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Bartender Spirits Awards

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Ariel Neal

Vice President United States Bartenders Guild- Chicago Chapter, Chicago

I am leading today’s cocktail culture one pour at a time. As a Chicago native I first fell in love with the hospitality industry while serving tasty libations as a Bartender. I made a natural transition to a entrepreneur and multicultural hospitality influencer. I am a community advocate and continue to use my platform to open the door for others. As the owner at Leira Knows Cocktails & Events LLC and Good Vibes Healing Haven. We design cocktail, wine and spirits-driven social and corporate events and Retreats with a laser-focus on education, inclusion, professionalism with a holistic approach to hospitality. My team and I wow guests with sustainable cocktail events and a curated lineup of signature libations.

In response to the challenges and other hospitality professionals of color experienced, I co-founded a non profit. Through education, mentoring, leadership training and immersive travel programs my job as a professional woman of color is to open the door for others. We use soft skill set to transform bartenders into hospitality professionals that allow them to indeed exceed the bar.
My motto: “Connecting people through cocktails,” stems from my mission to make wine, spirits and cocktail education accessible and approachable. A lifelong South Sider, I believe in the power of exposure to foster economic growth and development. I know that hospitality shapes society and I am doing my part to include the narrative of multicultural accounts by hosting industry events in various cities that encourage the exploration of overlooked neighborhoods within the city’s thriving food and beverage scene. Additionally, I educate my community on cocktail basics with the goal of motivating young adults into considering a career in the Hospitality Industry.

To get me talking for hours, just ask me about my two passions — the hospitality industry and educational travel. You can find me nerding out with other hospitality professionals at various events nationwide. I have been featured in Ebony Magazine, Food and Wine, Tales of The Cocktail Panels and Seminiars, International Cocktail Confrences as Speaker and Presenter, Cocktail Swagger and many more publications.

Meet our Judges

Valerie Cao

Director of Operations & Beverage Director, Le Colonial, Chicago

Jared Givens

Director of Restaurants, Bars, and Events at The Thompson, Hyatt Hotels, Dallas

Damian Langarica

TOP 100 World Class 2023, TOP 50 World Class 2022, Bartender at Next of Kin, Philadelphia

Timothy King

President, Bar Consultant at Prohibition Bar Group, Cincinnati

Mike Ryan

Global Beverage Director, Acurio International, Chicago

Elliott Ernst

Country's Top 100 World Class Bartenders and Mixologist, Rockford

Sam Garcia

Bartender and Runs Beverage Program at Carnvial, Chicago