The women-led programming will focus on issues of inclusion and sustainability within the cocktail community.
In 2018, three Chicago women who work in different areas of the cocktail industry organized a conference to tackle issues of inclusivity and diversity within the cocktail community. Called Chicago Style, the conference is returning this spring for a second run.
The four-day event, which has again been organized by the three founders—Shelby Allison, co-owner of the Logan Square tiki bar Lost Lake, Sharon Bronstein, Vice President of Marketing for The 86 Co., and Caitlin Laman, the Consulting Beverage Director for the Ace Hotel Chicago and a 2015 Food & Wine Rising Star Mixologist—will take place from May 6 to 9. The panels, as well as the parties, will be held in venues across the city.
When asked why Chicago Style reamins necessary in the current hospitality climate, the founders said, “It's time to hear from voices in our community who have been doing this work for a long time, but haven't received the credit and attention we know they are due. We need conversations like the ones that take place at Chicago Style right now so that, as a community, we can make meaningful changes to better the future of our industry.”
In an effort to echo the spirit and success of the inaugural Chicago Style, this year’s conference will feature local, national, and international voices to facilitate conversations about the current state of the cocktail community. Seminars will work to promote inclusion and equity within the industry, with themes including: how cocktail culture and media often miss opportunities to take gay bars seriously; the history of hospitality and nightlife on Chicago’s South Side, specifically the Black Belt; and a Spanish-speaking panel focusing on the experiences of women in Mexico’s spirits and hospitality communities.
According to sommelier and activist Ashtin Berry, who is participating on a panel as well as leading her own workshop, the cocktail community lacks a shared space to talk about these kinds of issues, and Chicago Style creates that platform. “Making these topics visible and at the forefront is the first step towards change,” Berry said.
In addition to Berry, other confirmed panelists include: Dr. Richard Benson II (Spelman College), Alexis Brown (Causing a Stir), Jen Delos Reyes (School of Art at the University of Illinois Chicago), Kate Gerwin (Front & Cooper), Lynn House (Heaven Hill Distilleries), Gabriella Mlynarczyk (Author, Clean + Dirty Drinking), Claire Sprouse (Hunky Dory Brooklyn and Tin Roof Drink Community), Stephanie Simbo (Beyond Bars Akedemia), Carmen Villarreal (Casa San Matias), Liz Weck (Howard Brown Health Center), and a representative of mezcalera Del Buen Agave.
Chicago Style tickets are available for purchase here, and here is the full program: