You may not know Bevin Biggers, but it’s possible you’ve seen her before. Perhaps you participated in one of her group bike rides dubbed “Tour De Badness”. It could be that you’ve seen the picture of her standing with a stoic, emotionless expression holding a sign in a protest of police violence.
It’s possible you received one of the snack packs she made and handed out to protestors the summer following the murder of George Floyd. That same summer she made headlines as the whistle-blowing bartender questioning the working conditions and COVID-19 protocols at her restaurant job.
If you didn’t catch one of those articles, maybe you’ve seen her bartending in the background of shows like HBO Max’s House of Ho. Or, maybe, you attended one of her pop-up bars during the pandemic, or learned something from her mixology videos, where she shows how to make bar staples like simple syrups, sidecars, and margaritas as well as try out concoctions like wine infused ice cream.
Biggers is entrenched in the world of alcohol and food service and, at her young age, has built up an extensive resume that she says is just getting started.
Sitting at the bar at 13 Celsius, nibbling at cheese, gherkins, and aged prosciutto on a charcuterie board, Biggers reflects on her career in bartending, and how it almost ended before it began. “I was definitely thinking this is not for me. I kept saying this industry is not for me and it will never see me again,” she says with a loud laugh.
Exposed to a New World
The 28 year old started young, working as a dishwasher in her teens. She says it was an experience that left her thinking hard about other career options.
“Things changed, because I needed some money, and there was a waitress job in The Heights. I lived all the way on the southwest side and had never really hung out in The Heights like that. When I got there they started talking about microbreweries. They started telling me about all these different drinks and liquor. I came from a place where all I knew about was Budweiser, Hennessy, Alizé, and Busch.”
The exposure to a different bar scene left her intrigued, and what started out as a way to just quickly earn money waitressing, evolved into a learning opportunity, with which Biggers became consumed.
“I was able to work every job there, and I just soaked it up because I felt like I was being exposed to a new world. I was a dishwasher, a barback, a hostess, a busser, a line cook, and pretty much everything else in between. They needed help getting their business up and running and I was willing to work and be flexible.”
While those jobs opened up her mind to the culinary industry, she always had a focus on the beverage side of things and when the opportunity arose she didn’t hesitate to get behind the bar. What she soon found was that her passion for the industry would grow even more as her bar knowledge increased.
“This location had 30 beers on tap. I was learning about Pilsners, stouts, ambers, and bocks and they were constantly testing your knowledge. You had to know what everything was in order to sell to the customers, and I just kept learning more and more. I eventually applied for a job down the street working as a barista, so I was doing that at the same time. The barista job helped me become even better with bar and beverage knowledge, so I just figured I’d see how far I could go in this industry.”
The more she learned, the further that she wanted to go, leading her to work at beer gardens, coffee shops, nightclubs, cocktail lounges, and more here in Houston, as well as in Manhattan, New York. The ability to work in other cities gave her insight into what she wanted to see back home, not just for Houston in general, but also for her own community.
'Blackness is Not a Monolith'
“Once I started to bartend, it was like a different world, a different culture. I was exposed to so many different things because I was offered the opportunity. A lot of times when it comes to establishments that are non-white, assumptions are made. People see Black, and just assume that the only thing that should be offered is flavored vodka and a couple varieties of whiskey.
I would have had the exact same taste if I wasn't offered more. It's not that there is something wrong with those offerings, but blackness is not a monolith. I can make you an Incredible Hulk. I can also make you an old fashioned.”
Says Biggers: Getting over the monolithic treatment, that is assuming Black customers in Houston don't need access to a higher quality restaurant and bar experience, is a problem that's complex, and able to be tackled from various angles. It is something she truly believes shouldn't be ignored.
"Bartending has taken me a lot of places, and I’ve been exposed to a lot of things. My problem is I can work in one environment where I’m able to display everything I’ve learned, and truly offer the service that the customer deserves; but I’m not seeing that same level of service when I’m in the places that are serving people like me."
She says she wants a more equitable dining and drinking experience for Black people in Houston. "I don’t like to see people turned away from certain bars, or stereotyped just because they are Black," she says. "I also don’t like to see our own businesses not putting in the effort for our hard-earned dollars, simply because they know they will receive our support regardless of the product they put out.
At the end of the day I just want my people to get the standard. A lot of times we only get the standard when we are going to other places that we call "high-class". They’re not high-class. They are just giving the standard service that everyone deserves.”
Wanting to offer a fix, Biggers has started to push her business beyond bartending and more towards beverage consulting.
“I kept getting bar questions, and that’s what led me towards consultant work. You can do what you want with your money, but if you need help opening your bar, restaurant, beer garden or whatever you can come to me," she says.
No Basic Drinks
The shift had Biggers working with brands like Highway Vodka, Redbull, OST Liquor, Alleykat, Jack Daniels and Deep Eddy Vodka. She says she helps restaurant owners look at their bar with the same artistic eye as they would look at their kitchen.
“When I see a food menu that has obviously taken time and work, but the drink menu is basic, it disappoints me. We drink more than rum and Cokes or vodka and Sprites," she shares. She says that what she does with drinks is like what a chef does with food.
Ultimately, however, Biggers wants to continue to help businesses, and also mixologists and chef's and other culinary creatives achieve success. "Do you like rum and Coke? Let me show you an old fashioned that might suit your taste as well," she explains. "They may like it, and for the restaurant there’s an opportunity to highlight and showcase their food and drink on another level."
She’s currenlty working on making her mark on the local restaurant scene go even deeper. Plans are already in the works on a start-up that's named for the street that Biggers grew up on in Houston's Hiram Clarke neighborhood, called Bligh St. Academy. The details aren't completely public, yet, as she's fine-tuning the business plan, and putting her idea before the eyes of people who can help get her to the next step.
For now, she's continuing to brand herself as an expert in Houston's bar and beverage scenes, and build on her reputation as an asset for those looking to make it in the city's competitive restaurant industry.
"I’ll give you the skeleton and the meat of what you need to do to make things work. If you need someone to help you with your beer or wine list, if you need food pairings, or if you need to do things like develop a cocktail program, we can piece everything together,” she says about the consulting side of her business.
Biggers plans to keep providing spaces where people can learn and participate in bartending. She's also committed to continue to help push Houston to offer a level of restaurant and bar service that can be enjoyed by everyone, especially people who come from where she comes from. “I grew up here. I’m from Third Ward, and I love my home and my people," Biggers says.