IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

‘Black Mixcellence’: New book highlights the ‘integral role’ of Black mixologists in the spirits industry

"There are stories and history behind the cocktails," said author Tamika Hall.

We're in a "golden era of mixology right now," according to author Tamika Hall.

Mixology, the skill of mixing ingredients to create cocktails, is an art form that’s existed for years. For how long it's been around, however, it's been plagued by a lack of representation — from the bar scene to the narratives shared about the origins of Tennessee whiskey.

Tamika Hall, co-author of "Black Mixcellence: A Comprehensive Guide to Black Mixology."
Tamika Hall, co-author of "Black Mixcellence: A Comprehensive Guide to Black Mixology."Courtesy Sire Leo Lamar-Becker

Which is why Hall, alongside acclaimed spirit ambassador, Colin Asare-Appiah, are here to enlighten the world with their new book, "Black Mixcellence: A Comprehensive Guide to Black Mixology," out June 26, via Kingston Imperial.

The forthcoming book pays homage to Black and brown mixologists and their contributions to the spirits industry — contributions that ultimately laid the foundation for so many brands to thrive today.

'We played an integral role in an industry that is flourishing today.'

“I want people to take away from the book that aside from the fact that we took a mandatory service and turned it into a way of life for us, it became a lifestyle. We broke barriers, dodged obstacles, hopped over pitfalls where we were expected to fail — and in regular true Black people fashion, we rose to the occasion,” Hall said in a conversation with TODAY Food. “So, it’s important that, even when you make these cocktails, you know that there’s history in the book, and it’s rich. We played an integral role in an industry that is flourishing today.”

The book highlights a collective of mixologists, hailing from all over the globe, and their signature cocktails. Each mixologist featured has an accompanying story, which details their contribution to the industry, anecdotes about some of their most interesting bartending experiences, and custom craft cocktail recipes.

The bulk of the book consists of mouth-watering cocktail recipes created by Black mixologists, but it was important for Hall to also shed a spotlight on the history behind the drinks we imbibe and the spirits we enjoy. So, aside from the cocktails, other features of the book are the stories of some of the industry’s most notable trailblazers — from Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey founder and CEO Fawn Weaver to 19th century mixologist John Dabney’s vital role in giving the Mint Julep its refreshing style.

"Since history already happened, it was important to tell the story of how certain things came to be or how people were involved, and in what way," said Hall. "So, it was important for me to tell that story and give a platform to modern-day mixologists."

Every detail of the book is crafted with intention — from its title to its striking cover art, which pays homage to Hall’s late father.

The cover of "Black Mixcellence" features an illustration of Hall's late father.
The cover of "Black Mixcellence" features an illustration of Hall's late father.Kingston Imperial

"'Black excellence' is a term that we’ve heard a lot and has become very popular, given the fact that’s what we use to describe things that we do as Black women, Black men and Black children. 'Black excellence' is when we excel at something. That’s what we use to describe the action,” Hall explained. "So, 'Black Mixcellence' is a cross between mixology and excellence to emphasize that these mixologists are Black, and their mixology skill is just that — 'mixcellent.'"

After nixing a couple versions of the book cover, Hall shared a beloved photo of her father with the graphic designer, who used it to create the final product. Hall’s father wasn’t a mixologist, but he was an artist.

"If he were alive, he would have had all the input for the cover of this book, the layout of the book, and would have been super involved," said Hall. "So, while he’s not a mixologist, just him being on there and smiling makes it all the more, for me, impactful."

'Opening a door for Black and brown modern-day mixologists'

According to Pronghorn research, while Black Americans represent 12% of alcohol consumers, they make up just 7.8% of the spirit industry's labor force and 2% of spirit executives in the industry. Unfortunately, this gap is something Hall knows all too well. Hall, who previously wrote branded content for Bacardi, Maker’s Mark, PepsiCo, Anheuser-Busch and Viniq, attended many spirits events where Black and brown mixologists were “poorly represented,” she said. This experience served as additional motivation to write "Black Mixcellence."

“It was important for me to provide a place to document some things that the mixologists did just so that people can reference them, see the work, see the creativity, the cocktail and the stories behind the cocktails,” Hall added. “Now people are going to go looking for them because people will want to know more about them, which gives them an opportunity to tell their story. So, that was the main part for me, aside from setting up a little bit of history … opening a door for Black and brown modern-day mixologists.”

As for the cocktail recipes included in the book, Hall hopes readers take a moment to soak in the stories behind each curated drink.

"We’re in another golden era of mixology right now where people are being innovative and creative," said Hall. "There’s a science to it. There are stories and history behind the cocktails. Those are the things that I want people to gravitate towards and really take their cocktail time to the next level."