Rori Robinson - She is the owner/founder of Bloom Bar Garnish Co. & Director of Gardening & Develop.
How many years have you been in the business? Tell me briefly about your background and your current position today.
I’ve been in the hospitality industry for over 15 years. I started out as a server in casual fine dining restaurants while in college back in Colorado, then transitioned into bartending in 2013 while working for Concentrics Restaurant Group at The Spence, formerly in midtown Atlanta. Since then, I’ve tended bar in both craft cocktail and high-volume venues throughout Atlanta, coordinated corporate private events, and began pursuing my spirits, beer, and wine knowledge certification track. My credentials include Certified Specialist of Spirits (CSS) by the Society of Wine Educators, Barsmarts Spirits and Mixology Certification, ServSafe Food Handler Certification, and Rserving Certified Alcohol Server; both On-Premise and Off-Premise. I’m currently pursuing my WSET (Wine and Spirits Education Trust) Level 3 certification, as well as the CSE (Certified Spirits Educator) certification this year. I’m a true believer of continuing education, no matter your field or background. Training and teaching within the service industry has been a professional goal of mine for years now. After losing both of my jobs due to the pandemic last year, I decided to go forth with my entrepreneurial pursuits ahead of my original timeline. I started my own private beverage service and consulting firm, as well as a plant-based product line of non-alcoholic mixers and garnishes for mocktails and cocktails alike. Bloom Bar Garnish Company and Bloom Bar Beverage Service both launched in June of 2021. I also serve as the Director of Gardening and Development for A Sip of Paradise; a bartender-based and led community garden located in East Atlanta Village. The organization’s founder, Keyatta Mincey-Parker, created this amazing space for service industry professionals at the beginning of 2020.
Did you have a particular “aha!” moment that propelled you into wine?
I got into learning about wine and appreciation of the craft while working at The Spence. It’s then general manager was Justin Amick, owner and co-founder of Painted Hospitality group here in Atlanta (The Painted Pin, The Painted Duck). At the time, he was pursuing his level 4 sommelier certification, and instilling wine knowledge and interest in his staff was a top priority. Most of the staff on board was pretty well-versed in wine, and the rest were immersed in learning more about it. We had an amazing wine list there, and knowing that inventory boosted our sales in a major way. Guests always appreciate a server or bartender that can effectively suggest pairings to heighten their dining experience, and I began to take pride in being able to offer that with my service.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
My job title now in the service industry is ‘owner/founder’. Bloom Bar has become my top priority, and getting my businesses off the ground takes up most of my time. I love the creative freedom and flexibility entrepreneurship offers. Having the option to choose with whom I work and on my own terms has been life-changing. My role with the community garden has also been amazing. I’ve been into gardening for years now, and being able to do that in a professional capacity is a bit of a dream come true. Especially since the founders and members are service industry professionals. Through my position with A Sip of Paradise, I have made and cultivated relationships with fellow bartenders, brand ambassadors, wine and liquor sales reps, farmers, fellow gardeners, chefs, other area nonprofits, and the list goes on. There’s an organic intersectionality among all of my “jobs” and for that I am beyond grateful. I’m also thankful that late nights at work are no longer a part of my lifestyle. I’ve fallen in love with the ability to start and end my work days early.
Can you describe any prejudices you’ve experienced in this industry?
I’ve been lucky enough to not have had any major areas of struggle while working that I can attribute to being a woman of color. Most of what I’ve experienced transcends race, and is moreso a matter of sexism and misogyny in the forms of inappropriate language or touching from male guests and coworkers. I started my bartending apprenticeship under and alongside an amazing group of professionals, and that has set the standard for the types of people I choose to work with in any venture going forward. But if there is one underlying issue I can take note of, it’s the overall assumption that I’m not as experienced, knowledgeable, or capable in a leadership role as my male counterparts; no matter their race. That is, until I’m seen in action, which quashes any and all doubts originally had about my competency.
When it comes to wine, what benefits do you think we’ll see as a community by advocating for diversity and inclusion?
The wine community, along with any and every other community, would benefit greatly by advocating for diversity and inclusion in too many ways to count. It’s time to acknowledge the fact that people want and appreciate receiving information, products, and services from people that represent their own respective communities. It also levels the playing field for entrepreneurs and business owners seeking to be considered for funding at a rate equal to that of their white counterparts. So many people of color think that wine or certain spirits aren’t “for them” only because they haven’t seen anyone like them make, sell, or speak about these things in a professional capacity.
What changes do you hope to see in the wine industry in the next five years?
I’m interested in seeing or trying wines made from fruits or plants other than grapes. I’d also like to see more people of color get recognition for their professional pursuits and accomplishments within the industry.
What does equality in the wine industry look like to you?
Sponsorship and educational funding for more students and professionals of color pursuing industry certifications, more women in executive positions, no longer discrediting something as less-than just because it doesn’t come from a traditionally held white source of production.
In what ways would you say you are contributing to equality in wine?
I do my best to amplify the spotlight on industry professionals that I know personally that may not have the reach or exposure they desire yet. I also try to take the intimidation factor out of wine when introducing it to a client or friend that may otherwise avoid trying something new. There’s something for everyone in the wine world, no matter their tastes, budget, or background.
What message do you have for anyone now entering the wine profession?
Surround yourself with like-minded people who share your passion for wine. Continuing education in this area can be daunting, but it’s much easier when you incorporate it into your everyday lifestyle through things like tasting groups and coworkers that push you professionally.
What other industry heroes do you admire and why?
Keyatta Mincey-Parker: bartender badass and industry leader Janeen Jason: sommelier and wine sales badass and industry leader Adam Venable: bartender, sommelier, wine sales, and music industry badass