A night on the town pairs well with a cocktail. From dining out to reconnecting with friends at a neighborhood bar or finally attending an in-person event, Nashville’s Black mixologists are breaking the ice in the Music City cocktail scene. Here are four mixologists who are setting the standard at your favorite restaurant or taking their love for cocktail making to new heights with spirited entrepreneurial endeavors.
Akinde Olagundoye – The Continental Nashville and President of the United States Bartenders Guild (Nashville Chapter)
When Olagundoye is not serving as a representative for the Southern region of United States Bartenders Guild (USBG) on the USBG’s National Council Of Chapters as Nashville president, he leads the mixology at The Continental Nashville. “It is one of Chef Sean Brock’s newest restaurants in Nashville, TN. Our focus is to recreate the elegance of classic American restaurant and hotel dining that existed in the 19th and early 20th century,” he shared.
The Brooklyn, New York native, discovered his interest in the mixology industry as a server at Red Lobster in the summer of 2003. “I had returned [to New York] from my first semester in college at Oakwood University in Huntsville, Alabama. After that summer, I continued to serve tables for the next five years. Still, in that time frame, I became fascinated with watching the bartenders and understanding what they were creating behind the bar,” Olagundoye said. After doing more research about the crafts, Olagundoye left serving behind and started bartending in 2008. “I continued to find ways to educate myself through opportunities in the bartending community,” he shared.
Olagundoyes says he is best known for the ability to creatively cater to guests’ flavor profiles and his approach to service. “I care about the people that I serve and have nurtured so many relationships over the years that extend beyond the bar. I credit my mother for making me a natural host, as she was always known for her hospitality,” he said.
Olagundoye’s Favorite Cocktail
He has written several cocktail menus in his career, and one of his favorite creations from early in his career is called “Diesel Fuel.” It is a smoky variation of the classic “Old Fashioned” cocktail. It incorporates the dark flavor of caramelized brown sugar, with a classic high-proof Kentucky Bourbon and the peat smoke from Islay Scotch.
Rhonda Cammon – Perfectly Cordial
Since the age of 16, Cammon has found herself working in the hospitality industry. “My first job was at Bennigan’s Bar and Grill, and I fell in love. I stayed in hospitality even when I became a registered nurse,” she shared. In 2015, she created Barseatwithrsc, a bar consulting, education and mobile bartending company. It was in this capacity where she grew and developed her brand Perfectly Cordial.
Cammon founded Perfectly Cordial with a mission to put great cocktails within reach of the novice or enthusiast bartender with a line of cocktail mixers. “While hosting bartending events and classes, I recognized that many people were opting out of boozy beverages and were instead interested in crafting their own mocktails,” she explained.
Perfectly Cordial can be purchased on the company’s website and the Nashville International Airport, Red Dog Wine and Spirits, The Bottle Shop Brentwood, Greendoor Gourmet, Ash Blue, and a host of local farmers markets.
Cammon’s Signature Cocktail
She is known for her culinary-inspired complex flavors, and her signature cocktail is the Rose Collins. You need 3oz Perfectly Cordial Pear Rose Pink peppercorn and 2oz Gin to make this cocktail. Shake with ice and strained into a glass. Top it with Seltzer or tonic.
Gary Lyons – Sinema Restaurant & Bar
You can catch this Baton Rouge native, at Sinema Restaurant and Bar serving up drinks every weekend night, and if you pop in during the weeknight, he might grace your presence with one of his specialties.
Lyons has called Nashville home for 11 years. He’s been a bartender since 2004, but it was in Nashville where he took an interest in mixology or what he likes to call “craft bartending.” “[It was] 2013 when a chef inspired me by tossing me a bag of tarragon and telling me to put it in a drink. The drink I made was horrible! He then showed me how to extract fresh flavors from herbs, spices and fruits to make better drinks,” he shared.
Since then, he’s written dozens of signature cocktails and has participated in several cocktail competitions in Nashville, where he has won. Lyons won the The Bartender Bash of 2019 with his drink called “Concrete Rose.”
Lyons’ Favorite Cocktail
In 2017 he created one of his favorite cocktails called the “Bad N’ Rougie.” It features Corsair Barrel Aged Gin, Lillet Rouge, tarragon, coriander, lemon and is garnished with candied grapefruit.
To get more guides and stories of the people behind the culture and soul of Nashville, subscribe to our weekly newsletter HERE.