Bridging Communities and Cocktails: A Conversation with Beats, Bars & Bourbon
Megan Stubbs, Program Manager for Tales of the Cocktail Foundation, sat down with the Boyz from Beats, Bars & Bourbon to dig into their podcast, their Service Bar initiative, and get their take on how they inspire the hospitality industry.
In the dynamic world of spirits, one trio is making waves by not just creating unique cocktails but also fostering inclusivity and innovation within the hospitality industry. Beats, Bars & Bourbon, comprising of childhood friends Brandon Bull and Osei Moreland, along with college buddy Steve Tate, is not your typical podcast. With over 20 years of friendship and a shared passion for hip-hop, bourbon, and community, they bring a fresh perspective to the podcast space.
About Beats, Bars & Bourbon
The Bourbon Boyz discuss a wide range of topics including Hip Hop, whiskey culture, sports, politics, and entertainment on their podcast.
Meet The Boyz
Osei Moreland is the founder of Media Mayhem, a company that provides art education to students in 5 states. Osei adds 20+ years as a record producer to his resume, having worked with mainstream and up-and-coming artists and producers in the music industry.
Brandon Bull is the Owner/Operator of Extended Famlee LLC, providing mentorship services to the youth of Baltimore City. In addition to his tireless service to the community, “Bullz” also has a creative spirit and enjoys creating Hip-Hop-themed artwork through drawings and paintings.
Steven Tate is in Senior Management for a Fortune 50 company in the Greater Washington area. In 2012, Steve also Co-Founded AIMBA, an innovative after-school enrichment program that combines sports athletics, and academics through basketball I.Q. exercises and skills development training.
Learn more about their passions and projects at their website here.
Beats, Bars & Bourbon Origin and Engine:
How did you guys meet? What inspired you to start Beats, Bars & Bourbon?
Rooted in a friendship that spans over 40 years, Brandon and Osei met as children and grew up together, and Steve joined the group during their college years, over 20 years ago. What started as hangouts and one-off conversations at home and the bar, connecting with other community members and discussing life, culture, and everything in between sparked the creative need to take action. “We said action, and it’s been action ever since,” said Brandon. The podcast was born through this passion amid the pandemic, and they have slowly been building a community of game changers over the past few years to create a more inclusive space in the hospitality industry.
What makes this podcast and initiative different?:
What is the “secret recipe” for this cocktail?
Behind the scenes, this group is affectionately known as the Bourbon Boyz, and through their skills of innovation, connection, and authenticity they have been able to bridge gaps in the different sectors that tune in. People from all different walks of life walk into a bar, and the same can be said for their listeners. Conversations around cocktails, music, sports, sneakers, culture, politics, and other causal passions this group discusses have ignited a following of all different kinds of personalities. The root of this connection – Bourbon & Hip Hop.
“All our subjects are opposites at heart, but we bring both together through one key ingredient: Bourbon. Many people see the bar as a safe place, and we have made that a priority in our podcast. We bring on different talent from all over, giving our audience new perspectives and challenging the status quo,” said Brandon.
“These two different groups don’t always associate with each other. The events we go to that are Bourbon-focused aren’t that aware of Hip Hop and the history, and the same can be said when we pop up at events focused on music. We are the bridge between these two worlds,” said Osei. Their mission of educating and connecting these two industries has allowed this group to expand their reach, and further their goal of bridging connections. “We created a lane that we can create for ourselves that no one was doing. We aren’t afraid of being unapologetically us,” said Steve.
Long-Term Goals for Inclusivity
What are your long-term goals for creating a more innovative and inclusive bridge between the urban community and the hospitality industry through your enterprise’s activities?
The trio envisions a “Service Bar” program in Baltimore and DC, addressing the gap in the cocktail industry preventing Black and Brown hospitality industry members from climbing through the ranks to be in leadership roles. Creating a space for equitable hiring will be at the core of this mission, alongside Bar training, soft skills, and emotional intelligence to further their career if they want. Being a bartender IS a career, and this trio wants the world to understand that better.
“We have people who want to advance, who want to take their career to the next level, and to be in the room where decisions are made. Who want to MAKE the decisions. We want to make that happen and fill those gaps,” said Osei.
“This project is spawned from all of our passions. Right now, we are viewed as only podcasters, but we are cultural enterprisers,” said Steve.
