Tina Chang is a young philanthropic leader, CEO, board president, arts patron, and more. One thing she is not – a bartender. But, tonight she is playing the role at Blu to raise money for United Performing Arts Fund (UPAF) and the Skylight Music Theatre.
“We have a friendly competition going, but really at the end of the day it goes to the same place – to the health of the UPAF member groups,” she says. By the looks of it, she is actually a fantastic bartender and a fund-raiser. She has a few $20 bills and even a $100 tucked into her collar like a bib, proudly displaying her earnings. The real Blu bartenders are a big help with the actual drink making, while she works hard on getting tips, she admits.
The bar is four-people-deep by the time I arrive at 6:30. There must be 200 thirsty, generous, art lovers crowding the bar – the largest the bartenders say they have ever seen for a celebrity Blu-tender event. These periodic events allow people to come in and work the bar at Blu to earn a cut of the proceeds for a deserving nonprofit.
Kathleen Dohearty is also slinging drinks while representing UPAF’s Next Generation Group. Next Generation is an affinity group for members under 45-years-old who contribute $500 or more and receive special benefits. The idea is to cultivate the next generation of philanthropic leaders and arts patrons for our city.
“At UPAF, we are made up of a very diverse community. Anyone and everyone who wants to participate and lead can. People feel like it will take forever to lead in Milwaukee, but the community wants leadership, wants people to share their talents. You don’t have to be a CEO or part of the legacy family to lead in Milwaukee,” insists Tina.
Rich Meeusen is another one of the celebrity Blu-tenders. He prepares his signature Almond Cigar cocktail for Eric Paulsen, which Paulsen tells me is “award winning.” I had to validate this claim, so I ask Rich for clarification. “It was invented by Vaklav Vijor, the owner of Bugsy’s in Prague. I went to Prague a few years ago and sought out Vaklav so he could show me exactly how to make the drink,” he reveals.
The recipe goes like this:
- 2 parts white rum
- 1 part Amaretto
- 1 part line juice
Shaken over ice and strained into a martini glass, garnished with a lime twist and a cinnamon stick.
Rich explains that the best part of this drink is that it incorporates three of the five tastes that the human palate can discern: sweet (the rum), sour (the lime juice) and umami (the amaretto). “Also, the cinnamon stick garnish enhances the umami flavor, making it quite unique.”
“As a result of my stint at Blu, I developed a new respect for the bartenders in our city – that was darn hard work!” says Rich later in an email. “I was sweating heavily by the time I was done with my one-hour shift, but very happy that I raised $1,500 in tips for UPAF. And I introduced Milwaukee to the Almond Cigar.”
Milwaukee thanks you, Rich, for the Almond Cigar.
The 2013 UPAF campaign is underway and will culminate with its signature event, The Ride of the Arts on June 2. Three chair people are leading the charge this year – Gail Lione retired lawyer from Harley-Davidson, Chuck Harvey from Johnson Controls, and Skip Poliner from Northwestern Mutual – to raise $11 million for the arts, the highest amount in UPAF’s 46-year history.
For more information on member groups, events or to donate, click here. After all, “The arts feed your soul,” reminds Tina.