Meet Jess Pomerantz of Columbia, South Carolina | Video

Jess Pomerantz’s two paths as a mental health professional and bartender are intrinsically intertwined. As she studied psychology in college, she began working in restaurants on the side. To her fascination, she found many of the behaviors she was learning about in her studies—from dominance between different genders to addiction and substance abuse to money management—were mirrored in restaurants. 

Jess Pomerantz

When Pomerantz moved to New York City for her master’s degree, her interest in craft cocktails led to bartending jobs at top bars in the city. She competed in numerous competitions, including the Cognac Connection and Speed Rack, a cocktail competition for women bartenders. She says the more she learned about psychology and bartending, the more she realized “the skills and concepts were not all that different.” It shaped her pursuit of both interests, learning and doing as much as possible in both the hospitality sector and the mental health field to merge the two into a way to support restaurant workers’ mental health. 

Her studies brought her and her bartending talents to Columbia. While working toward her doctorate in clinical-community psychology, she immersed herself in the city’s restaurants, working to help open Black Rooster and, in the fall of 2022, Smoked on Columbia’s Main Street. A creative at heart, she found a welcoming environment to experiment with cocktail flavors and aesthetics at Smoked. 

One of her favorite creations, the Banana Hammock, was born during a brainstorming session with her bar manager. They wanted to create a drink that was approachable but rich and boozy. They started playing around with warming reposado tequila and then began layering it with other flavors: creamy banana liqueur, mole bitters for chocolate notes, and a pinch of salt to brighten the trio. The resulting cocktail is fruity and light but anchored in warming spice notes. 

When she’s not crafting new drinks or exploring the creative cocktails shaping other restaurants, Pomerantz is in the final years of her PhD studies. Upon earning her degree, she plans to launch a nonprofit that offers mental health support services to members of the hospitality industry, all shaped by her studies and firsthand experiences of the challenges that industry members face.

Banana Hammock

The banana hammock feat

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