Steva Casey. Where do I begin?! This woman is everything. Josh first met Steva when they were both campers at Camp Runamok. Later when we launched Bartender Atlas, she was one of the first bartenders to sign up to be listed – and she followed through in getting many (SO MANY!) other bartenders to join in. When we ran our first three day Tour – the Toronto Tour – in 2016, we flew Steva (and her friend Eric Bennett) up from Birmingham, Alabama to be our guest bartenders for it. From the moment we met her at the airport, she became an instant friend to me. And not just a casual one. But the kind that you talk to every couple of days. I love this woman and I am continuously in awe of her and of everything that she manages to fill her life with. On top of bartending three nights a week at The Atomic, she usually spends the rest of the week flying around America (and the world) running all kinds of events including Tiki by the Sea. What makes Steva such a great leader in this industry is not just that she is an awesome bartender and event organiser but that she puts genuine care into everything that she does. Every encounter that she has with anyone is filled with kindness. She lifts up everyone around her and encourages us to all to not only do better but to be better. I am grateful to have her in my life. I am grateful that this industry has a Steva Casey in it.
Bartender Atlas: When did you start working in bars and what style of bartending were you doing?
Steva Casey: I started bartending at the place where I waited tables out of necessity because no one else could make drinks. I was working in fine dining restaurants in the late 90’s and early 00’s, learning a lot about wine. Therefore, I began doing the wine list and became the bar manager. Naturally, the bar manager has to make the drinks, so I studied books and taught myself how to make drinks.
BA: What is the bar scene like in Birmingham?
SC: Now the bar scene is exploding with a lot great cocktail focused bars. When I started bartending, if you wanted a craft cocktail you had to go to a fine dining restaurant. Now, there are multiple craft cocktail bars, including the one where I work called The Atomic Lounge.
BA: How did you evolve from solely bartending to running events?
SC: This has mostly evolved from me running large catering events at restaurants and hosting popup dinners. About seven years ago, I started volunteering at cocktail weeks so that I could learn how to produce large scale beverage events.
BA: Tell us about the ridiculous cocktail competition that you run every December in Birmingham. How did you start doing it and what does it entail?
SC: I love my community and am always looking for ways to help promote the community and the people in it. In 2014, I decided to host a cocktail comp for people in Birmingham who don’t necessarily get a chance to compete in any competitions before they are chosen to compete in National competitions so that they would be more prepared. I usually do one once a year and it’s a way for new bartenders to get their feet wet in the competition world around people who support them.
BA: What is Tiki by the Sea and what is it that you do there? Why should bartenders participate in it?
SC: Tiki By The Sea is a trade focused event that hosts seminars and events that highlights Tiki and Sugar Cane based Spirits. It is an application based event, so we choose people who want to learn. Therefore, you would be surrounded by like minded bar professionals who are also interested in learning all things Tiki.
BA: Tell us about Swingshift. What the heck is it?
SC: Swingshift is a popup dinner series that I started in 2014. The gist of it is that I’m the constant and there’s a different chef for each dinner. I wanted to find a way to bring people together through food and drinks in a low key community atmosphere. I have had up and coming chefs from Birmingham, as well as, visiting chefs from around the country. It’s been a great chance to highlight Birmingham.
BA: Have there ever been any big disasters at one of your events? And if yes, how did you work to fix it?
SC: During Tiki a few years ago, as we were on the way to our Boardwalk night of riding rollercoasters, it started to rain cats and dogs. I had to scramble to find something else to do that was equally as engaging on the fly. Luckily, I found a blacklight mini golf place! It ended up being a blast.
BA: What was one of the best learning experiences that you had while working one of your events?
SC: Always be prepared for something to go wrong. You can never have too many zip ties.
BA: What advice do you have for bartenders who are looking to elevate themselves beyond the bar by running events? How does one go from an idea to actually executing it all?
SC: Volunteer to work one for someone that you think you can learn from. Be specific about the things you want to learn.
Favourite drinking city? I think Toronto and New Orleans have some really great bars.
Favourite bar? I can’t narrow it to one, but I’ll give you my top seven (listed in no certain order).
Kimball House (Atlanta)
Earnestine & Hazel’s (Memphis)
Two Schmucks (Barcelona)
Bar Tonique (New Orleans)
The Nick (BHM)
Favourite guilty pleasure spirit? I drink everything for pleasure.
Thank you, Steva!