Business, Bars, and Diversity: A Chat with Angie Fetherston
Every year, Tales of the Cocktail inducts hardworking women of the spirits and cocktail industries into the Dame Hall of Fame to celebrate their contributions to the industry. Each of these women has their own story: from their starts, to their stumbles, and, finally, to their successes. In this series, Tales founder Ann Tuennerman highlights some of the past Dame Hall of Fame recipients, and explores the path that led them to where they are today.
It sounds like a match made in heaven. While working at a local news channel in 2008, Angie Fetherston met Derek Brown, a leading spirits and cocktail expert, on a story assignment about the D.C. cocktail scene. In 2010, they decided to partner up and co-founded Drink Company. Together, they own Mockingbird Hill, Eat the Rich, Southern Efficiency, and 2017 Spirited Award winner for Best American Cocktail Bar, Columbia Room. In addition, Drink Company has worked with multiple community initiatives in the D.C. area, and successfully campaigned to have the Rickey named as the official cocktail of Washington, D.C.
Where were you born and raised?
Guayaquil, Ecuador/Madrid, Spain/Washington, D.C.
What attracted you to enter the cocktail/spirits industry in the first place?
I was working at the local CBS affiliate in 2008 when I tagged along on a story about the D.C. cocktail scene and met Derek Brown. I saw magic.
Was it planned, or was it a temporary gig that evolved into a career?
Switching careers was definitely intentional, though I never thought I'd end up in the bar world. I am an entrepreneur and at the time I was looking for something to sink my teeth into. I was a founder at a tech company in college, moved on to projects within a media company, and was considering moving to the West Coast when I met Derek at the perfect moment.
What and where was your first job in the industry?
I asked Derek if I could help him out with some of the opportunities that were coming his way and we liked working together. We founded Drink Company soon after in early 2010.
Was there a moment when you decided that the cocktail/spirits industry would be your career path?
I honestly started by helping my friend capitalize on opportunities to build his career. Helping people reach their potential and achieve their dreams is something incredibly fulfilling for me, and it snowballed into something I can barely call a small business anymore.
As a woman in a traditionally male-dominated industry, what did you find the most rewarding and the most challenging?
The sisterhood of women in the industry has been something I've deeply treasured, but I've found encouragement and support from both men and women. There are really generous people in our business and I aspire to give of myself as much as they've given to me.
The most challenging piece has been to create an environment that fosters diversity. Women and people of color in the food and beverage industry are still present in small numbers. We want to be an example for business owners everywhere. Having people from all walks of life working behind the bar adds a great amount to your company and the customer experience.
Was your family supportive of your decision?
They know what I'm about and they've always trusted my vision, so they're always first in line to help with any mission.
How has the role of women in the cocktail/spirits industry changed since you first joined it?
It's hard to say how the role of women in the cocktail and spirits industry has changed because my role has changed so much over the years. It's been wonderful to see all of my hardworking friends rise in the industry and all get due recognition.
For a woman who wants to pursue a career in this industry, what top 3 tips would you offer?
- Surround yourself with people who make you feel like the world is yours for the taking.
- I've found that the most successful people aren't necessarily the most intelligent but the ones who have the largest threshold to absorb stress.
- Make your own opportunities or you may be waiting a long time for something to show up at your door.
How did you first learn about Tales of the Cocktail?
I went with Derek Brown the first year we started working together!
Were there any challenges you had to overcome to attend Tales for the first time (financial, logistical, etc.)?
Kindly describe your first Tales experience and what it meant to you.
Everything was so big! I didn't know anyone and I felt a little lost, but I knew I was participating in something special.
How did you first hear about the Dame Hall of Fame?
I saw the luncheon on the schedule!
Were any of its past inductees your mentors or role models?
What was it like to be inducted into the Dame Hall of Fame at Tales?
It is an incredible honor to be counted amongst these amazing and groundbreaking women in the hospitality industry, and I've certainly tried to live up to it every day since my induction.
How has being inducted energized your career, and what opportunities have flowed as a result?
Being inducted into the Dame Hall of Fame gave me a platform to speak out about advocacy issues that are important to me and our industry, such as preventing sexual assault in bars, training, hiring trans, people of color, and other disadvantaged minorities, and standing up for immigrant workers.
Kindly describe any key professional relationships that were formed through your induction.
I think the Dames all recognize each other and our relationships have deepened through the years. I feel very lucky to be a part of this elite club.