The original plan was that on August 26 — National Women’s Equality Day, a day synonymous with the 19th amendment granting women the right to vote — the cocktail lounge Century Grand would host a coursed dinner that included Century Grand's chef Sacha Levine, as well as Charleen Badman, Samantha Sanz, Danielle Leoni, Tamara Stanger, Cassie Shortino, and Country Velador. The Mount Rushmore of female chefs in the Valley, you might say.
Then COVID hit, and Century Grand nixed kitchen service entirely.
But Kailee Asher — who handles marketing for Barter & Shake Creative Hospitality, the group behind both Century Grand and Undertow — still wanted to highlight Phoenix’s female talent.
“I was racking my brain on how to facilitate this and continue supporting initiatives that we think are important,” Asher says, citing issues like diversity and equality in the industry.
Century Grand had recently launched takeaway cocktail kits. Bingo: “Maybe we should just do this as a cocktail program,” she thought.
And so, an all-female takeout cocktail program will start the week of September 21. Century Grand will release batched cocktail kits, week by week, made by women bartenders from craft cocktail stops around town.
“It’s not intended to be a Century Grand program, not even a Barter & Shake program, just a community program meant to reengage people,” Asher says.
Lined up to participate are Kyla Hein of Pigtails, Chanel Godwin-McMaken of Little Rituals, Samantha Hickman of Windsor, Ashley Cibor of UnderTow, and Century Grand’s Kristina Jonas, Iesha Farrington, and Nicole Giampino.
But there’s still more to it.
“Every single female that’s involved is partnered up with a nationally accoladed female mixologist,” Asher says.
That means these seven local bartenders will be creating signature cocktails with the help of other women who act as a monthlong mentor for them. Asher has roped in some big names in the craft cocktail world, including Charlotte Voisey of New York City, Karen Grill of Los Angeles, and Chicago’s Lynn House — to name a few.
Mentoring goes on through Zoom, phone calls, and more. The main objective is to create a signature drink for the program, but the pairs are also encouraged to cover basic cocktail balancing and flavor profiles and discuss their overall career goals in the mixology world.
Fifty of the pre-made bottled cocktails, which serve two, will be available for $25 each week. People may purchase their kits through the Grey Hen website (the retail area inside Century Grand) for onsite pickup. Further information on the signature cocktails will be released soon.
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Barter & Shake will donate all profits to Another Round, Another Rally — a local non-profit providing financial aid to members of the hospitality industry. However, each of the seven local bartenders is getting a stipend for participating, as well as 100 percent of any tips attached to orders for their drink.
“Your customers right now are looking at what level of social responsibility you have, and they buy into brands that have similar ethos that they do,” Asher says. “We have always been community-driven and try to find creative ways to give back to the community.”
Asher says she was inspired by established efforts like Negroni Week, the international charity fundraiser where bars and restaurants make their version of the classic cocktail and donate the proceeds. She thinks the initiative can go beyond 2020, too.
“I see this as a future program that we can grow and develop every single year,” Asher says.