Atlanta-based bartender Keyatta Mincey Parker brings a diverse background of more than 20 years in the foodservice industry, from hotels to fine dining to dance clubs. Originally from Liberia, Mincey-Parker has partnered with some of the country’s most influential spirit brands, chefs, home bartenders, and farmers, to bring her message of creating picture-perfect cocktails.
In addition to creating craft cocktails, Mincey-Parker focuses on A Sip of Paradise, her 501c3 non profit bartender community garden based in Atlanta, and The Jim Project, her foundation that focuses on training young women in Liberia in hospitality and bar culture as an alternative to prostitution and other unhealthy ways to make a living. We caught up with her to discuss bartending, her passion projects, and what she’d mix up for the new Vice President Kamala Harris.
What was your first bartending or hospitality job?
My first job was as a hostess at a restaurant called PoFolks—it’s now called Folks Southern Kitchen—in 1994, right after my 16th birthday. I quickly climbed the ladder to server and management, but my first bartending job was in October of 2002 after my daughter was born.
What is your favorite spirit to work with at the moment?
I love working with Bombay Sapphire gin. It’s extremely versatile and I love the beautiful bright citrus notes I get, which makes it the perfect ingredient for a variety of different cocktails.
One of your passion projects is the Sip of Paradise community garden in Atlanta. When and why did you create the garden?
A Sip of Paradise Garden was an idea birthed during my journey as a competitor in Bombay Sapphire’s Most Imaginative Bartender competition; it was part of the Canvas Challenge and my creative outlet outside of bartending. I formally started the garden in January of 2020: I was blessed with .25 acres of land, I got an accountant and business consultant, filed as a registered business and 501c3 status, and put together a staff and board of directors.
As bartenders, there is nothing just for us. With this garden, I want to provide a safe space just for us, and something to sustain us.
What are your plans for garden events and workshops once it’s safe to hold them?
Early on we started hosting volunteer days (following CDC guidelines of course), and we make that a part of every event and workshop we have. I have partnered with several brands in hosting Meditation Mondays, yoga, and walking forging classes. In 2021 I plan to partner with more garden and wellness professionals that help make us stronger and offer things to better our industry. Happy bartenders, better cocktails is what I always say.
Can you tell us about your foundation, The Jim Project?
The Jim Project is something I started to help young ladies back home in Liberia. I was one of the lucky ones in that I was born to an American mother, so I was able to seek refuge through several wars in Liberia.
But the most recent one was particularly devastating because it was so long and ruthless. During the war, many young girls and women fled with their families to neighboring countries but the ones life behind were killed or worse, raped and tortured. Even though the war is over, much of the country is still recovering and a lot has been set back incasing women being treated as second-class citizens. Women are usually the help, cleaning and cooking, and many still prostitute themselves to make ends meet or to secure things for their families.
The Jim Project will provide training in three forms, women aged 16 to 20 will be trained in hospitality, women aged 21 to 24 will be trained in bartending and bar culture, and we will secure them employment in a booming hospitality industry. With Hilton building a massive resort in 2024 and the number of hotels and restaurants currently, there it’s an opportunity to build a skill set that can take them anywhere in the world!
It’s a chance to break holds on families. It’s my long-term project, and I know it’s going to take a lot, but I am a very, very determined person that loves to be told no so I can prove people wrong.
What’s your current go-to cocktail or beverage?
This has been a very strange year; early on a lot of the things I drank and enjoyed were based on what I had at home. But seeing Kamala Harris become the next vice president, a woman, a beautiful and Black woman, a woman with a cultural blend (I have an American mother and Liberian father), a person that isn’t afraid to be strong or tough, I feel I can truly relate to her on many levels.
Kamala inspired me to create a cocktail for her with ingredients from my community garden: the Pistil & Proper. A play off of the Prim & Proper, it includes Bombay Sapphire, fresh lemon, lime and pineapple juices and is perfumed with a hibiscus and orange blossom tincture. It’s a connection of me to where we grow flowers and take on all the flowers in this cocktail.
My secret hope is Kamala drinks gin and loves it. Maybe one day I would be blessed to make it for her, but we can all dream right?! But this is for her, and it’s a blend of her cultures and things I love too. The name of the cocktail is a play on words and connects our similarities.
Pistil & Proper
2 oz. Bombay Sapphire gin
¾ oz. VP Syrup (saffron flowers, star anise, tamarind, pink peppercorns, dried hibiscus)
½ oz. Fresh lemon juice
½ oz. Fresh sweet lime juice
1 oz. Fresh pineapple juice
5 drops of Jamaican #1 bitters
Shake hard strain into a coup glass and perfumed with a hibiscus and orange blossom tincture and garnished with saffron flowers, dried hibiscus, and pink peppercorns.