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Check Out Sabrina Minks’s Story

Today we’d like to introduce you to Sabrina Minks.

Hi Sabrina, so excited to have you on the platform. So before we get into questions about your work-life, maybe you can bring our readers up to speed on your story and how you got to where you are today?

Hi and thanks for reaching out. I grew up moving around Southern California a bit living between my grandmothers, mothers and fathers in between Long Beach and East side of Los Angeles for the most part. For my most formative years of high school I ended up staying in Silver Lake with my dad and his wife. My dad being a chef and the city of Los Angeles brimming with cultural influences, I was exposed to not only new genres of food, but to the cultures affiliated with what I was eating. I began working in hospitality at 16, hosting at an orchid decorated Indian lounge on Sunset called Tantra. I stayed working in hospitality in Los Angeles, spending my early twenties at the Viper Room and then at The Bar Marmont for a number of years in the earlyish 2000s (2009-2012). I made my way to Chicago and my understanding of hospitality and cocktails bloomed with the community there. I began bar tending through college while in Chicago and upon my return to Los Angeles, I ended up back for a second chapter, this time bar tending behind the hotel bar in the Chateau Marmont. This is where I met my now business partner Danielle Motor. We quickly connected over our love for all things nostalgia, story and glamour. My background in poetry and creative writing along with Danielle’s love for storytelling and inspired interaction with creatives melded into a shared excitement for creating experiences (and storied cocktails). This seamlessly led to not only concepts around cocktails designed with stories, moments, people and places in mind, but opened up opportunities for moments and memory to link to palate and this olfactory recollection that inspired us to create a company allowing for us to offer an experience and story with intention behind our cocktails in spaces outside of the Chateau.

Our company Sunset Boulevardier is a craft-driven consulting and experientially driven beverage company in Los Angeles founded by myself (Sabrina Minks) and my business partner Danielle Motor. Collectively, we have consulted on cocktail menus and have done staff training at The Chateau Marmont, Petit Trois, The Hungry Cat, The Proper Hotel in DTLA and more.

After three years working together at Chateau, Danielle and I left the to join the opening bar team at the NoMad Hotel, a sweeping space of beauty and inspiration. In our time at the NoMad, we began hosting small curated salons with on theme cocktails to like-minded community and hosted first all-encompassing experiential event at Pali Hotels West Hollywood property featuring a variety of talented friends including world-renowned theramin player Armen Ra who enchanted the audience with an exquisite performance, Diva Zappa reading tarot, an immersive whisky tasting with Scotch specialist Una Green. A dress code was enforced asking guests to stay on theme to the dark, enchanted glamour of the evening. We additionally hosted an ongoing natural wine driven open mic performance night entitled ‘The Last Sunday on Earth’ with a variety of musical performances, poetry readings and of course cocktails to align with the theme of each night.

Prior to the pandemic, I was working in brand work, teaching whisk(e)y and brandy master classes, traveling to various regions and working with spirits brands to grow and educate the masses on categories like California Brandy and Irish Whiskey. Danielle was continuing to work on her music career as a bassist, writing music and was recovering from an injury. As the world of events and hospitality crumbled with the onset of the Corona Virus, I was laid off from my full-time position with the brand I was working with in July of 2020.

At that point, Danielle and I had only our side passion project, Sunset Boulevardier, left to work with monetarily in a time where work seemed impossible in our industry. Applying our love for events and bringing creative friends together to entertain and celebrate, we linked up with a startup tech company launching a person to person platform working to create a safe, virtual space to give DJs and musicians a place to perform, and all of us at home in lockdown a way to dance and connect with friends and other folks excited to dress up, put on disco lights and dance to their favorite Djs from the safety of their homes with one another on screen and the people in their bubbles.

With D8E, Sunset Boulevardier aided in launching a Halloween event in 2020 like no other. Featuring Dita Von Teese streaming a live performance with belly dancer Alia Mohamed, a bull whip performance with Tosca Cyr, a tutorial led via livestream with a modern icon of all things artfully spooky Christine McConnell and DJ sets by Felix Da Housecat, Junior Sanchez and so much more. VIP participants received gift kits put together by Danielle and me with D8E branding featuring a custom disco lightbox, cocktail ingredients to create cocktails at home concocted by Sunset Boulevardier with sponsorship from Elyx Vodka, a signed copy of Elvira Mistress of the Dark’s book, a signed journal by Dita Von Teese and many other goodies to delight.

While planning this Halloween Event and building out a high volume of VIP kits, the matter of workspace came into play. Through a beautiful relationship emphasizing community support of small businesses during this difficult time Sunset Boulevardier paired up with a gem to the Silver Lake neighborhood, L&E Oyster bar. The founders of L&E agreed to let Sunset Boulevardier work in their at the time unusable (due to lockdown) upstairs bar space to work as a headquarters for the brand in exchange for batched cocktails designed to pair with their seafood selection available to go with the new laws adopted allowing to go cocktail programming through this pandemic.

The execution of the Halloween event and kit execution with D8E along with the online cocktail classes Sunset Boulevardier had started teaching for our online event partners at Firefly Team Events allowed for a lightbulb moment. Why not create bespoke cocktail kits to pair with the sessions being taught online? So we got to work. The kits have evolved and continue to evolve since their initial debut in December of 2020.

Teaming up with a third-party license, we now offer custom cocktail kits featuring everything needed to put together artisanal creations from home to send as gifts, host corporate team building sessions online (or in person now under CDC regulations), socially distant celebrations and more. The kits are designed to be functional with or without the add on of a live-streamed class with Sunset Boulevardier.

