While bartending can be a rewarding, lucrative profession, the job comes with a distinct set of personal challenges. From the inconsistent late hours to overabundant access to alcohol, it takes a certain amount of discipline to be a successful bartender who also maintains a healthy lifestyle. Not that it’s impossible to enjoy the finer things in life while also looking and feeling good—you just have to earn it.
That’s the idea behind Earn Your Booze, a new lifestyle company that promotes physical and mental wellness for bartenders and other service-industry professionals. Founded in Phoenix by former brewer and Navy veteran Justin Cross and the cocktail blogger behind Apartment Bartender, Elliott Clark, the company hosts a variety of programs that run the gamut from poolside yoga to a bootcamp-and-booze workshop.
“‘Earn your booze’ is something I started saying when I’d go to the gym, as a kind of slogan,” says Clark. “With Apartment Bartender, I’m always around spirits and food. When I met Justin, he had just left the brewery he was working at and was also very much into fitness. So we started it as a reminder for ourselves that if we were going to be in the world of booze, we’d do something to earn it.”
After receiving a sizable amount of initial interest, Clark and Cross launched the company as an apparel brand, selling T-shirts and gear. Since then, however, it’s developed into more of an events-based company focused on experiences and partnerships. Cross now works on the brand full-time as CEO, overseeing all operations, while Clark serves as creative director, with a focus on marketing.
In 2018, EYB hosted nearly 40 events, from Phoenix and Miami to New York, Los Angeles and Denver. Clark says they’re able to do so through mutually beneficial partnerships with liquor brands. They’ve worked with the likes of Havana Club, Monkey Shoulder, Reyka and St-Germain, as well as activewear companies like Lululemon and fitness studios such as Denver’s Compass Fitness.
“We have a lot of different types of activations; sometimes they’re at yoga studios, and sometimes they’re at hotels and even breweries,” says Clark. “We like to vary the workouts—yoga, CrossFit, rock climbing and bootcamp-style workouts—to make it inclusive.”
Pointing to the success of industry fitness events like Tequila Cazadores’ Bartender Boxing, Clark says Earn Your Booze has found a following by providing much-needed solutions for a universal challenge facing the industry. At the same time, the bartending community is now established and organized enough for such programs to gain traction on a larger scale. And from a business perspective, they represent a positive and impactful way for brands to reach and invest in talent.
“I’ve been a fan of Earn Your Booze from the get-go, when it was just a hashtag and not even a full-fledged brand,” says Gio Gutierrez, a brand ambassador for Havana Club. “The movement is important to me, as I need a little sweat to balance it all out. Which is why I’ve even brought the crew to Miami, did an event during Tales of the Cocktail and will continue to support the cause, as you never know if it can change a life for the better.”
Beyond ticket sales for events, the brand monetizes through apparel—with a portion of proceeds going toward Joined Forces Yoga, a nonprofit that teaches yoga to members of active military, reserves, National Guard and ROTC. That do-good ethos is central to the mission of Earn Your Booze, and Clark says the reception has been overwhelmingly positive from the bartending community.
“Our message is that you can have both. You don’t need to exclude good drink and food from your life,” says Clark. “Just do what you need to do to take care of your body and your mind. I received a message from one attendee who opened up about how the message of ‘earn your booze’ went beyond the physical and helped him with his depression and other things on his mind.”
In 2019, Clark says EYB will expand to more diverse programming that includes workshops, panels and seminars. He hopes to work with industry events like Arizona Cocktail Week and Tales of the Cocktail to show bartenders nationwide that they can have lasting, healthy careers and lives.
“Bartenders have a lot of circumstances trying to derail them,” says Clark. “Being constantly on the road or surrounded by booze and food, it’s hard to develop the habits to be consistent. The Earn Your Booze message is habitual and consistent.”