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Get to Know Chilled 100 Bartender Andre Sykes

Chilled 100 Bartender Andre Sykes’ journey to bartending began as a barista. “I couldn’t quite be as creative as I wanted to be,” Andre says. After a barbacking job gave him the inspiration he needed, he dove headfirst into the world of bartending.

Andre was discouraged by the number of Black bartenders in Detroit, the city with the highest percentage of Black people, and set his sights on bartending while simultaneously educating the next generation of Black bartenders as an activist. Andre was nominated and became a semi-finalist for the James Beard Foundation’s Outstanding Bar Program for his bar program at Shelby in Detroit, Michigan. We asked Andre to tell us more about his career as a bartender.

What inspired you to become a bartender?

As an artist and poet, the creativity of curating experiences. I started as a barista, but I couldn’t quite be as creative as I wanted to be. That’s when I became a barbacks and my heart saw something that triggered a rush of inspiration. I also saw that the number of Black bartenders was atrocious, especially being in Detroit, the city with the highest percentage of Blacks in the country. I’ve always been an activist and I couldn’t get past that fact. So, I dove headfirst, and fell in love with bartending and educating the next generation of Black bartenders that they are not alone or are excluded from this as a career. I can also say that being nominated and becoming a semifinalist for the James Beard Foundation’s Outstanding Bar Program for my bar program at “Shelby” in Detroit, Michigan, keeps me inspired and wanting to win it next time!

Where do you tend bar now? What makes it unique?

I am currently at Alpino Detroit. Our focus is Alpine inspired goods, wine, cocktails, and live entertainment. With France, Northern Italy, Switzerland, Slovenia, Austria, and Germany as our main influences, we are the first Alpine focused restaurant in Michigan. I am proud to be a part of my team!

Who has been most influential in your development as a bartender?

Katrell Thomas, Yani Frye, Scott Poole, Shelby Minnix, and a host of friends and family pushed me to be the best, most complete bartender that I could be. That fervor led me behind the sticks at some of Detroit’s most renowned bars, pushing the envelope of what craft cocktails can be in the Midwest. At every junction, I became a dry sponge and learned more and more. I had to pushed himself harder to become something more than just a Black bartender or mixologist, A true agent of hospitality. Also, my pop-up is called Black On Both Sides. We focus on shining a light on the brilliance of Black Agents of hospitality that rarely get the limelight they deserve. So, we fully takeover bars and restaurants and feature dope Black, POC, and LGBTQ chefs, bartenders, servers, and hosts! While also mentoring barbacks to prepare them as the next generation of bartenders.

Do you have any advice for novice/ at home bartenders?

Don’t stop learning, reading, geeking out, or let anyone tell you to stop. Work hard on your craft every day, even when you don’t want to. Go to conventions and have fun, but most importantly, network. Networking is the single most important tool you can have. Get out of your comfort zone and remember, you’re not making drinks for yourself. It’s for the enjoyment of the guest Infront of you.

What is your favorite ingredient right now and why?

Wine syrups! I’ve been experimenting with different varietals, acid levels, sweetness levels, infusions. The whole 9 yards.

How do you go about creating a cocktail? Is there a specific process or simply a moment of inspiration?

It can be anything really. As an artist, I’ve never liked constraining myself to any one particular kind of process or inspiration when I create. That same ideology has bled into my career when I’m creating cocktails.

Do you have a special technique you use or a tip for making a particular drink?

The only real tip I say is that you aren’t creating for yourself. It definitely feels good to have a final product be liked and delicious. But at the end of the night, it’s about your guests. Cater to them and their tastes, not yours. Now definitely, go crazy when you can and if you can do it in a way that translates well to your guests, then that’s a damn good job!

Where do you see the bartending/cocktail culture headed?

I’m not sure. I’ve met and became with so many different bartenders across the world that it’s hard for me to say so. The culture and what works in my city won’t necessarily be applicable to others in their city. But I do see it becoming more and inaccessible to common folk, particularly with prices. Some of it can’t be helped considering ever-rising costs and inflation. But it is sad to me when I see $20+ cocktails. I get it, I’ve been a bartender at bars like that, but now it’s becoming commonplace for restaurants to charge $16+ for well cocktails. That’s wild to me.

Interested in joining The Chilled 100?

Our group of passionate and talented bartenders love the art of crafting cocktails. We are always on the lookout for the best bartenders. Membership is free. For additional information about this amazing opportunity contact Chilled 100 National Director or visit

The post Get to Know Chilled 100 Bartender Andre Sykes appeared first on Chilled Magazine.

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