If there’s ever been a perfect time for a cocktail, 2020 is it. With the COVID-19 pandemic turning the hospitality industry upside down, a new project is bringing the community together to support female bartenders and the greater bar and restaurant scene. 

The All Women Take-Out Cocktail Initiative launched by Barter & Shake is the passion project of Kailee Asher. She is the marketing director at Barter & Shake Creative Hospitality, which owns and manages Century Grand and UnderTow, two popular cocktail bar concepts in Phoenix. 

Years of work in the hospitality industry inspired Asher to put together a project that highlights female bartenders across the Valley. 

The goal of the project is to bring awareness to gender equality by having seven female mixologists craft a signature drink. 

Proceeds from the program support Another Round Another Rally (a COVID-19 relief fund) to kickstart the nonprofit’s professional development fund for females in the hospitality industry.

“This initiative is designed to benefit our local community and build some unity, reengage people and get them excited,” Asher said. “Our hospitality folks thrive off of human interaction, and when they are all stuck at home, it’s pretty tough on them.”

While Barter & Shake originally envisioned the event as an in-person experience with dinner and drink pairing to coincide with the 100th anniversary of women’s right to vote, the pandemic forced them to make some adjustments. The food component was eliminated, and it was shifted to a more casual, virtual version with a focus on the craft cocktails and the talented bartenders who made them. 

In October, each participant was featured on Barter & Shake’s social media pages with a photo, their workplace, background in bartending, their inspiration for their cocktail – and, most importantly, how to prepare it. New cocktails are released weekly. All of the drinks are batched into 50 bottles with two servings each and are available for sale online or in the Grey Hen Rx store until they run out, with the option for curbside pickup at Barter & Shake’s restaurant locations.

Asher said that getting some of the Valley’s brightest female bartenders involved in the initiative, along with nationally awarded female mixologists, has helped generate conversation, appreciation and support for one another. This is especially important in a year where many bartenders have been out of work. 

“This gives the bartenders a chance to share their career path and stories of how they have succeeded as females in the hospitality industry,” Asher said. “It’s intended to be a positive and engaging program for our community of female bartenders.”

The initiative will make a new professional development fund possible, aiming to promote gender equality and diversity in the industry by eliminating barriers to entry and advancement. This fund will offer reimbursement for courses and accreditations from The Court of Master Sommeliers and the Wine & Spirit Education Trust. 

From the mentorship program to the drink sales, Asher is pleased with the feedback and hopes the program will continue to grow. 

“I think that its general purpose was successful, and it got these bartenders back into the mindset and mentality of making drinks, ideating cocktails and going back to work. So that was great,” Asher said.