Episode 8: Matt Grippo, Shirley Brooks and the famous Venus Rose


Matt Grippo is the Bar Manager, bartender, and partner at Blackbird Bar in San Francisco’s Castro District. Matt knows the Bay area well – the people and their tipple picks! He loves experimenting with new flavors and concepts. Matt recently created a limited-edition, off-the-menu selection of cocktails inspired by Game of Thrones which was a huge hit! Matt’s all-time favourite cocktail is Eucharist (Nopa Bar).


In addition to dynamic bartending, Matt is actively into writing about cocktails and his experience on both sides of the bar. Most of all however, Matt is a dedicated Father! You’ve heard from the lovely Shirley Brooks in our fourth episode and now you get the whole family together.

Talking about San Francisco, Matt says, “Cocktails, beer, wine, amazing food — it has so much to offer I couldn’t ask for a better city to live an indulgent lifestyle. We are spoiled and I love it.”


We get into family life in the service industry. They touch on how the industry comes together and despite some hardship, how life is great!




Nickies Bar


West of Pecos

Beretta Bartending Series



Speed Rack

Bottom of the Barrell

Cold Drinks

Connect with them on Instagram: Bottom of the Barrell, Matt, & Shirley

Episode 7: Lauren Fitzgerald on Curating a Cocktail Experience

Lauren Fitzgerald, the current Bar Manager at Flores, a San-Francisco-based Mexican restaurant, is a specialist in craft cocktails and Mexican blends. Lauren was born and brought up in Texas and started at Buca Di Beppo. She studied at California Culinary Academy and has some solid input for people considering… After graduation, Lauren, being a vegan herself, joined Erin Tucker’s popular vegan food restaurant Millenium in San Francisco. It was here that she mastered the art of cocktailing and understood the importance of seasonal tastes.


In January 2010, Lauren moved to Portland and joined Portobello Vegan Trattoria as the Beverage Director and Bar Manager. She later moved back to San Francisco and started working at the outstanding bar/restaurant Flores.



Lauren’s favourite cocktail is one of her own creations – Bonita, which is a vodka-based drink, served over crushed ice with a deep magenta float of hibiscus tea and a sprig of mint. A lover of Wine, we enjoyed some amazing Portuguese wine at Hotel Biron in San Francisco. Shhhh… We want to keep it quiet.


In this conversation, Lauren shares how and why she’s made bartending a career,  and the importance of context for curating guest experiences. She also discusses why she’s a vegan and how she brings it behind the bar successfully. Oh, and if you want to start a swim-up bar somewhere tropical, Lauren will be happy to help you!


What is a podcast?

Plant Cafe

Aqua Faba

You can get in touch with Lauren on Instagram by CLICKING HERE.

Vegan Whiskey Sour made with Aqua Faba

Episode 6: Kate Bolton discusses the standards of service & making bartending a career

Kate Bolton is the owner of Portland-based Mint & Mirth, a cocktail catering service that organizes impressive custom cocktail parties for corporate events and private parties.

An award-winning bartender and cocktail specialist, Kate’s hospitality career spans a decade. She began hostessing when she turned 15 and has worked in a variety of locations ranging from Costa Rica to the Bay Area and now Portland. Kate was one of the founding employees of Maven, a cocktail hotspot in San Francisco, and spent 5 years as Bar Managing Partner there. She continues to be a partner at the popular cocktail bar.

In addition to her other achievements, Kate has been awarded Eater Bartender of the Year (2012), San Francisco Chronicle Bar Star (2012), 7×7 Magazine’s Best Cocktail Menu (2013), and Nitey Award’s Mixologist of the Year (2014).

This episode was recorded before Kate bought Mint and Mirth so in this episode we focus on Kate’s standards of service and why she’s been in the industry. Enjoy the show!

Find Kate on Instagram: CLICK HERE

Listen the the interview with Joni Whitworth

(recorded at Portland Bottle Shop)


Mint & Mirth


USBG (United States Bartenders Guild)

CUESA (Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture)

Michael Mina

Tony Robbins

Tribe by Sebastian Junger



Episode 5: Mint & Mirth’s Founder Joni Whitworth on Community, Entrepreneurship and Passion

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recorded in Joni’s kitchenette while enjoying Voodoo Doughnuts

Can a craft cocktail catering company build relationships with its competitors, use locally sourced products, practice sustainability economically, socially and philosophically and give back to the community all while making a profit? The answer is a resounding yes!

