J.A. Harrison

Photo by  Amanda Harrison

After moving to Tennessee from Colorado Springs, CO, J.A. Harrison began his Nashville bartending journey at 51st Kitchen and Bar in The Nations, where he was promoted to lead bartender after a few short months. He studied culinary techniques under executive chef Francesco Vito and fashioned a beverage programme to reflect and compliment Vito’s hyper-local-seasonal farm-to-table menu. Using fresh herbs that he cultivated in their on-premise produce garden, J.A. developed recipes for all of the housemade syrups, tinctures and tonics which he used in curating a seasonally-rotating menu of house cocktails. While lead bartender for 51st Kitchen and Bar, J.A. competed in Nashville’s inaugural Commonwealth cocktail competition.

Following his time at 51st Kitchen and Bar, J.A. moved to Pinewood Social where he studied for a year under the tutelage of Nashville industry giant Matt Tocco. While there, he participated in creating the official “Nashville Gin” for the United States Bartenders’ Guild at Edinburgh Gin’s “Science of Distillation” laboratory with head distiller Dave Wilkinson. Representing Pinewood Social in Nashville’s second annual Commonwealth cocktail competition, J.A. took home the 1st place grand prize for the winning cocktail.

After joining the Makeready team in September of 2017 to help open Noelle Nashville, J.A. was named a 2017 Espolòn “Cocktail Fights” regional finalist; won the USBG Southern Regionals for an absinthe distillation education in the Val de Travers, Switzerland, as a 2018 Kübler “Reimagining the Classics” national champion; was named a top-ten 2018 Castle & Key “Restoration Release” national finalist; was selected as one of eight bartenders to represent the City of Nashville at the 2018 Music City Food and Wine Festival to create the 2018 Official Drink of Nashville; took home 2nd place as the runner-up of the 2018 Espolòn “Cocktail Fights;” and was named a top-eight finalist in the 2019 National Restaurant Association Show’s “Star of the Bar” cocktail competition.

Upon accepting a position in March of 2019 to direct the beverage programme for Make a Play Hospitality Group and oversee North Nashville-based craft cocktail lounge Minerva Avenue, J.A. Harrison advanced to the top-ten international finals for North, Central, and South America in Brugal 1888’s “Nearly Neat” 2019 cocktail competition, where he placed 3rd out of an initial 500 contestants for the Americas; placed in the top three finalists for Dave Wondrich’s “Punchout” in conjunction with the 2019 Nashville Cocktail Festival; was named in the Nashville Post as “Someone with such an extraordinary mix of culinary and bartending talents to curate some of the most innovative cocktails in the world;” and finished 3rd in the Lux Row Bourbon Battle out of 200 applicants.

Recently, after making it to the International Artists Day "The Art of the Cocktail" Top 25, and then moving on to the Top 3, J.A. was named the 2019 International Artists Day Celebrity Bartist in Residence, presented by Chilled Magazine and Van Gogh Vodka, for his winning cocktail "The Sadness Will Not Last Forever." He has had his cocktails "After the Bellwether" and "Sombremesa" published in Chilled Magazine, and was chosen to design the official 2019 Fernet-Branca coin for the state of Tennessee on behalf of Fratelli Branca and Branca USA.

After spending two years as the Director of Events’ Coordination for the Nashville chapter of the United States Bartenders’ Guild, J.A. Harrison was elected in January of 2019 by the Nashville bartending community as the USBG Chapter President and is committed to making his city’s blossoming beverage community a rich and thriving environment for all to grow and practice their craft, while simultaneously focusing on re-tuning the USBG chapter’s attentions toward the importance of environmental sustainability and on caring for the health and mental-wellness needs of Nashville's service industry. He believes in the Earth and is committed to giving back to her. As an amateur gardener and forager, he is continually seeking out ways to improve sustainability, reduce carbon footprint, provide for bees and butterflies and preserve the planet, all the while delving deeper into the rich and storied history of the herbs and botanical compounds that are quintessential to producing the great spirits and cocktails of his trade. When you don’t see him behind the bar or outside cultivating his garden, you can find him at any Tennessee state park; camping, hiking and paddleboarding with his spouse and their three dogs.