Yay Concierge Curates Remote Luxury Food and Drink Experiences

Founder Damaris Messina curates lessons on bartending, wine pairings, bourbon tastings and cooking lessons with renowned hospitality professionals for people who might not be able to see each other in person.
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Mixing up an East Side cocktail with Yay Concierge.

Zoom Happy Hour with good friends, family or colleagues across the country is now a mainstream mood. If Coronavirus did only one good thing, it inspired new ways of bringing people together from afar through video conferencing. So why not make it even better? Yay Concierge is a new virtual concierge service that can connect people with luxurious remote experiences, such as, learning about wine or bourbon and mixing up cocktails or learning how to cook with renowned bartenders, chefs and other hospitality industry professionals.

I had the chance to experience a recent Yay Concierge Happy Hour with the founder, Damaris Messina, who is from Rhode Island. She has more than a decade of experience in hospitality and luxury hotel sales, and most recently served as a sales executive at Marriott International before she was furloughed like many other hospitality employees.

For the virtual Cocktail Mixology experience, Messina enlisted veteran bartender Marshall Altier to teach us how to mix up three amazing cocktails using Aviation American Gin. Altier’s home base is in Las Vegas, where he has worked at the Cosmopolitan. He has also led bar programs as a consultant and proprietor for the Mandarin Oriental, the Four Seasons, and, most recently, his own rum-focused restaurant in Brooklyn, Chicha.

To prepare for the Yay Concierge Happy Hour, we were given a shopping list of ingredients to purchase a few days before the scheduled event. The shopping list included simple items like limes and lemons, cucumber, honey, fresh mint and ginger, but we also had to make sure we had some appropriate barware, too, such as a shaker and strainer. We were asked to prepare a few items in advance, which included a simple syrup and honey syrup, as well as candied ginger slices (if using).

Other than the advance preparations, which also included making sure we had a bottle of Aviation Gin and some ginger beer on hand, we were ready to login and begin. A small group of about eight participated in the Yay Concierge Happy Hour, so we could see and interact with everyone during the experience while listening to and watching the bartender for instructions.

Altier recounted the history of the spirit gin, so we were able to learn about its origins, and he gave us the rundown on the brand of gin we were using (Aviation is owned by Ryan Reynolds!). There were no Ryan Reynolds sightings, but one of my friends did get a like from Ryan Reynolds on Twitter when she shared her drink made with Aviation Gin on social media!

The cocktails we made were relatively simple, and I was able to easily follow along at home even with two kids needing my attention at the same time. We learned how to make three different drinks called the Bee’s Knees (which included gin, lemon and honey syrup), the East Side (lime, cucumber and mint) as well at the Gin Gin Mule (which involved ginger beer with lime, mint and simple syrup). I would make all three of the drinks again at home. I learned a lot about how to keep cocktails properly balanced, which involves equal parts sweetness to balance the bitterness (which is why that simple syrup or honey syrup are such important ingredients).

Yay Concierge can curate so much more than happy hours, too. Messina has also organized lessons on wine pairings, bourbon tastings and cooking lessons with renowned hospitality professionals for couples, friends and family members who aren’t able to see each other in person. There are also options for tablescaping design and charcuterie board design.

“I saw this challenging time as an opportunity to innovate and meet a need that was missing in our industry. Starting my own business has always been a dream of mine,” says Messina. “I’m excited to leverage my hospitality background and the passion of my furloughed industry colleagues to curate virtual experiences that connect individuals with hospitality professionals to create engaging and sophisticated gatherings from the comfort of their homes.”

Messina can customize various experiences that last forty-five minutes to an hour, depending on the size of the group. Tailored experiences require ten days advance notice, and prices vary for each event.

“I personally curate each experience and coordinate the details for these virtual gatherings,” Messina says. “I take pride in creating these intimate moments for individuals and providing my hospitality colleagues with an additional stream of revenue and the opportunity to share their passion with these remote experience seekers.”

Find out more at yayconcierge.com.



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