Photo Credit: Tamu Curtis
New Charlotte Black-Owned Cocktail Space Will Deliver Elevated Beverage Experience
You can take the girl out of Cali, but you can’t take the Cali out of the girl. When Oakland native Tamu Curtis relocated to Charlotte, she wanted to retain a sliver of her social life back in the City of Angels.
“I’ve always been a food and cocktail kind of girl,” she shared with Travel Noire. “That’s what we did in LA; great dinners, great drinks all night long. I moved here, and it was a different culture. It was really my discovering of what this city had to offer, and this region had to offer, and then sharing it with other people.”
Armed with a degree from UCLA and with years of experience promoting some of the world’s most recognizable brands, she put her expertise in experiential marketing into creating a curated cocktail tour. Liberate Your Palate took off on social media and Curtis found herself immersed in the world of hospitality. Admittedly, she knew nothing about actually making cocktails — “I didn’t know the difference between cognac and whiskey” — but an invitation to a Hendrick’s Gin beverage event would change that.
“It was really hands-on,” Curtis recalled. “We learned how to make three different cocktails. I learned all about gin and how it’s distilled. Gin was something that I always shied away from since college. I just have bad memories. But to learn about the spirit itself, the nuances of it, and how to actually make a cocktail with it that wasn’t just gin and orange juice was really a lot of fun for me.”
It occurred to her that her fellow craft cocktail enthusiasts would also enjoy a similar experience. Curtis started hosting cocktail classes in 2016, bringing in Charlotte-area bartenders to lead the instruction. The first class sold out. Since then, the classes have continued to thrive and in 2018 Curtis started teaching regularly.
Then came the pandemic which turned several businesses on their heads. But rather than fold, Curtis flourished in the virtual space and reached a global audience. But she started thinking ahead to a post-COVID reality.
“I was always doing these pop-up, hands-on cocktail classes. Either we go into people’s homes, or I find a location here in Charlotte. But for me, it was a lot of work. You bring in all the equipment, you take it home, you’re washing it, you’re packing it up. It’s back-breaking work. So it was always my dream to have my own location to hold these classes.”
This vision is now The Cocktailery, an extension of Liberate Your Palate that provides all the resources needed to create an elevated beverage experience at home. The cocktail classes will be interactive and educational in a space reminiscent of a plush living room. Guests will also be able to purchase materials onsite to start refining their skills at home.
“We’ll have all the bar tools, bitters, simple syrups, entertaining equipment like trays and glassware; anything I can think of that I know I like to have in my living room,” said Curtis.
The new cocktail supply and beverage lifestyle store is scheduled to open its doors in mid-July and is located inside Atherton Mill in Charlotte, North Carolina.
The venture is funded solely by Curtis, who received a boost in business during the pandemic. As everyone turned to virtual spaces and sought alternative forms of engagement, businesses like Google, Twitter, LinkedIn, Home Depot, SpaceX, and Salesforce booked cocktail classes for their employees. The company thrived, making $250,000 last year and already hitting that mark in the first quarter of 2021.
“That really allowed me to open The Cocktailery just solo dolo,” shared Curtis.
The Cocktailery has a deep pool of recipes to choose from, but Curtis admits that the Moscow Mule and Margarita are by far the most requested classes. However, her classes take these beloved and well-worn drinks to another level. Rather than the traditional version, The Cocktailery offers a deconstructed Moscow Mule.
“When it’s a cocktail class, you want to make it crafty, you want to make it interesting,” Curtis explained. “It’s more than just pouring vodka and ginger beer and squeezing a lime. We talk about the history of the Moscow Mule and why it is a significant cocktail and why it has its place in history Then we will break it down and we kind of make our own ginger beer. We use fresh ginger or fresh ginger simple syrup. You can make that Moscow Mule into a berry Moscow Mule using fresh fruits and cucumber. You can make it a gin Moscow Mule and maybe replace the vodka with gin. I had to get creative with the Moscow Mule because people will not let it go.”
Curtis loves putting a twist on classic drinks. One of her favorite secret ingredients is rosewater, used very sparingly. But ultimately the drink has to be easy enough to recreate at home.
“If I want a cocktail that has seven ingredients in it, that has been infused with the tears of lavender plants, then I will sit myself down at the bar and let somebody else do all that work. But at home, we should all be able to make fresh, balanced, sophisticated and simple cocktails for our friends and family.”