Our second Spirit Sirens Showcase, where we celebrate women in the food and beverage industry! Look for more Here!
Where did you start your experience in the bar industry?
Well, I was inducted into the bar industry a few years prior than legally allowed. By the time I was 15 I was over 6-feet-tall, a competitive athlete and well spoken. I worked for my dad since I was a kid so I carried myself with a bit more professionalism than my peers. I went looking for a hostess job in my hometown and stumbled upon a neighborhood Mexican restaurant that was managed by some questionable characters who chose to play ignorant to my age and put me behind the bar my second week there because they thought I would be better suited there. I learned how to pour a beer, manage a well and to this day I make a hell of a margarita. From there, I progressively became a stronger bartender with each new place I worked at and even ended up training a few bar teams.
What compelled you to stay in the bar industry?
I moved around a few times between 15 and my legal adulthood so working in the service industry provided me an income that allowed me to achieve a semblance of independence I so craved. I went to 5 different high schools even though I graduated a year early, so I was pretty good at making new friends anywhere I went which became a great asset for me as a bartender. I was good at maintaining regulars and attracting new customers while learning a trade that allowed me so much freedom, the combination was intoxicating. I eventually made my way to high volume nightlife bartending which was an absolute blast. Everyday was an adventure, and I had a wicked case of wanderlust.
How long have you been where you’re at now?
I currently work at Lucidi Distilling Co. in Peoria, Arizona and have been here over a year and a half. You may have noticed that case of wanderlust I mentioned was past tense. I had my son, Jaxon, almost 3-years-ago which made it necessary for me to change my late night lifestyle and trade it in for earlier closing hours with room for advancement. I stumbled upon a Craigslist ad for a small, local distillery that was just starting up and the rest is history. I fell in love with our team and our mission. It’s been an incredible 18 months, however I am planning on moving to Nashville with my family in November. I am hoping to continue my education in the distilling industry and excited to see where this opportunity takes me.
How do you feel being a woman has impacted your experience as a bartender?
You know, I’ve always said that whoever said it was a man’s world never tried being a hot chick. I will fully admit that I used my looks to my advantage throughout my time behind the bar and it often worked out pretty well. I rarely had to change the kegs, one of the guys usually took out the trash, and my tips were about 5% higher on average than my male coworkers. Every once in a while you get that closeted misogynist who has a few drinks and starts telling me to have my sweet little ass get him another drink. Unfortunately, that’s just the world we live in but I usually got my own silver-tongued remark in that chipped away at his manhood. With a smile of course, we are in customer service after all.
What about in the distilling world?
That is a totally different ballgame. When I’m slinging drinks behind the bar I’m expected to know how to make the drink and give proper change. However, once I got in front of the bar as a distillery tour guide or spirit ambassador or even as an apprentice distiller I somehow seemed to start at a negative with everyone I spoke to. I somehow had to prove that I knew what I was talking about before anyone would actually listen to what I had to say. That’s nothing new though, I think all women can at least acknowledge that when we enter realms that are typically dominated by men (i.e. cars, spirits, sports, fitness, etc.) there is always a bit more expected from us. To me, that just makes our success and our presence all the more impressive. I’m not afraid of a challenge and seeing that impressed, flabbergasted look on ignorant faces is what totally gets my goat.
Any notable stories from behind the bar worth sharing?
Oh goodness, so many come to mind. Some are funny, some are scary and some I refuse to publish. For example, I remember having to break up a fight at my bar between a strung-out addict and a patron. The guy on drugs punched me in the face and when I kicked him out apparently went out to my car in the parking lot and made a piss poor attempt to set my car on fire. I’ll admit I didn’t get much sleep that night. On the flip side of that coin, a few professional football players came in for brunch at some swanky bar I worked at in Scottsdale and we popped bottles all day, had a great time and I walked home with a few thousand dollars in my pocket. One time a guy tipped me $500 and then went downstairs and bought me a pair of Lululemon pants, that was a cool day. The moments that really got me through the tough ones really were the ones of camaraderie with my bar team. Taking shots in the walk-in during a shit show of a Saturday night, rolling silver and swappin’ customer horror stories at the end of the night or just being stuck in the trenches at the end of a 10 hour shift just getting through it together to count our giant bucket of tips at the end of it all.
Where did the idea for Spirit Sirens come from?
Our co-founder, Megan Campbell, and I formed an unusual friendship when we started working at Lucidi Distilling Co. We were both hired on at the same time and we were the only two employees in the company besides the owner and the general manager so we had lots of time to brainstorm. She brought the right-sided creativity and I had the left-sided analytics. As much as we differ as individuals, we shared one thing from the beginning – a desire to make our impact in the craft spirit world. The more we learned, the more we discovered that women throughout history have been the backbone of global alcohol advancement despite the fact that men dominate the current market. It was never about boys against girls, it came down to embracing all the strength we innately have as women and putting them to excellent use through distillation, mixology, bartending, service and marketing of the spirits industry. We wanted to highlight and promote other women who share our passion while giving them a platform to tell their stories while creating a community of savvy, curious, passionate drinking women. Oh, and we’re total heartbreaking man-eaters so the name Spirit Sirens essentially conceived itself.
What are plans now that you are leaving?
I’m hoping to embrace my new location in one of the best whiskey hubs America has to offer and continue my distilling education and experience. Despite never being to Nashville, I’m super excited to start this new journey and see what I can make out of such a cool opportunity. We’re moving because my boyfriend, Mr. Big Bird, got recruited by the Nashville Zoo so even though it wasn’t in the our original plan we’re rolling with this new adventure and we are stoked to raise our son in such a cool place. Now that I have my feet wet in one of the oldest human traditions, I’m biting at the bit to try my hand in one of the most trending cities in the country.
Note From Megan: It has been a pleasure and a privilege working with Mariah for almost two years now. While I will miss her immensely, I can’t wait to see the amazing things she does and the life she builds with her family in Nashville. Also, the local craft whiskey that she sends me on a regular basis *hint, hint*