The New York State native found her love of mixology while earning her MFA in creative writing from Columbia University, moonlighting at a Brooklyn bar. At the time, Ewing says, the bustle of the cocktail scene complemented her introspective writing practice, and she was driven by “the constant motion, the social aspect of being behind the bar, and that feeling when you make something for a guest that they absolutely love.”
Soon, she had taken to her kitchen to brew bitters from scratch, packaging the results in swing-top bottles and sharing them with friends. As she perfected her recipes, the notion of a batch cocktail enterprise (later to emerge as Vervet) began to percolate.
Along the way, Ewing contributed to beverage and literary publications. In 2017, she wrote a powerful literary essay exploring the soaring risk of addiction that hospitality professionals face. “Once you start thinking about booze most of your working hours, you get very cozy with your reasons for drinking,” she says today. “I try to be mindful. “
Ewing describes the hospitality profession as rapidly becoming more structured. In that evolution lie opportunities for workers to engage and pursue positive change. “Wellness is a hot topic because [hospitality is] suddenly a community that includes a lot more people over age 40,” she says. “Gaby Minarczyk [Clean + Dirty Drinking] is probably my favorite person to speak on this, both the issue of ageism and maintaining a balanced relationship with booze.”
In tackling sticky topics, Ewing exhibits curiosity and a rare brand of levity, coaxing readers to think critically about the hardworking people behind their favorite drinks. Movers and Shakers surveys the work of dozens of women and non-binary workers in the alcohol business, including brewer L.A. McRae (Black Star Line Brewing Co.), wine writer Alice Feiring, and hospitality activist Ashtin Berry. Of the book, which earned a coveted starred review from Library Journal, critic Stephanie Breijo (Time Out) hailed, “This isn’t just a cocktail book, it’s a call to action.”
Movers and Shakers opens by acknowledging the pain and necessity of framing our professional lives based on gender. Says the author, “Operating in an all-women space doesn’t, on the surface, seem to promote equality. ….On the other hand, there are experiences that women face that our cis-male colleagues know nothing about, and it’s important to blow these up and make them known.”
As Ewing wrapped up her nationwide book tour this winter, she simultaneously prepared federal label approval for Vervet. Now back home in Los Angeles, she refines recipes for Vervet’s upcoming large-scale canning, works on her next book, and continues to pull several shifts a week behind a local bar. “I love having multiple projects going,” she says. “It’s the only way I can stay engaged.”
Vervet’s lineup includes four effervescent concoctions, each made by hand with no lab-made flavor syrups or anything artificial. “We are starting off self-distributing in the Los Angeles area this summer and will be expanding our capacity and range based on the response,” she says. “It’s a very exciting time! “
No doubt. Then again, it’s hard to believe that Hope Ewing is ever bored.
Hope Ewing’s Recommended Reading
A Woman’s Drink by Natalka Burian
Drinking Like Ladies by Kirsten Amann and Misty Kalkofen
Batch Cocktails: Make-Ahead Pitcher Drinks for Every Occasion by Maggie Hoffman
A Falling Knife Has No Handle poems by Emily O’Neill
…and might we add:
Movers and Shakers: Women Making Waves in Spirits, Beer & Wine by Hope Ewing
Find Hope Ewing’s canned cocktails at drinkvervet.com.