Espita’s general manager, Josh Phillips, is one of the world’s few certified Master Mezcaliers, and he tapped Barnes to head the bar program, and help make a name for mezcal in DC. Since Espita opened, Barnes has introduced several new lines of mezcal to the DC market, and she’s visited Mexico on behalf of the Tequila Interchange Project, which advocates for sustainable practices in agave distillation and encourages the preservation of the heritage behind production. She’s an alumna of Columbia Room, McClellan’s Retreat, and Policy.
What do you see as this year’s biggest changes or developments in DC’s drinks scene?
Cocktail programs in restaurants -- in the past, it was all about the food, and pairing dishes with a good glass of wine. Now, restaurants are expected to have an exceptional drinks menu and a bar team that will earn them accolades.
Also, women behind the bar are finally being recognized. I hate pulling the girl card, but for years, the best bartenders list failed to mention the powerful women in our industry. If you read the comments after this article, you'll see that we still live in the stone age, where women are like ornaments, meant to attract male clientele -- or at least that's what men think. But many of my female friends are running successful bar programs, winning competitions, and supporting things like the Speed Rack competition for breast cancer.