With Black History Month drawing to a close, two Alabama bars are partnering to celebrate the contributions Black bartenders have made to the art of mixology throughout history. On Sunday, February 26 from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m., one of Birmingham’s newest cocktail bars, Continental Drift, will host a pop-up event in collaboration with Session Cocktails of Tuscaloosa. The event will feature a menu of five limited-edition cocktails, three inspired by Black mixologists from the past and another two created by mixologists Eric Bennett of Continental Drift and Qadeem Hassan of Session Cocktails.
Hassan, who is the bar manager of Session Cocktails in Tuscaloosa, found an appreciation for mixology after getting promoted to bartender at only his second job serving. “I fell in love with the craft and became really passionate about it,” he says. After being promoted again, this time to bar manager, he began experimenting with creating his own cocktail recipes and designing a cohesive menu for the bar. One of his biggest inspirations came from a book called “The Ideal Bartender,” which was written in 1917 by Tom Bullock. Bullock was a pioneering bartender in the pre-Prohibition era; he was also the first African American bartender to publish a book about mixology.
Bullock, along with fellow Black pre-Prohibition bartenders Cato Alexander and John Dabney, were the inspiration for the classic cocktails on the pop-up menu. Those include eggnog, the mint julep, and an apple jack sour. All the drinks will feature spirits provided by a third partner, Old Forester Distilling Co.
Eric Bennett (left) and Qadeem Hassan (right). Photos courtesy of MC Social
Hassan and Bennett’s friendship began a few years back when Hassan saw Bennett’s profile in Thirsty Magazine about being a Black bartender in the South and reached out.
“I really admired his passion and saw a lot of myself in him,” Hassan says. He’s been a great friend and peer since then.” Bennett opened Continental Drift in Birmingham’s Southside alongside fellow bartender and business partner John Easterling in August of 2022, so when Hassan got the inkling for a Black History Month event, he knew Bennett would be the perfect partner.
Hassan says he’s excited to have the opportunity to highlight some of the pioneers of mixology who have inspired his career and celebrate Black History Month in a way that many haven’t before.
“I’m hoping this event will bring awareness to the lost history of Black mixology and showcases some of the talent in the industry,” he says. “The Black history lost in the hospitality industry is extremely important to how a lot of things are done today.”