In honor of Women’s History Month, Campesino Rum is celebrating the diversity of local bartenders with 7 must-know mixologists. See what they have to say about bartending, working in a primarily male industry and their favorite Campesino cocktails, in no particular order.

1. Samantha Ferguson

One of Samantha Ferguson’s favorite things about bartending is the ability to meet fascinating people throughout the day and throughout her career. She is involved with a Women in the Industry group that allows her the opportunity to network and mentor other women bartenders and share the challenges of working in a primarily male industry. You can find her behind the bar at Cayo Coco.

See why she decided to become a bartender:

“I began bartending as a way to help pay my way through college. Once I graduated, I worked in my degree’s field for 3 to 4 years and realized how much I missed being behind the bar and was miserable doing what I was currently doing. I decided to come back to bartending and the service industry full time and have never looked back or been happier!”

Samantha Ferguson
campesino cocktail
Samantha’s blood orange mojito. Photo via Riley Campbell for Bham Now

Samantha’s favorite drink to make with Campesino is the blood orange mojito. See the recipe:

  • Muddle 4-6 (depending on size) mint leaves & a lime wheel in a glass
  • Combine in a shaker tin
  • 2 oz Campesino Silver Rum
  • 1 oz Blood Orange Syrup
  • 1 oz Fresh Squeezed Lime Juice
  • Shake with ice, then pour contents into the glass with the mint & lime wheel
  • Top with a splash of soda water
  • Garnish with a fresh mint sprig and piece of lime

2. Jo Bennett

Jo Bennett began bartending on a whim at Carrigan’s Public House, and it was love at first sip. She fell in love with the “nerdy parts” of the spirits industry and now makes craft cocktails at Pilcrow. She uses bartending to express her creativity while making other people happy as well. The job allows her to explore new ideas and deliver those concepts to her guests.

But being a woman in a mostly-male industry has its downsides, as Jo explains.

“You learn a lot about self-advocacy and being sure of yourself when people think you’re only there to be cute and make tips. People talk to womxn and treat womxn in ways they would never speak to or treat a man. As a womxn in this industry you have to be ‘nice’ to everyone instead of being direct and stand up for yourself. People, behind and across the bar, don’t really grasp how influential womxn are in this industry or how many of us there are.”

Jo Bennett

Note: Jo uses “womxn” as a way to mean all people who identify as women.

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Jo’s Blueberry and Serrano Pepper Daiquiri. Photo via Riley Campbell for Bham Now

Jo’s favorite drink to make right now with Campesino Rum is her unique (and delicious) Blueberry and Serrano Pepper Daiquiri.

  • 2 oz Campesino Silver
  • 1 oz Lime juice
  • 3/4 oz Blueberry-Basil Syrup
  • Barspoon of Green Chartreuse 
  • Add all ingredients to a shaker and shake until well mixed
  • Strain into your favorite coupe glass and garnish with a lime

3. Ayon Jackson

Ayon Jackson is a nonbinary bartender who is serving up your next favorite drink at Queen’s Park. Jackson began bartending at a local boutique hotel, after several years working in fine dining. One of the best parts of bartending for them is being able to combine the creative aspect with the social one.

Working in such a male-dominated industry can be complicated, as they explain here:

“This male-dominated industry can be daunting, and my journey carries some privilege in that I’m a bit more male-presenting figure than my other peers. I get treated more like ‘One of the Guys,’ so empathy of my own experience in the industry is more accessible. But I can see the frustrations of my female-presenting nonbinary colleagues, and I’m more than able and happy to address it toute de suite. I channel my drag persona Etta Kitt, who is a love letter to trans and nonbinary black culture, to do so because as a community we shouldn’t have to take those feelings to bed. I want us all to wake up feeling ICONIC because we deserve nothing less.”

Ayon Jackson
campesino cocktail queens park
New Life, Who Dis? by Ayon Jackson. Photo via Riley Campbell for Bham Now

Check out Ayon’s favorite cocktail to make with Campesino Rum—New Life, Who Dis?

  • Infuse Campesino Silver with agave
  • Add cara caras and serrano peppers
  • Add lime juice and a good helping of Bonal–a gorgeous herbaceous aperatif.
  • “For my bar babes that enjoy a little smoky kick, I add an espellete salt rim.”

4. Hannah Smarr

Behind the bar at Helen, you will find Hannah Smarr, a “well-rounded hospitality professional” who has been working in the service industry since she was 15. Creating excellent experiences for guests is something Hannah has a distinct passion for, and the rush of a crowded bar only adds to the fun for her.

Working as a bartender, a profession where most are male, has had it challenges. See what Hannah has to say about how she navigates the industry and how it has shaped her career.

