Be sure to view all of our previous entries in the Women in Hospitality series.


women in hospitality

At Tales of the Cocktail this past July, Bar & Restaurant News recently caught up with Lynn House, national spirits specialist and portfolio mixologist at Heaven Hill Brands. House was once again serving up her riffs on the old fashioned in honor of the launch of Old Fashioned Week.

We spoke with House about Old Fashioned Week, industry trends, and more.

Old Fashioned Week

Elijah Craig’s Old Fashioned Week returns this year from October 13-22. It will once again be supporting the Southern Smoke Foundation, which puts dollars directly into the pockets of food and beverage workers when it’s needed most. The foundation covers the necessary costs of groceries, medical, etc.; addresses mental health; extends aid to families; and more.

One dollar from every Old Fashioned up to $100,000 will go to the foundation. Old Fashioned Week has met its goal every year (donating $300,000 to date), and the same is expected to happen this year, especially since registration has opened earlier so more bars can participate. Last year the number of participating bars doubled, with 4,100 establishments participating. “We're setting big goals, big numbers because it allows us to do more in the industry and to be able to give back to the industry,” says House.

New to Old Fashioned Week this year is a cocktail contest aimed at giving back to participating bartenders. Bartenders are invited to submit their riff on an old fashioned recipe and explain what makes it great. The winner will take home $5,000 and be published in the first Old Fashioned Week cocktail book alongside some of the industry’s biggest names. Submissions are open now through October 31st.

“So that is a new component to keep building and keep promoting because we want to make sure that we're supporting people who are supporting this week,” says House. “I'm really excited because we have so many great venues participate. I've had really wonderful riffs and to be able to showcase that beyond just Old Fashioned Week will be really nice.”

So what is it about the old fashioned that makes it such an enduring cocktail? For House, it’s that the cocktail is “beautifully balanced” and a foundational recipe that has leant itself to other classic cocktails. “It opens itself for people to show their own innovation and creativity,” says House, who presented four different riffs on the cocktail at an Old Fashioned Week media event at Tales of the Cocktail by playing around with the bitters and the sugar components of the recipe.

House even created a non-alcoholic recipe for the event, which used barley tea and corn silk tea to mimic the bourbon mash. Chai tea was used to emulate the spice from the barrel. House then added a few drops of saline solution to give the cocktail the mouthfeel that’s typically lost when omitting alcohol. She finished off the cocktail by adding simple syrup and Fee Brothers Old Fashioned Bitters because they are made with glycerin and are non-alcoholic.

“We’re in the hospitality industry. We’re about enjoyment. You don't necessarily need to have a spirit,” says House. “So that's something that we've been very intentionally doing with events that I'm at is that I'll have obviously things that go around the brand, but always adding a nice, complex non-alcoholic option other than water.”

Industry Trends

Aside from the non-alc movement, we also spoke to House about trends she’s seeing in the on-premise, and service and hospitality is definitely a focus. “There’s been reengaged conversations about hospitality and what hospitality is,” says House, who notes that the industry has also turned inward to examine self service and what that means in the way of personal wellbeing.

“As far as drinking trends, I think fun is back. I’ve seen a lot of bright and colorful cocktails,” says House. “And I think returning to simplicity has come back because there’s a need. We had a lot of people move away from the industry, so we have a whole new crop coming up who haven’t been in it for 10, 12, 15 years. So those simple recipes, those foundational recipes, I’ve seen them come back—the martini, the espresso martini, the margarita, the paloma, cosmopolitans.”

House says the staffing challenge of an unexperienced workforce is definitely one of the biggest challenges facing the on-premise industry right now. “It’s that education gap. Even those who’ve stayed in the industry, we’ve moved on to brand work, we’ve moved on to consulting work,” says House. “So there are a lot of places that have got the staff, but the experience they don’t have, and there’s a lot of investment that they’re making to develop that skill set.”

Advice for Women

We asked House what advice she has for other women in the hospitality industry, and she encourages them to take advantage of educational opportunities. “Women have to still be a little bit more on point than our male counterparts. So round out that knowledge—if you're on the spirit side, go learn about wine, go learn about coffee, go learn about water, go learn about tea. So you have the capability to walk in and talk about that. That just helps give you a leg up with those voices that we're competing with.”

House’s number-one recommendation for women, however, is networking. “There's so much that I've gained through networking,” says House, who also mentions she participates in a variety of mentoring programs. “Partner yourself with other women as a means to lift them up, and they will lift you up.”


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