It was an event that Rhode Island Bartending School owner Rae Desrosiers had been planning since May, but she said there was still some anxiety up to 30 minutes before it began.
Desrosiers and about 30 volunteers held a “Drive Responsible” event at the Columbus Club of Lincoln at 171 Jenckes Hill Road from 3-11 p.m. on Aug. 17. The day consisted of an industry night and alumni party rife with activities that ranged from drink sampling to bull riding.
There were more than a dozen sponsors, including Stop & Shop and Texas Roadhouse, and Desrosiers hustled to get everything in order before the first guests arrived.
It was a close call, but Desrosiers is no stranger to overcoming obstacles to reach success.
“I really thought we weren’t going to do it,” Desrosiers said during a break in the action. “It was 2:30 p.m. and I was like, ‘Oh, my God, we have so much more to do.’”
The nearby baseball field was littered with vendors, including Nerdyboy Candles with its myriad alcohol-scented products and Revival Brewing Company from Cranston. Foolproof Brewing Company and Narragansett – sporting vintage cans akin to those Capt. Quint famously crushed in “Jaws” – drinks were also on hand, and people played beer pong and corn hole to pass the time.
“[People] are like, ‘Wow, this looks really nice.’ I’ve been planning this since May. I feel like I did my wedding. You don’t even know,” Desrosiers said. “It feels really good.”
It was a family affair for Desrosiers, too. She had former students all around her – whether it was the security guard working the gate and administering breath tests to patrons before they were allowed to leave, or the several designated drivers tasked with taking attendees home if they were unable to drive.
Desrosiers took several asides during her interview to chat with friends and former RIBS trainees, noting that she is also a bar consultant on the side. It’s fitting, too, as she idolizes fellow bar consultant and Paramount Network television star Jon Taffer of “Bar Rescue.”
She’s even adopted a new nickname in some circles.
“Everybody calls me the Jon Taffer of Rhode Island, which, I’m nowhere near him,” Desrosiers said.
Desrosiers worked three jobs when she was 16 years old, before beginning her career as a physical therapist. However, after nine years on the job, she said she blew out her fingers and needed to find a new profession with a similar salary. Desrosiers decided on bartending and attended RIBS to begin her new journey.
“It’s the best decision I ever made, because now I own it,” Desrosiers said with a laugh. “I’m going to tell you, there’s good parts and there’s bad parts. The good parts are I’m a people person. I can be who I am. I don’t have to pretend to be anybody, which I love. Everybody says, ‘Rae’s a great person, but you have to have thick skin because she tells it like it is.’”
She took a self-described “huge leap,” saying that her grandfather told her never to have any “what-ifs” in life. Desrosiers, a single mom, took that chance and is going on her fourth year owning RIBS while rising as one of the top bar consultants in Rhode Island.
“You’ve got to take that leap,” Desrosiers said. “If you don’t know, you never know. I never want to ‘what-if’ in life. I’ve always said that. My grandfather was my father and he told me, ‘Never what-if.’ Never tell your business. Never ask anyone else’s business, but never what-if either. If you need to find out, just do it. That’s what I’ve pretty much done.”
Desrosiers is taking aim at opening her own bar, as well. She said she wants to open a speakeasy, with a revolving bookcase that leads from RIBS to the bar. The ordering process, though, would be a bit unconventional.
“When you come in, you can order what you want and we’ll bring it to you at the table, all measured out, so that way you can make your own drink,” she said. “So, it’s kind of teaching people how to make drinks while they’re having fun. So I think that would be a good idea. Nobody’s doing that in Rhode Island.”
As for Desrosiers’ favorite drink, she prefers simplicity. She described herself as a tequila drinker, so margaritas are her preferred beverage. She’s also crafted several signature drinks of her own, including the Rustic Old-Fashioned, which is made with maple syrup with coffee extract and Tabasco sauce.
After working numerous jobs to make ends meet and taking several risks, Desrosiers has mixed personal triumph, loving what she does and helping others into her own cocktail of success. It’s a drink she enjoys every day.
“Doing this is nice to not have to stress so much,” Desrosiers said. “To have money just come and have fun at what you're doing. If you don’t love what you’re doing, you can never be successful. You have to love what you’re doing to be successful, absolutely. I get to meet people every day … Everyone’s been connected. It’s a big family.”