Joni Whitworth got her start in a traditional bar, but having autism and sensory processing issues, traditional didn’t work for her. So, she tapped into her inherited entrepreneurial spirit. Could she do it her way?

Mint and Mirth started out as test project just to see if she could do it; It turned into a thriving company thanks to Joni’s approach to business and community. It’s all about crafting relationships, building a community, service leadership and scheduling your dreams, which long-time employee, Kayleen Veatch, confirms.   

Joni has since moved on from Mint and Mirth, but what she crafted isn’t just a business. It’s a way of life. It’s an aspiration. And it’s a hell of good time!


Remember to schedule your dream!

Notable links:

Episode 4: Shirley Brooks talks raising a family in the service industry

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Shirley Brooks is the Mother Maiden of San Francisco! Everyone knows Venus Rose her lovely daughter that is usually attached at her hip.

We start with some Rose and get in the swing of things after a few ching chings.

On this episode we dive deep on raising a family in the service industry. We talk about how not only make it work but how families can flourish in the service industry.  I dove in deeper as she opens up about her nuclear family and the industry as family.

We have fun talking about her days as a shot girl in Miami and underage bartending in Philly! It’s been a wild ride and this outstanding Bar-Mom has stories! Go see her at Madrone Art bar on Divisadero and Fell.


Episode 3: Ryan Fitzgerald

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I’m so excited that we got Ryan on the podcast.  You may’ve heard of Ryan, he owns ABV with his two partners Erik Reichborn-Kjennerud  and Todd SmithThey each have extensive careers in the industry and together on ABV they have been recognized as one of the Worlds 50 Best Bars.

More than best bar, they’ve won best American bar team 2016, best new American cocktail bar 2015, and Ryan is most proud of winning the “bar fight” which was the last pop-up bar contest at tales of the cocktail in 2015.

Ryan has been through the gauntlet to get to this point. From hosting at Red Robin and Chevy’s, working at Applebees, Fresh Choice, and Soup Plantation, he’s been in the industry since he was 14.

He gave the 9-5 life a shot and decided that the crushing boredom was not for him! He mentions a ton of people in this episode, please forgive me if I don’t link everything! He is an example of a success story. If you’re around 16th and Valencia go check out ABV. They have a pop up bar upstairs running until February 2018 called Overproof. I went for the whiskey saloon (Double Back) and it was amazing. Now they are doing tequila and mescal (Lágrimas) which is his specialty!

Episode 2: Larry Piaskowy shares his insights on bartending, self-care & service

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Larry Piaskowy is currently behind the stick at the San Francisco Proper Hotel. GO SEE HIM!

I can’t remember the last time I laughed this much with someone I don’t know! Larry is the consummate bar personality and his energy is infectious.  I can see why regulars follow him everywhere he goes because he is the life of the party!

He started out in the kitchen, making his way from Chicago and has been through the gauntlet to get to where he is now.

Larry_PiaskowyWe connect on some hilarious stories – The ice story, for one. You’ll want to listen to this entire conversation because you can truly feel his passion come through and he drops some wisdom down for people in and out of service industries.

This episode was recorded at the Sunset Reservoir Brewing Company.

Episode 1: Justin Goo and the Human Side of Bartending

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My first guest is Justin Goo. Justin is the GM and Bartender at Bourbon and Branch, the world-renowned speakeasy in San Francisco. If You haven’t been to Bourbon and Branch before, call in to get a password, don’t order a Cosmo and follow the RULES!

Justin has worked in every aspect of the industry from dive bars, nightclubs, restaurants and craft cocktail joints so his experience is diverse and his perspective is unique. He’s spent time at Restaurant Gary Danko and he helped open Alexander’s steakhouse.

He even has a little hobby of going to three Michelin Star restaurants like the French Laundry. Unfortunately, we didn’t get that story on the podcast but let us know on the blog if you want to hear more, cause we’ll have him on again!

Justin reminds us that service is about serving your customers, your community and therefore, yourself. Oh, and enjoying great food and drinks!

Please let me know what You want more of. Leave comments, play nice, and let’s make this a place you want to come back to!

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