Live with Passion
By Ronda M. Parag
Born and raised in Tampa, Justin Gray is happy to share his passion and vision for Tampa. Whether bartending at Anise Global Gastrobar, or volunteering for a cause, Gray is committed to creating a better community for all. While some young people are drawn to the bright lights of LA or New York, Gray is proud of his native city and willing to invest his energy to make the Tampa Bay area great. “If we keep loosing our assets (meaning our young people), we will never arrive at our full potential,” says Gray. As a result of his upbringing, Gray firmly believes in “Paying It Forward and Giving Back.”
Gray admits he is a “spiritual sound being” and that permeates every aspect of his life. Among his many community activities, Gray serves as the Vice President of the Bartenders Guild (his 2nd, two year term) and has been a three year member of the Producers Board for the Straz Center. This year, Gray will serve as Event Chair for Best of Tampa Bay 2016 to be held April 16, 2016 at the Straz Center. The fun-filled, all you can eat and drink event, includes more than 40 local restaurants and caterers, open bar and four stages of live music to raise funds for arts education programs at the Straz Center. “I never ask for myself, but I ask for the groups I work with,” says Gray. As part of the craft-cocktail culture, Gray can talk flavors, techniques and spirits all day long, but with his giving nature, he is part bartender, part humanitarian – the perfect mix.
Q & A
METRO: Where are you on your off nights?
Gray: In a bar or restaurant in Ybor City, downtown St. Petersburg or Seminole Heights. I like to support my friends. I double up by combining leisure and work. I also have my own marketing and catering company, A & A Hospitality Services.
M: What are the hottest bar conversations?
G: While we are suppose to “hear and not hear” it is fun to watch all the Tinder dates happening.
M: Who is the most interesting person you’ve served at the bar?
G: Derek Jeter was in last week, but I don’t get star struck. The arts have magic for me, so I’d have to say the folks involved in the production of Lion King, from the make-up and costume designers, to the cast and musicians from the orchestra pit.
M: What is your favorite cocktail?
G: The Mint Julep – the simplest of cocktails with three ingredients – sugar, bourbon and mint. It is great for Derby Day or a cool fall or winter day.
M: Favorite city to drink, other than Tampa?
G: There is no place like New Orleans. M
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