Each kit is packed in glass tamper evident sealed bottles and includes farmers market citrus, house-infused syrups, bitters and spirits (or ingredients for non-alcoholic cocktails when requested) and sustainability. Whenever possible, we choose to highlight spirits made by POC, women and distilleries utilizing sustainable and craft methods, craft brands take precedent in our programing.

We have and continue to teach immersive classes in person and online. In addition to classes, SB offers coinciding cocktail, whisk(e)y & tequila kits both locally and they can be mailed to most states domestically. Regularly conducting team-building experiences for corporate teams at Dell, First National Bank, Stanford University, Capital Bank, Microsoft and more. Kits and classes are also available to noncommercial clients and can be customized to stay on theme for a personal touch to any event.

As the world has opened up a bit, Sunset Boulevardier continues to offer in person events following all CDC recommendations. Creating specialty cocktails designed for each event. SB has created thematic cocktails for a variety of brands, celebrities, premiers and specializes in creating drinks that draw from the theme of the event prior to and through this pandemic.

Additionally, seasonal batched cocktails can be made to order for delivery or pickup in larger format sizes, with occasional releases in smaller format sizes in Los Angeles. Keep on eye on @sunsetboulevardier on Instagram for limited release menus.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
There have been many challenges in adapting and shaping (and reshaping) the focus and direction of Sunset Boulevardier. With its initial conception being very much a side passion project offering a way for us as founders of the company to host our own immersive and creative events tying in our creative communities as well as contributing to the programming of beautifully executed events. We were challenged to pivot into a direction that required us to think up ways to generate income and execute programming quickly and efficiently in a time where all of the odds were against us. We have never worked with an investor, prior to the pandemic we worked in brand work and bartended, there was no massive savings account to fund the growth of our brand and a nest was never in our initial business plan. There has been a lot of living gig to gig so to speak in the last year and a half.

The monetary challenges presented by Covid-19 and the further setbacks of being cognizant and hyper-conscious of social distancing left us feeling lost at times on ways to get through what felt like a heavy and hopeless weight each day. We are very fortunate to have a supportive network of creative and hard-working friends who always think about one another, connecting folks for opportunities whenever possible. The connection we made through a mutual friend early on in the lockdown of 2020 with Firefly Team Events really catapulted our overall pivot, allowing us to realize that an online format is a viable way of connecting and bringing people together. Danielle was inspired by the 1959 debut production put out by Playboy called ‘Playboys Penthouse’, a variety show that featured and integrated poets, artists, singers, musicians and comedians of all ethnicities and religions for the first time on television. Stars from the days of old Hollywood were shown for the first time in an integrated and candid way, having cocktails and spending time creating and interacting unfiltered. Inspiring us to really start thinking about how we can adapt during a time that feels so disconnected from the things we love.

We teamed up in January of 2021 to execute our first in person event since the start of the pandemic as a vendor with Gladiator Productions and skincare line Ole Hendriken delivering cocktails from a vintage ice cream truck that was rebranded to fit the theme of Ole Hendriksen’s new Lemonade inspired skincare line. Going door to door to some of the brand’s partners and beauty influencers in the Los Angeles area. It was exhilarating to work with a professional team to safely put on a fun activation in the midst of an unprecedented time. We were covid tested for the production and had full PPE with masks, shields, gloves and all social distancing measures taken. The event started to give hope of what a different kind of future could look like.

Never having worked full time for ourselves before, the challenges of each month fluctuating on business is still real and oftentimes jarring. After a year and a half of ups and downs, there is a real want for consistency (as with all small businesses!). The ongoing fluctuation of covid case numbers, indoor mask mandates, surges and variants affect the likelihood of in person events booked and ‘zoom fatigue’ is a real thing, often driving numbers of online classes down. While we have been immensely grateful to have pushed onward and upward during a time that did not feel realistic for our industry, the challenges are presented constantly.

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
Our in person events are where our creativity shines, we love feeling inspired by the theme of an event and the folks involved to create cocktail concepts that are memorable and immersive.

Online classes are designed not only to educate attendees on cocktail and spirit culture and history but to showcase how to elevate your home bar and home cocktails by supporting local, independent and minority-owned businesses in the spirits industry.

Kits to pair with classes or offer separately from our classes for clients, team building inside of the workplace or for gifts for friends and family are available and can be customized for larger orders. We can include custom cocktail names, etched glassware with custom logos or phrases and even create custom programming in our whisk(e)y/agave tasting kits and cocktail kits.

Consulting on cocktail menus for restaurants is always an exciting challenge for Danielle and myself. Having worked behind bars and in hospitality for a collective 30 years between the two of us, we have experience with all of the challenges presented in executing cocktails in a variety of venues. We are currently consulting on the menu at The forthcoming Proper Hotel in DTLA and look forward to other projects as the world reopens.

How can people work with you, collaborate with you or support you?
With the holiday season upon us, we are excited to offer classes for teams online with the option of coinciding mocktail, cocktail or tasting kits to add on. Feel free to shoot us an email for pricing options.

Additionally, parties will be in full swing again soon. We are booking outdoor events and case by case indoor events for the holiday season and will continue to follow CDC regulations while taking all precautions. Feel free to reach out with inquiries and Danielle or myself will be in touch ASAP.

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Eugene Lee Josh Shaedel Holly Jo Rich Royal Matt Petit Christopher Polk

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