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Virtual speakeasy helps Tampa Bay bartenders pick up a shift at home

Horse Soldier Bourbon and the United States Bartenders’ Guild have teamed up to support the local bar community. You can tune in every Wednesday.
Planning to check out Horse Soldier Bourbon's virtual speakeasy? Here's what you need to make an Old Fashioned for the live stream. [SYDNEY LIEBMAN | Horse Soldier Bourbon]

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Restaurants aren’t the only ones getting creative during the coronavirus pandemic.

In partnership with the Tampa Bay chapter of the United States Bartenders’ Guild, Horse Soldier Bourbon in St. Petersburg has launched a relief initiative for local bartenders who are out of work at the moment, tapping them to lead its new live-streaming speakeasy series.

The series will premiere at 6 p.m. March 25 on the Horse Soldier Facebook and Instagram pages.

“The bartenders across Tampa Bay, our backyard, are not only our partners but they are also our friends,” said Horse Soldier co-founder Scott Neil in statement. “We hope this virtual speakeasy gives them not just a little cash, but also a chance to engage in what they love to do and are probably missing most right now: crafting cocktails. That’s what bourbon is all about, bringing people together. Social distancing doesn’t mean we can’t virtually come together.”

These virtual sipping sessions, hosted every Wednesday, allow cocktail wizards in the area to pick up a shift remotely. Bartenders will answer questions about mixology and whip up libations from their home bars, and Horse Soldier is paying each of them a shift fee.

“The goal is to give bartenders the ability to raise funds for themselves and others as an effort to help them stay afloat while their place of employment is closed,” said Brenda Terry, president of the United States Bartenders’ Guild Tampa Bay Chapter, in an email to the Times.

What’s in it for viewers? Well, for starters, a bunch of digital drinking buddies. But also the opportunity to support the participating bartenders with tips for their time and talent through Venmo or PayPal.

The community can nominate a bartender who would be a good fit for the series in a comment or message to Horse Soldier’s social media accounts.

The first live-streaming speakeasy will feature Tony Finotti of downtown St. Petersburg craft cocktail bar Copper Shaker. Finotti is set to go live from Horse Soldier’s St. Pete facility. The rest of the series will showcase bartenders doing their thing at home.

Grab a glass and tune in.

In addition to its collaboration with Horse Soldier, the local United States Bartenders’ Guild chapter is in the planning stages of a virtual program focused on education that will financially benefit bartenders around town.

Terry said the organization will also team up with several Tampa Bay restaurants doing to-go food and cocktails on another relief effort kicking off March 29 in St. Pete.

“We will be sponsoring Family Meals for the hospitality community with a bar and food spend at each establishment in conjunction with partnered spirit brands,” Terry said. “Our first Family Meal will be at Trophy Fish with Maestro Dobel Tequila.”

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