We had the good fortune of connecting with Brianna Wilkerson and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Brianna, is there something you can share with us that those outside of the industry might not be aware of?
It is my observation that the concepts of farm to table, health and wellness and sustainability when it comes to sourcing, quality and production are tricky to associate with drinking and alcohol. It just seems a lot of folks don’t know that there are these options available or really understand how and why to make a choice that is different from what they are used to, yet will allow them to drink better! The bar and restaurant industry is historically extremely wasteful, with staggering statistics on the amount of food waste and packaging that is produced and ends up in landfills. Fortunately this industry is seeing momentum in applying sustainable practices and with the zero waste movement. Currently, there is a growing number of brands of both spirits and cocktail ingredients that are enriched with wellness botanicals and probiotics. There is also an increasing number of up and coming as well as major, global spirit brands that are focusing their efforts on creating and implementing sustainability standards for production which include environmental and endangered species protection and recycling and reusing waste materials. For example, Misadventure Co., a company located here in San Diego, distills their super smooth vodka from surplus baked goods that are reclaimed from local food banks. Mind blown! My business, The Beverage Botanist, develops partnerships with these innovative companies to expand awareness and encourage enthusiasm about drinking with a sustainable mindset. We also implement sustainable methods such as reusable/recyclable containers and packaging, composting with a local hub and using organic, locally sourced ingredients in everything we create. Social drinking remains an entertainment enjoyed by millions worldwide since the beginning of time. However, we are in a new, progressive era in which “sustainability”, “earth friendly” and “farm to table” are not just trendy terms but necessary approaches to implement for the greater longevity and enrichment of our health, communities, food systems and vitality of our planet.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
Before I started The Beverage Botanist, I worked for 15 years in the bar & restaurant industry, moving my way up from bartender to general manager. I’ve always been fascinated by cocktails, not only the history and culture but the alchemy of creating a beverage from scratch. Before that however, my career trajectory was in ecology and plant conservation and I have degrees in those fields. Eventually, both of these of these plant-based passions began to fuse together, the botanicals I was working with were translating into cocktail recipes. That, and I supported myself through graduate school by bartending at night, so I had ample opportunity to experiment and discover in the world of mixology. An environmental science mindset and awareness helped me understand how to adapt bar programs and restaurant operations with sustainable practices. My business, The Beverage Botanist is really a melding of my professional past and love for both plants and nature… and cocktails! The Beverage Botanist is a really unique and progressive business. We are approaching our two year anniversary and only now are people really becoming aware of what we are creating. Because we are encouraging an approach to social drinking that is new and unfamiliar to many, it has been a challenge not only to get our mission and brand message out there but have it click with people. Granted, half of my time as a business owner has been in the middle of a full blown pandemic that greatly impacted small businesses and the bar/restaurant/hospitality industry in particular. So that certainly has been a huge challenge! I did what everyone else did…pivot, and created new services that made sense for these compromised times. The pandemic shift taught me valuable lessons about my own resourcefulness and resolve to stay in the game, and also allowed a slower pace in which I could reconnect with my purpose and vision. That’s the energy I’m rolling with in 2021! My mission is to serve folks by helping them understand how to make more conscious drinking choices for their body, mind, community and the planet.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
This is such a difficult question because I have a very long running list of top notch food & beverage spots and attractions, and as a native San Diegan, I love everything about this city! So this is an abbreviated itinerary: Eat: Fort Oak, Madison (for cocktails too), Kettner Exchange & The Waverly, Siamo Napoli, Mitch’s Seafood, TACOS!! Drink: J & Tony’s, Sycamore Den, Charles & Dinorah at the Pearl Hotel, Pure Project, Aero Club, Nolita Hall, Raised by Wolves Visit: Balboa Park first thing!; North county surf, beach hang, brewery tour; Barrio Logan for tacos and micheladas; Torrey Pines hike; pop down to Baja for surf, seafood and wine in the Valle de Guadalupe; Mission Bay SUP adventure; Cabrillo Monument tidepools; Little Italy for happy hour; Kate Sessions Park for sunset picnic.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Shoutout to all the small business owners and female founders out there working to serve others by bringing their unique talents and vision to life. And most especially to my personal lady boss crew here in San Diego, without whose support, advice, networking and encouragement, I’d be struggling! The Potted Poppy Epicurean San Diego Reclaimed Goodness Send From Elevation Eating Indie & Ivy Co. Come Alive Co. Made by Minga Yoga Bus
Alex Wilkerson Briana Lee Photography