Leveraging Social Media
In what ways do you leverage social media to promote hospitality industry partners and create meaningful experiences for your audience? How do you stay ahead of trends in social media and entertainment to ensure your approach remains fresh and engaging?
The trio uses social media strategically, tapping into their network of bartenders and mixologists to create an experience tailored to them. Through selective collaborations and events, they give back to the community and showcase Black-owned businesses, highlighting Black bartenders, brands, and products that deserve to be in the room. Social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube all play an important role in staying up to date with what their audience wants, and what they may not know they want yet. They emphasize the importance of networking and collaboration, constantly exploring partnerships in industries like cannabis, sneaker culture, and boxing. The trio doesn’t just follow trends; they aim to be trendsetters.
Social media platforms like LinkedIn are crucial in making meaningful connections with partners in various industries. Their start included reaching out to brands and partners through LinkedIn, a site many in the industry don’t utilize enough due to this misconception of bartending not being a “career.” “This couldn’t be farther from the truth,” said Steve. “There’s this perception that it’s only for white-collar jobs. There are lots of entrepreneurs who utilize this space, and no one is pigeonholed in one type of business. Reaching out on LinkedIn is a great way to still make meaningful connections and to grow yourself.” The trio was able to connect with Uncle Nearest this way, as they wanted to partner with a Black-Owned Spirits company and made it a priority to showcase their product (and other Black-owned products) in their space. “Uncle Nearest was the first to give us a chance, and we want to do the same and uplift other Black-owned businesses,” said Brandon.
Inclusion in the Spirits Industry:
What are some ways you think the spirits industry can make strides in regard to inclusion?
“This a loaded yet essential question,” said Brandon.
“It makes sense to know your neighborhood, more than just knowing your patrons. Asking yourself, ‘How can I be connected to this community?’ is key in creating that space,“ said Steve.
“Representation and equitable hiring at the highest levels, everyone needs a voice in this industry,“ said Osei.
“Everyone needs a voice, the more diverse we are, the more opportunity we have to grow,” Steve added.
Economic empowerment is at the heart of solving this issue in their opinion. “Putting your money where your mouth is essential in solving this problem. Invest in new voices, new opinions, and invite everyone to be part of something bigger. Gatekeeping knowledge, and withholding resources – that needs to change,“ said Steve.
Inclusion also includes welcoming non-alcoholic options into the space. “It’s also already a billion-dollar industry, so there is power in including that for owners and brands,” said Steve.
“You can drink responsibly, we try to emphasize that. Focusing on yourself and your limitations, it’s important. Having the option to drink a non-alcoholic beverage allows our listeners to be safe and included. It’s our duty as alcohol influencers to inform our audience that there is a responsible way to do it. It’s all about balance,“ said Osei.“We are here, we are trying, but we invite others to do the same,” said Brandon.
Beats, Bars & Bourbon is not just a podcast; it’s a movement. They are content creators curating cultural experiences, and ready to make more impactful conversations and projects for 2024.
Through innovative approaches, inclusivity initiatives, and a commitment to giving back, they are not only changing the narrative in the spirits industry but also creating a safe and inclusive space toward a future where everyone has an equal voice in the room.
The “Ideal” Cocktail
In celebration of black history month, we chose the golden age of mixology, an ode to African-American influence, “The Ideal Bartender” by Tom Bullock, as our source of inspiration. The “Ideal” cocktail, a tribute to forgotten conversations and revered flavors re-emerging, showcases the craftsmanship of:
- Uncle Nearest 1856 Premium Whiskey (bourbon), honoring African-American contribution in spirits.
- CAnE Collective Mixers’ sweet potato syrup, black-owned and straight from the heart of Baltimore, lends a touch of history and evolution, blending tradition with innovation.
- Begin with 1/4 oz. of CAnE Mixers sweet potato syrup and 2 dashes of Angostura bitters in a whiskey glass filled with large ice.
- Add a small slice of orange peel, then introduce 2 oz. of Uncle Nearest 1856 bourbon.
- Stir for approximately 10-12 gentle turns.
- Squeeze 1 slice of orange peel over the glass to extract essential oils.
- Stir for approximately 15 seconds or until chilled.
- Complete the libation with a garnish of sliced orange peel, and savor the culmination of history and craftsmanship in every sip.