Iron Bartender highlights local cocktail culture

Published 4:45 pm Saturday, July 30, 2022

Conversations about Mississippi and food often involve the word tradition. A tradition is something that has simply extended beyond the individual impacting and influencing a group.  Cocktails have become a tradition in Mississippi as restaurants explore how beverages add to their culinary conversation.  The return of makers to Mississippi from Cathead Distillery creating vodka, gins, and bourbons to the locally produced Wonderbird who are using the state’s roots in agriculture to create products with the flavor of Mississippi contribute to local restaurants’ efforts to blend classic cocktails with regional influences.

Annually, the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council hosts the Iron Bartender fundraiser, an annual convening of Mississippi bartenders.  A convention of cocktail crafters seeking to be both challenged and inspired by colleagues. While billed as a competition, the evening draws bartenders from across the state who seek to share their skills, ideas and express themselves through their creations.   The public who attend to sample the liquid creations experience a performance by the mixologist who draws inspiration from a host of experiences and influences building stories about their creations. The true audience might be the other cocktail crafters as the friendly competition has become a place to share, explore and test ideas with fellow professionals.

The Arts Council hosts events to encourage community members to rethink how different talents are part of the creative community. While a painter may create works influenced by landscapes. A writer creates stories from the people or experiences of growing up in the South.  Those who prepare our meals tell their story through the foods, herbs, and products of the region. What is eaten is part of our story.  What we drink is shaped by the land, people, and traditions. 

Email newsletter signup

In 1908, Mississippi passed statewide prohibition—twelve years before National Prohibition became law as issues of women’s rights, alcohol, and religion came together at a critical moment in the State’s history.  Mississippi is technically still a “dry” state. However, the policy allows for counties to have a vote and opt to become “wet” and allow for the sale of alcohol.    How bartenders from the almost a dozen establishments share and relate to the history of spirits in Mississippi, the products made in the state, and their connection is part of sharing their story.

The Arts Council invites those 21 years older and above to join Oxford bartenders from: McEwan’s, Jinsei, Bar Muse, Blind Pig, Uno Mas, and Tupelo’s Harvey’s and Forklift on Friday, August 12th from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Powerhouse for cocktails.  The conversation, celebration and sharing of stories inspired by the cocktails are included with the experience.  Tickets for the event are limited and available at


Wayne Andrews is chairman of the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council.