Tales of the Cocktail 2013: The Bon Vivants Report

Not your typical bar crowd: A volunteer day organized by the Bon Vivants last week at Tales of the Cocktail brought together an estimated 100 international bar and industry professionals to paint and pitch in at the charter school KIPP Believe Primary in New Orleans. I got chatting this week by email with Josh Harris, a founding partner of the cocktail collective the Bon Vivants and co-creator of San Francisco’s liquor-lover’s sensation Trick Dog. (It’s one of five places Patricia Unterman handpicked in our recent San Francisco restaurant guide.) Harris was fresh from the annual spirits conference Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans, where the Bon Vivants had thrown their traditional Pig & Punch party on closing day, Sunday, July 21. The party, like a volunteer day Harris and fellow Bon Vivant Scott Baird organized last Tuesday, benefited KIPP Believe Primary school, a local charter school committed to starting the youngest students from educationally underserved communities onto a path to success in college and beyond. While tallying the funds raised on Sunday ($19,000 and counting), Harris took a moment to answer questions and hit the highlights of the event. How did the Bon Vivants’ Pig & Punch come to be allied with this particular school? It found us. Four years ago, we were linked up with [KIPP] through a company called HandsOn New Orleans. We ended up looking into them after the fact and thought they were pretty spectacular. We will now work with them always if there is one of their schools in the particular city we are working in. We now do the event in Brooklyn and Portland [Oregon] as well. What sparked the philanthropical spirit? This is currently our only philanthropic endeavor, but [we] are always looking for opportunities to grow the event series the right way. All the events that happen in New Orleans are called Pig & Punch, which is our “flagship event,” and we decided earlier this year that every other event we do will be called Swig n’ Swine (a sort of Pig & Punch on tour). We can’t quite put our finger on what sparked this, necessarily. Scott and I have a combination of life experiences that I’m sure contributed to our collective personality, but in the micro sense, there has always been that predominant thought that New Orleans needs help. I believe the timing of our first event came in the wake of the [2010] oil spill. It got our wheels turning, and we originally thought to go help with the oil cleanup effort but quickly were informed that there were no opportunities for volunteer projects of this nature unless you were hazmat certified, etc. We then ended up at that first project, which was at a KIPP school. This event series is def one of the things that helps bring a lot of meaning and value to Scott and I personally, as we’ve chosen a profession that isn’t by its definition a charitable one. Tell us more about the…

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