Heaven Hill Brands Bartender of the Year Program Selects Final Winner for Craft Meets Community Award Program

— September 15, 2021

The track winner receives a mentor experience and $5,000 to support a health- and wellness-focused initiative within their community

Mara Bethel of Atlanta was announced as the final winner of the Craft Meets Community Initiative (CMCI) $5,000 award to support a community-based project aimed at health and wellness. Bethel will also receive one-on-one mentoring sessions with track leaders Alex Jump and Lauren Paylor, co-founders of Focus on Health.

Bethel, whose hospitality career spans more than a decade, is also a certified Mental Health First Aid Provider focused on strengthening mental health support networks in the hospitality industry through the lens of mutual aid. Inspired by her work in this area, Bethel submitted a proposal to train more service industry workers in providing community-based care to create safe work environments in hospitality. Mental Health First Aid courses provide tools for early intervention, de-escalation, and support for mental health/substance challenges and crises. Through the support of the CMCI award, Bethel and one other service worker can be certified instructors, with the remainder going towards launching and expanding the program around Atlanta.

“A critical component of this training is creating safer environments that are tailored to personal needs. It is a person-forward approach with the knowledge that everyone has unique experiences and needs. Accordingly, everyone’s wellness plan is unique,” said Bethel. “Within hospitality, I see a need for advocacy that is person-focused first and foremost. We’re building strong communities in hospitality with strong networks of support!”

First announced in May 2021, CMCI is an extension of Heaven Hill and Liquor.com’s Bartender of the Year program, developed to provide greater access industry-wide to education, mentorship, and leadership engagement opportunities. CMCI replaces the typical competition structure for 2021, creating a platform for virtual education and conversation structured through four tracks led by industry experts and open to all hospitality professionals. The program was designed to encourage hospitality professionals to take action within their community and participants were also invited to apply for the optional CMCI Award Program where they will have the opportunity to receive one-on-one mentoring from an industry expert and $5,000 to fund their community-based project within their focus area.

The final track in the series, Health and Wellness, focused on the crisis within the hospitality industry of taking care of others before yourself. Jump and Paylor led a seminar entitled “Self-Service: Hospitality and Your Wellbeing,” which detailed best practices for addressing issues and steps of implementation surrounding five pillars of wellness: mental, physical, social, environmental, & financial. Sponsored by Deep Eddy Vodka and Dubonnet Rouge, Bethel created a lower ABV cocktail that can be enjoyed as a decompression time later in the evening, the Garnet Sour. Her take on this was inspired by treating yourself to something enjoyable everyday (see recipe at end of release).

“Mara’s project stood out to us primarily due to her attention to detail and her clear vision of the bigger picture,” said Jump and Paylor. “She was detail oriented in presenting a solution and had a clear direction for the project as a whole. Lastly, her proposal was one that felt feasible for both a local community as well as a larger scale project.”

More than 176 hospitality community members registered to participate in the health and wellness track. Bethel was ultimately identified as the award recipient for this track based on her desire to expand Mental Health First Aid within her community. Bethel will now be supported by the CMCI award money and one-on-one mentorship opportunities with Jump and Paylor to grow her initiative. To get more involved with Mental Health First Aid, please contact bartender@heavenhill.com.

Heaven Hill Brands’ Bartender of the Year program has supported the growth, education and awareness of the hospitality community since 2016. The Class of 2020 Finalists received a combined $40,000 to be split between each after the competition pivoted midway through the reginal semifinals tour to a virtual format. All eight joined the ranks of esteemed past winters: Justin Ware in 2019, Harrison Ginsberg in 2018, Nathan O’Neill in 2017, and Abigail Gullo who won the inaugural competition in 2016. Visit the official Bartender of the Year website at http://www.bartenderoftheyear.liquor.com for complete program details.

Garnet Sour

  • 1.25 oz Dubonnet Rouge
  • .75 oz Lemon Juice
  • .5 oz Pear Eau-de-Vie
  • .5 oz Red Amaro
  • .25 oz Fig Leaf Syrup
  • 12 Sprays of Absinthe (in atomizer or absinthe rinse)
  • Star Anise


Add lemon juice, fig leaf syrup (recipe below), pear eau-de-vie, red amaro, and Dubonnet Rouge into a mixing tin. Add ice and shake vigorously for 30 seconds. Double strain through fine mesh strainer into a chilled coupe that has been rinsed/sprayed 6 times with absinthe. Top with 6 more sprays of absinthe and 1 whole star anise. Sip and take a minute for yourself.

Fig Leaf Syrup Recipe: Wash 10 fig leaves and cut into small strips (measuring to 1 cup of packed cut leaves). Bring a medium pot of water to boil. Set up an ice bath for shocking the fig leaves. Blanch the fig leaves and shock in the ice bath. Allow the blanching water to cool- you’ll be using it! Purée the blanched leaves with 1/2 cup of cooled blanching liquid. Strain through cheesecloth, squeezing out as much liquid as you can to make your fig leaf “tea.” By volume, add equal parts sugar to fig leaf “tea.” Blend and refrigerate until ready to use.

Heaven Hill reminds you to “Think Wisely. Drink Wisely.”


To download images relevant to this release, please visit here.

Lauren Cherry
Heaven Hill Brands

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