Tastemaker Highlight - Jamal Robinson


This week’s tastemaker is a dear friend of mine, Jamal Robinson. Jamal is a budding mixologist from the Bay Area who is destined to make an impact on the world. He recently competed in Puerto Rico at the Bacardi Legacy competition and is widely respected amongst his peers in the cocktail world. He also received Tales of the Cocktail Foundation Grant in support of The Prism Project -a photo journalism project centered in highlighting diversity in the spirits and hospitality industry.

What I love most about Jamal is his transparency. He shares his truth, asks for help, and works hard to defeat challenges that get in his way. This gentleman is going places and we’re so glad he’s a member of BBS!

Name: Jamal Frederick Robinson

Occupation: Hospital Patient Advisor / Bartender

Location: Originally from San Francisco. Currently living in the East Bay

Favorite cocktail: The Manhattan

Favorite Bourbon: Blantons. Bookers

What's your bourbon story? What was your first dram? How did you fall in love with whiskey?
Growing up, my history drinking and even just being social, was very immature and unrefinded. The life of drams and cocktail bars in the downtown of some city really didn't occur until I became a bartender. Growing up, probably seeing more of these images through friends and TV, and also as I grew more mature I grew more into my "The Fillmore - as jazz and art and culture", and from there is when the I love, and need, for that glamorous and hip imagery and experience became strong. From there it became a part of my personality.

What is your bourbon story? What was your first dram? How did you fall in love with whiskey?

My first bourbon was probably Makers and Bulliet. They were everywhere and always the first ones suggested when out.

I really feel in love with Whiskey when I became a bartender, around this time is right after the Cocktail boom occurred and right in the middle of the Bourbon boom. If I'm honest, I probably really began experimenting with Bourbon because it became so "cool" and popular. But, after working with it directly and going out and learning and experimenting with it, it really became a favorite. When everything "got real" was when I bought my wifes engagement ring. I took whatever coins I had, bought a modest yet gorgeous ring (if I do say so myself), walked into a wine bar and ordered a Manhattan. The bartender "when I saw that color box...I knew you would need a real drink". Actually, he didn't make it using the best technique. He shook it (the horror, right?), but it didn't matter. I still had a couple. I'll never forget that day, but that was when The Manhattan became my favorite drink and a good whiskey became my go-to.

Why did you join BBS?
When I learned of the group I became excited. Any chance to be in a group where Black folks learn, share ideas and experiences, and grow together - I'm for it. I joined to be a part of the community, but I also wanted to contribute and do my part as someone who has experience in this world.

Why is diversity and inclusion important in the spirit industry?
Because this industry has everyone in it, but we just don't always see it or reach out to them. Black people have been in this industry since it's inception. There are stories of Black bartenders buying their own, and their famiily’s freedom through elaborate cocktails and starting bars later. In every level of this industry we have been here - the home shops, the fancy, the high class, the working class - everywhere. It's important because once we all have a seat at this table to share our personality and experience, and we all have a chance to learn and participate, the industry as a whole will be better. More ideas, more perspectives, more vision, more education. It's a win win, and it's necessary.