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Bartending While Black: John Dabney's Life and Legacy

  • The LINE Hotel 3515 Wilshire Boulevard Los Angeles, CA, 90010 United States (map)


The LINE Hotel, Shatto B

"The Hail-Storm: John Dabney in Virginia," is a new, short-subject documentary about the renowned 19th century bartender and caterer. Dabney spent the first 41 years of his life enslaved, and yet managed to gain fame throughout Virginia for his mint juleps and terrapin stew. He innovated in the form, using the newly-introduced technology of ice to create extravagant sculptural drinks that offered boozy refreshment to white customers.

Though Dabney's life is exceptional in many ways, this session will focus on the tradition of black innovation behind the bar. Dabney was one of many black bartenders who navigated a society controlled by white elites, and their contributions to the cocktail are only now being recognized. The film will serve as a starting point for a deeper conversation on this history.


  • Hannah Ayers, Field Studio (Moderator)
  • Lance Warren, Field Studio
  • Tiffanie Barriere, The Drinking Coach