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Virtual cocktail series highlights DMV bartenders during coronavirus pandemic

Halfsmoke in DC wanted to find a way to financially support bartenders who are out of work as a result of the coronavirus impact.

WASHINGTON — Normally you can find Lamar Lusk creating drinks behind the bar at Charlie Palmer Steak. But he's been out of work like so many others in that industry since March 15.  

"People like me have never been unemployed. It's one of those industries where you can just normally just go on an on and on," Lusk said.

Halfsmoke, a restaurant and bar in the District decided to open its doors not just to its own employees, but to bartenders all across the DMV. A few weeks into the pandemic, they started a weekly virtual bartending series. 

The series is open to all bartenders in the area who are interested in showing off their work. 

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"We all got hit hard the same exact way. None of us are exempt from this pandemic so we are not shutting our doors and saying every man for themselves. We want everyone to come together and help each other. That's just what we want to embody," Julie Andre with Halfsmoke said. 

Every Monday and Thursday at 6 p.m. you can tune in to a live cocktail class with a new guest bartender. The classes are on Zoom and on Halfsmoke's Instagram page. 

The ingredients are posted beforehand so you can follow along step by step. 

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For Cassie Womack, a longtime bartender at Bidwell Union market, these virtual classes bring a sense of normalcy. 

"It fills my heart and it fills my soul. This is what I was meant to be. Having a sense of community is what bartending is all about," said Womack. 

Credit: Cassie Womack

As restaurants and bars slowly start to reopen their doors across the country, Womack says she is looking forward to the day they can do that here in the District. 

"Honestly, I might be that bartender that buys everyone their first-round because I miss everyone. I'm going to be the Oprah of shots. You get a shot, you get a shot. Welcome back, we're home, get your six feet on, spread out a bit, and let's have some fun," Womack said.

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