women in hospitality

Welcome to the first installment of our series on women leaders in the bar and restaurant industry, “Women in Hospitality."  First up is Mari Howe, bar manager at Pacific’o on the Beach.

Howe was born and raised in Hawaii, where she started working in the food and beverage industry at the age of 16. After graduating from college, she realized that the restaurant and hospitality industry was her passion. She learned from great mentors and expanded her knowledge of craft cocktails and wine while working at establishments such as Kazimierz Wine Whiskey Bar, Cowboy Ciao, and Counter Intuitive Cocktail Bar.

Becoming a member of the U.S. Bartenders’ Guild also provided her with a lot of experience, and she had several opportunities to travel around the world for cocktail education and to create valuable relationships and networks in the bar industry.

When she started bartending at The Mill House after returning to Maui six years ago, she learned about sustainability and seasonality when creating cocktails thanks to their local farm-driven bar program. In 2021, Howe joined Pacific’o on the Beach as bar manager and created a cocktail program that utilizes fresh, local ingredients from their own farm as well as other local farm sources around the island.

We chatted with Mari to learn more about the Hawaiian cocktail scene, sustainability’s role in cocktail making, and more! Read the full Q&A, below!


Bar & Restaurant: Tell us more about the Hawaiian cocktail scene.

Mari Howe (MH): Historically, when it came to the cocktail scene in Hawaii (or at least on Maui), most people were used to paying a premium price for resort cocktails that weren’t always the best, mostly because the majority of the resorts don’t use fresh ingredients. Drinks tend to be on the sweet side. However, in more recent years, there are now a handful of great cocktail programs here on Maui where bartenders are finding that fresh ingredients make for a tasty cocktail. I believe more of a trend is to create more balanced cocktails with fun and beautiful presentations.


What food/cocktail trends do you expect to see in 2023?

With Netflix series such as Drink Masters, cocktails will start getting more molecular and people will start doing more elaborate presentations.


How do you incorporate local sourcing and sustainability into your beverages?

Lucky for Pacific’o on the Beach, we actually have our very own farm where we can source local ingredients. The trick is letting the farm come to us essentially and then using what’s in abundance. We have a “Farm Fresh Cocktail” on the menu that can change daily or weekly depending on what’s in season. If there is an abundance of citrus, such as our small farm oranges, we will dehydrate them and use them for garnishes if we can’t use the fresh fruit fast enough. In addition to our own farm, we have great relationships with other local farmers on the island that we source from and try to use local ingredients for our cocktails as much as we can. I have a lot of friends and family on the island who love to share things they grow as well. My neighbor will let me pick buckets of starfruit because, otherwise, it will fall on the ground and go to waste. We will juice the starfruit, use the fresh for garnish, and then pickle it as well to give it a longer life. Some of our ingredients such as herbs, citrus, and mangoes come right out of our own backyards.


Your cocktails have a culinary element to them thanks to your local sourcing and sustainability. Have you seen a greater demand overall for more culinary-inspired cocktails?

Cocktails are evolving and definitely more “culinary” than ever before. There is a lot of prep that goes into the cocktails before they are made behind the bar during service. There is definitely a demand for more complex cocktails. I compare creating cocktails a lot to cooking, where the recipes have to be measured and there is a lot of thought that goes into balance and creating multiple layers of flavor.

For me, in addition to using fresh ingredients, balance is very important. We achieve balance by carefully measuring our ingredients with a jigger. We make a lot of our own syrups in house with our fresh, local fruits. We sometimes incorporate tea, amaro, and vermouth to add complexity to the cocktails. We have a variety of different bitters, which is essentially our “cocktail seasoning.”


What spirit, ingredient, or flavor are you currently enjoying working with most?

Fresh pineapple is definitely one of my all-time favorite ingredients to work with. It’s amazing the diversity you can get from it. When shaken, fresh pineapple gives you a beautiful froth, almost comparable to egg white. We cook the fresh pineapple down with raw demerara sugar and use it in a syrup that goes into our “Maui Gold Fashioned,” which is a spirit-forward bourbon cocktail. It obviously makes a great, tropical refreshing cocktail, but also pairs well with dark spirits and even flavors like coffee! We dehydrate the pineapples, use the fresh slices, and even use the fronds for garnish. At home, I put the pineapple tops in water, then replant them in the ground. Now, I have about 20 pineapple plants growing!


Any advice for other women in the hospitality industry?

When I first started bartending, I was often the only girl behind the bar. I think nowadays, you see just as many women as men. I had some really great female mentors that I look up to who taught me a lot. I think mentorship is so important in our industry and helping to teach the new generation. I love to teach people who want to learn and encourage education outside of the restaurants as well.


Keep an eye out for more profiles on Women in Hospitality throughout the month!


Plan to Attend or Participate in Bar & Restaurant Expo, March 27-29, 2023

To learn about the latest trends, issues and hot topics, and to experience and taste the best products within the bar, restaurant and hospitality industry, plan to attend Bar & Restaurant Expo, March 27-29, 2023 in Las Vegas. Visit BarandRestaurantExpo.com.

To book your sponsorship or exhibit space at Bar & Restaurant Expo, contact:

Veronica Gonnello ​(for companies A to G)​ e: [email protected]​ p: 212-895-8244

Tim Schultz​ (for companies H to Q) ​e: [email protected]​ p: 917-258-8589

Fadi Alsayegh ​(for companies R to Z)​ e: [email protected] p: 917-258-5174

​Also, be sure to follow Bar & Restaurant on Facebook and Instagram for all the latest industry news and trends.