Tastemakers 2019: Christina Basham, Middle West Spirits and Bubbles + Agave
Christina Basham, who grew up in Franklinton, has risen through the ranks of her hometown’s restaurant and bar scene to claim a role as one of the most respected mixologists in town.
Why She’s a Tastemaker: After 15 years in the service industry, Basham has become known for her professionalism. “Christina embodies the passion, determination and Midwest authenticity that helped to build The Kitchen in its earliest days,” says Anne Boninsegna, co-owner of The Kitchen and a 2018 Tastemaker. Today, Basham works in sales for Middle West Spirits. Additionally, Basham runs her own cocktail consultancy, and serves as president of the Columbus chapter of the United States Bartenders’ Guild and as Columbus’ ambassador for Children of Restaurant Employees.
A Force of Nature on the Cocktail Scene: In 2011, Basham was lured to Denver, where she sought employment as a bartender but failed the bar exam at a local restaurant. Undeterred, Basham took another restaurant position and spent her free time learning. “I would affix myself to the bartenders,” she says. “I told them, ‘I need to know everything.’ We would go out after work, and I would take notes in my Moleskine.” After four months, she was promoted to working the bar and says her time in the city’s hospitality industry “changed my world 1,000 percent.” When she returned to Ohio in 2012, Columbus’ cocktail scene was “lacking identity,” she says. As she worked at bars in the city, she pushed for professionalism as well as a dedication to outstanding ingredients and simple yet polished technique. Today, an elevated cocktail scene thrives in Columbus. “We can thank the craft movement as well as consumers who educated themselves about the good, the bad and the ugly,” she says.
A Born Entrepreneur: With Bubbles + Agave, Basham used her favorite drink—a glass of sparkling wine with a shot of tequila, served neat—to brand her business. Calling her company “a way to organize my side hustles,” she offers hands-on cocktail classes, bartending and bar management services, event coordination as well as consulting for the hospitality industry. Basham enjoys helping troubled, stalled or fledgling bar programs turn around or get off the ground. “I can speak owner, buyer and bartender,” Basham says. “And I really love to troubleshoot.”
Empowering Others: Through the bartenders' guild, Basham has connected with others in her field, and she’s had the opportunity to travel to Guadalajara, Amsterdam and a host of U.S. cities to learn the craft. “I’ve given my time, without a doubt, and I’ve been very dedicated, but it has given me back so much,” she says about the organization. “I was intimidated, but as soon as I joined, I realized these are my people, this is my tribe.” Rooted in the tenets of education, camaraderie and philanthropy, Basham aims to empower younger bartenders, especially women and minorities, through her work with the organization.
Previous gigs: The Kitchen; Wall Street Night Club; Paulie Gee’s Short North
Recommended reading: “Liquid Intelligence” by Dave Arnold
Always in her fridge: A half-opened bottle of wine
Go-to Columbus spot: Mouton