Celebrating Asian & Pacific American Heritage Month: Unapologetically Normal

Posted on: May. 06, 2024 | , , , , | By: Caer Maiko

Dear Tales Community, 

Happy Asian American Pacific Islander Month! My name is Caer Maiko Ferguson and I am a Japanese-American bartender.

Over the last 5 years, May has been a very busy month for me. In March of 2019, my friend Sharon and I threw a “Super Asian Cocktail Pop Up” that we named “Daijoubu Pop Up” which has allowed us to throw over 30 events over the last 5 years. With all of those, we have been actively thinking about our roles and identities as AAPI people in the cocktail community. We’ve pushed ourselves to the forefront of “representation” in our industry and because of that. We had to do a lot of thinking of how we can best support the AAPI community that has done so much to support us.

For those who haven’t been to one of our events, our goal is to make space for Asian people, culture, and flavors, both in front of and behind the bar. We do this in every sense possible. The drinks, garnishes, glassware, names, decor, music, people, vendors, and more; are all intended to call back to our identities as Asian Americans. We don’t try to explain these references to those who aren’t familiar. When Director Jon Chu spoke about the creation of Crazy Rich Asians refusing to explain its most “intrinsically Asian elements” to writer Jeff Yang, he explained, “We didn’t want to give people an excuse to think of this world as some kind of obscure, exotic fantasyland — this is a real place, with real culture, history and tradition, and instead of just giving them answers to their questions, we want them to have conversations.” In an industry where many cultures have been grabbed, commodified, and sold for the entertainment of others, this methodology is exactly what Daijoubu is trying to do. Unapologetically normalizing.

The first thing I noticed while throwing events was how excited Asian Americans were to be seen. A group of East Asian-American friends drove from another city to come to our first event in Austin in 2019 and squealed when they saw shots being poured into Yakult cups. Yakult, the healthy probiotic Japanese yogurt drink that many Asian American children receive on a daily basis, referenced a core memory shared by so many in our generation and community. This feeling peaked for us at our event in partnership with Kikori Rice Whiskey at Oakland’s Viridian Bar. Viridian is the closest thing I’ve seen to an Asian American bar. Their “Kirkland” and “Wong Kar-Wai” inspired merch is a perfect blend of what it is to be Asian American and of drinking age. With a line around the block, and people wall to wall as we made a dozen Super Asian Cocktails at a time, one young man yelled out, “It’s finally cool to be Asian!” And, it really felt like it as BlackPink, Onra and Night Tempo blared on the speakers, baijiu and rice whiskey shots were being poured, and we all drank boozy boba and toddies with sweet dumplings in them. 

I also think it is important to remember that this was our second event since the beginning of the pandemic and our first time traveling outside of Texas. We had spent 2 years in fear of not only a pandemic but also violence and hate towards Asian Americans. Having a space to feel safe and to be able to let your guard down might be the most impactful thing Daijoubu has done. Additionally, we have consistently used the money from our events and merch sales to support AAPI-focused organizations, events, people, and businesses. We felt that if we were going to market ourselves as “Super Asian” we have to support the community both socially and financially. But where this becomes difficult is being able to support the whole community. 

An article from the National Community Reinvestment Coalition shows a great financial divide in the Asian American community. Pew Research Center explains that “AAPI has the greatest wealth gap of any ethnic group. Those at the top 10-percent earn 11 times more than those at the bottom.” The AAPI category is massive and includes Americans with ancestry not only from the Far East, Southeast Asia, the Indian subcontinent, South Asia, Central Asians, West Asians, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders. The needs and issues of this group are more than I could ever cover in this letter, but I can always continue to advocate for what I know and help amplify for those I can. 

What is easier to talk about is how we can better support the AAPI members of our hospitality-based community. I think it’s easy to see how many more Asian Americans have received recognition in the last few years. Just look at the 2020 Spirited Awards winners! Don Lee, Kevin Diedrich, Silver Lyan (owned by Ryan Chetiyawardana), and Angels Share in the same year. However, there are still significantly fewer AAPI people in leadership and ownership positions. Less award-winning AAPI women, West Asians, Pacific islanders, etc. We have a long way to go, but we’re at a great point of opportunity. To now have a handful of AAPI leaders who can become AAPI mentors. So this AAPI Heritage Month, or this summer at Tales, or every day, I hope we can hear from more of the next generation, connect our community, and grow it to become more equitable and diverse.

Crazy Rich Lychee Martini:

  • 1.25 oz gin (We use Monkey 47 but another “juicy” gin would also work.)
  • 1.25 oz Daijoubu Lychee Cordial (Specs below)
  • .25 oz Pisco (I recommend Pisco Caravedo’s Torentel.)
  • Combine all ingredients in a tin, add cubed ice, and throw until chilled and diluted. 

Serve in your fanciest martini glass with expressed lemon oils over the drink. Present with a scoop of lychee sorbet, topped with gold leaf and edible flowers on a gold tray. 


Daijoubu Lychee Cordial: 

  • Combine in a jar or camber:
  • 1 750 ml bottle of St-Germain Elderflower Liqueur
  • 1 can of lychee (ju
  • st fruit, no juice)
  • ½ can of Rombutan (just fruit, no juice)
  • 12 fresh longan fruit (deskinned)
  • 12 fresh Muscat grapes (cut in half)
  • Peels and juice of 2 lemons

Let infuse for 24-36 hours in a fridge. Strain and bottle. 

*Juice from the canned lychee and Rombutan can be used to make sorbet.

About Caer Maiko

Caer Maiko Ferguson is a Bartender and Manager for DrinkWell and co-creator of Daijoubu Pop Up. Originally from Santa Monica, CA, she went on to Boston’s Tufts University and The School of the Museum of Fine Arts where she studied Animation and Film. This is also where she entered the world of hospitality, bartending around Boston from the age of 21. In 2015, she moved to Austin where she currently manages the award-winning neighborhood cocktail bar, DrinkWell. She was the first Espolon Cocktail Fights National Champion in 2016, and after winning the Cocktail Fights Tag Team with Sharon Yeung in 2018, they founded Daijoubu, a Super Asian Cocktail Pop Up. Her bartending accolades include being named one of Beverage Media’s Bartenders To Watch 2019, Austin’s 2019 Bartender of The Year at CultureMap’s Tastemaker Awards, Punch’s Bartender in Residence 2021 and she is a certified “Bar Ready” graduate of the BarSmart’s Bar 5 day program. In 2023, she was in the top 4 nominees for the Tales of the Cocktail US Bartender of the Year Award. When Caer isn’t running bars or producing pop-ups, she is gardening with her daughter (Kimiko), making art with her husband (Sam), or napping with her cat, (Yojimbo).

Instagram: @caermaiko @daijoubu.popup

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