The Ninth Annual Art Beyond the Glass (ABTG) bartender benefit was held on Sunday, May 3rd as an all-day virtual telethon to serve as a COVID-19 relief effort.
L.A. cocktail lovers were able to buy fun-themed, handcrafted cocktails in advance to imbibe on the day of the event. Cocktails were sold in batches of four and a popular package was The Mai Tai Mafia whose motto was “Revenge is a dish best served on crushed ice.” Their pre-made cocktails included a mezcal Zombie, and a boozy Mai Tai.
“Art Beyond the Glass has always been propelled by the creativity and philanthropy of bartenders, who donate their time off to raise much-needed funds for arts non-profits,” said ABTG co-founder Daniel Djang. “The bartender community has supported us from day one, and now we have the opportunity to support them.”
“As a member of the L.A. bartender community, I know how important being able to get quick relief is in these times,” said Clare Ward, ABTG Head of Production. “ABTG’s new COVID-19 initiative aims to provide relief to bartenders in the Los Angeles area through grants and sponsorship of local initiatives. We hope to provide as much relief as quickly as possible to my Los Angeles bartender family.”
As bartenders got to speak to one another online and geek out on all things booze, members of L.A.’s cocktail culture were able to enjoy their libations while also interacting with a community they’ve been apart from since everyone went into quarantine mode.
And getting to create cool cocktails again was part of the joy for the bartenders.
“It felt good to stretch my creative muscles making cocktails again,” said Thomas Eslinger, Beverage Director at Melrose Umbrella Co. “I’ve been trying to stay creative in other ways but it felt like a small return to normalcy having to create a new recipe, with a time line, that was going to be shared with people.”
Eslinger was part of the Remy’s Diner group whose cocktails included a cognac Manhattan, a gin blueberry cobbler creation, a whiskey Greek coffee cocktail, and a solid rum and whiskey jungle pancake drink. For this group of bartenders, it was all about the diner experience.
“Everyone it seems has a story or a memory from going to diners, and they pop up in almost every movie or TV show,” Eslinger explains. “They are a big part of our culture, a symbol of hospitality, community and humanity, so we thought they would be the perfect inspiration. We tried to channel this through our cocktails, each one is based on a classic diner dish and named after an imaginary diner regular because diners are home to so many wonderful characters. My cocktail is named Gary’s Greek Coffee; it’s a mix of Westland American Single Malt, Metaxa Greek brandy, Cointreau, cold brew, chocolate and soda. I wanted to make a coffee cocktail because you can’t go to a diner without getting a cup of coffee.”
The day also served as a good way for bartenders and bar patrons to reunite and reminisce.
“Bartenders are a resourceful and resilient group,” Eslinger points out. “We work hard, long hours under stressful conditions. But what is difficult for me, and others I’ve talked to, is now we lack control, direction and community. Typically, no matter how long the night, you have your team there with you. Now we’re all separated, for our own good, but for a community that lives for the connection to our guests and to each other it is especially difficult. That has been one of the beauties of Art Beyond the Glass, that we have found a way to connect to and support each other. It shows how strong this community is and how much we care for each other and it gives me hope.”
Currently there is a silent auction being held through May 10 until 5pm PDT to help raise additional funds.
Bartenders in need of financial support as a result of COVID-19 can apply for a grant at the ABTG website. Applications will be prioritized for bartenders in the most serious need of funds, including (but not limited to) those with existing health conditions, supporting dependents, or diagnosed with COVID-19. ABTG grants will initially be available only to hospitality workers based in L.A. County.
Industry brands, non-industry companies, and individuals interested in supporting the bartender community during this crisis can make a donation via the ABTG web site.