“I think it has pushed me to become as knowledgeable, efficient, and detail-oriented as I can be. I have certainly run into obstacles along the way, but I have used those experiences as ways to learn and move forward. I have also been fortunate enough to have had wonderful female mentors to guide me during my career. The dynamic in our industry is shifting slowly and I am very happy to see it.”

Hannah Smarr
campesino cocktail helen

Try Hannah’s craft Campesino cocktail, “The Good Idea,” at home with this recipe:

  • 125 oz Pernod 
  • 0.25 oz lime 
  • 0.25 oz Dry Curaçao 
  • 3.0 oz of passionfruit infused cream of coconut 
  • 1.5 oz Campesino Aged Rum 
  • Style: Shaken, double strained
  • Glass: Collins glass
  • Ice: cubes 
  • Garnish: Shaved nutmeg and a dried orange slice 
  • Build in your shaker tin, shake, strain, ice it, make it pretty, and enjoy! 

5. Nicole Westendorf

Nicole Westendorf began bartending while attending college in Atlanta, and has worked in the restaurant and event planning industry for fifteen years. Currently she’s behind the bar at Melt and raising the bar with her custom Campesino cocktails.

She credits her success in the spirits industry to being able to adapt to new challenges and keep cocktails progressive and approachable.

“I truly love interaction with my guests. I feel invigorated speaking with regulars and seeing new faces. I also love that I’m constantly learning and growing in my industry. I seek to learn the newest concepts, recipes and trends. It’s very rare to actually enjoy coming to work so I feel so fortunate that I truly look forward to each day and what it will bring.”

Nicole Westendorf
campesino cocktail melt
Nicole’s custom Campesino cocktail. Photo via Riley Campbell for Bham Now

Prince fans rejoice, because Nicole’s Purple Rain is just the cocktail for you! Check it out:

  • Campesino Silver X
  • Clement Mahina Coco Liquor
  • Blueberry puree
  • Pineapple juice
  • Simple syrup
  • Cream of coconut
  • Tiki bitters
  • Garnished with Thai basil and blueberries

6. Carmen Garcia

Carmen Garcia is one of the friendly faces you’ll see behind the bar at Rojo. At 15 she began working in the service industry, and always knew she wanted to be behind the bar. Watching seasoned bartenders fascinated Carmen, and she followed in their footsteps when she turned 21.

Her first bartending job was in Anniston, and she has been hooked ever since.

“I enjoy sourcing ingredients and making new cocktails. I’ve made my own vermouths and bitters, shrubs, and fancy garnishes. I also like the social aspect of it. I’ve met some wonderful people and made some amazing relationships bartending.”

Carmen Garcia
campesino cocktail rojo
Carmen’s favorite Campesino cocktail. Photo via Riley Campbell for Bham Now

See what Carmen recommends you make with your next bottle of Campesino:

  • 1 ¼ oz Campesino Aged Rum
  • 3/4 oz star fruit simple syrup
  • 1 oz spiced blood orange syrup
  •  4 drops Woodford Reserve Spiced Cherry Bitters
  • Shake and pour over ice in a tall rocks glass
  • Top with prosecco 
  • For spiced blood orange syrup:
    • Juice 6 blood oranges. Pour juice into sauce pan
    • Make a spice sachet of 15 cloves, small piece of nutmeg, 15 black peppercorns, 2 pods black cardamom. Put sachet in mix
    • Add 1 cup simple syrup and 1 yep orange zest
    • Bring to a boil then reduce to a summer. Let simmer for 20 mins

7. Kristy Collins

After several years working in retail (and loving it), Kristy Collins, made the switch to bar serving and then bartending while in college. Now she’s been bartending for more than ten years and it has been a wonderful journey. Today you can find her putting a smile on everyone’s face and a drink in their hand at Carrigan’s Public House.

“I enjoyed serving so I felt confident I would enjoy bartending as well and I fell in love! I was always very shy previous to that and bartending helped open up my personality immensely. It’s also a great way for me to tap into my creative side while nurturing my desire to be social and create great customer service experiences for others. I love it.”

Kristy Collins

For Collins, working in a primarily male industry was a little intimidating at first, but she credits having male mentors who were focused on uplifting new bartenders for part of her success. The support she has received from bartenders of all genders has been great.

old fashioned carrigans pub campesino
Kristy’s Old Fashioned with a twist. Photo via Riley Campbell for Bham Now

Kristy’s favorite drink to make with Campesino is a cool mix on an Old Fashioned.

  • 2oz of Campesino Aged Rum
  • 0.25oz Demerara syrup
  • 2 dashes Angostura Bitters
  • 1 dash of Fee Brothers Black Walnut Bitters

Want to learn more about bartenders in Birmingham? Check out our story about 7 women bartenders from 2019.

Find out more about the delicious base for these cocktails, Campesino Rum, on their website, Instagram and Facebook.

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