Mixology Life Lessons: What Cocktails Teach Us About Vulnerability, Rest, and Valuable Action

A lot of us have long forgotten our pandemic hobbies. Baking sourdough or learning an instrument has been replaced by the hustle and bustle of “normal life.”

But Ramona Jackson, guest on episode 21 of the Unlocking the Club podcast is still going strong.

Born from a desire to find a bit of connection in isolation, Ramona started mixing creative cocktails that are deeply steeped in diverse cultures and sharing them with family and friends.

Today, The Bourbon Bohemian is a full-fledged business. It’s a creative outlet for softness and ease, a balance to her day job as an IT Product Developer with the Department of Defense.

Through our conversation, Ramona unlocks important lessons about vulnerability, rest as revolution, and how to take meaningful action. Listen to our full interview on the podcast or read on here for some key takeaways.

Mixology Life Lessons

A woman shaking a cocktail and smiling

Life is a balance. And for Ramona, mixology is the perfect balance in her life.

As a technologist, she deals with questions and solutions—hard, real-life challenges that require objectivity, expertise, and firm decision-making.

As a mixologist, she deals with the creative, the soft, the open. It connects people, cultures, and ideas together with fun and levity.

This dichotomy is important to achieve balance in Ramona’s life. And balance is something we all need, as it helps us:

  • Engage with different people and ideas.
  • Explore all sides of yourself and your identity.
  • Combine rest and work in a meaningful way.

That last piece of rest and work is a major theme in our conversation. Ramona’s a firm believer that rest is a revolution. Rest will be forced upon us if we don’t do it intentionally. Rest for Ramona is partly in seeking silence and solitude through her love of hiking and nature, but it’s also in connection with others.

Ramona is a natural connector—it’s her superpower. Pre-pandemic, she thrived in social settings, curating fun events and activities for her loved ones. Once lockdown happened and this wasn’t possible, Ramona had to get creative about how to connect and explore creativity.

She started mixing cocktails, sharing them online, hosting COVID-safe parties, and sending people home with cocktail kits.

And then it grew, and grew, and grew. Today, it’s a standalone business, not just a hobby.

Many of Ramona’s cocktails are inspired by other cultures. Because of her desire to never co-opt someone’s experiences just for sales, Ramona is intentional about diving deep into learning and knowledge about the culture. Whenever she can’t speak with someone from the culture, she pours herself into learning everything about the culture and history. She creates from that space of knowledge and understanding.

In doing this, she’s offering a space where you can see other people, cultures, and experiences. It’s what she wants others to do to her—take time to learn and see her culture.

We all desire to be seen. For Ramona, cocktails are helping make that a reality.  

Open the Junk Drawers

A drawer filled with pencils

Brené Brown (loved by Ramona and all of us here at Unlocking the Club—we love this book by her and Tarana Burke) says that vulnerability allows us to connect.

But vulnerability is scary. Ramona describes it as the “junk drawer” of your life—the messy, the hidden, the disorganized parts. When people come to your house, they see what you want them to see. For Ramona, it’s carefully selected travel pictures and reminders of adventures.

The junk drawer isn’t to be seen.

And yet, if we want real connection, we need to open the junk drawers.

Ramona knows that opening the junk drawer tears down carefully curated optics. It reveals who she really is so that she can connect more deeply. When opening those junk drawers, Ramona reminds us:

  • Be careful about who you share with. Vulnerability is not getting on social media and (anonymously) blasting your ideas everywhere. It’s choosing who to be deeply vulnerable and open with.
  • Prioritize safety. Again, ensure the people you’re showing your junk drawer to won’t use it against you.
  • Find your mirrors. Ramona shares how her sister and husband act as mirrors in her life (as every person we meet is a mirror), showing her parts of herself that are harder to see or understand. Find people who you can be vulnerable with and have the type of relationship where they can mirror important things back to you.

And last of all—go inside your own junk drawer. You don’t have to tidy it up right away but spend time getting comfortable with the hidden parts. From there, you can start to be vulnerable and, therefore, connect deeply with yourself and others.

The Reasonable, the Valuable, and the Desirable

A notebook with a list of tasks and checkboxes

Ramona’s a busy person. Between home life, adventures, rest, job #1, and job #2, there’s a lot going on. And as a goal-driven person with high expectations for herself and her work, it’s difficult to know the “right way” to go all the time.

So, Ramona uses this litmus test. Before deciding on any goal or direction, ask:

  • What’s reasonable? This is what you can actually accomplish based on past activities and experiences.
  • What’s valuable? This is what is meaningful for you, your team, and the context you are currently in.
  • What’s desirable? This is what you have the motivation, energy, and excitement to do based on what’s happening around you.

These questions can give you insight into the direction you should go. It can help you preserve your energy by focusing on a few highly valuable goals rather than a million and one things.

Ramona shared with us her personal “doable, valuable, and desirable” goals for her life.

But it’s better to hear them right from her! Hear her responses and a ton of other amazing insights by tuning into episode 21 of Unlocking the Club.

And, if you want to keep up with Ramona, check out The Bourbon Bohemian or follow her on Instagram. If you snag some of her cocktails (use promo code “Unlock 5”), let us know which are your favorites!