Charity Profile: Helen David Relief Fund
Tony Abou-Ganim is known for his passion for philanthropy and cocktails. Combine the two, and you have the ideal Negroni Week ambassador. We talked with famed bartender Tony Abou-Ganim—aka the Modern Mixologist—about the charity he’s supporting during Negroni Week—The Helen David Relief Fund—and about how he’ll be celebrating Negroni Week.
Tony Abou-Ganim: I launched the Helen David Relief Fund to benefit bartenders affected by breast cancer on my 50th birthday, April 14th, 2010 in memory of my cousin Helen David. Helen opened the Brass Rail Bar in Port Huron, Michigan on June 15th, 1937 and owned and operated it for nearly 70 years until her death in 2006 at the age of 91. Helen was a two-time survivor and very committed to the cause. She was very philanthropic and believed in the importance of giving back. So in her honor I started the HDRF along with the USBG. Today we are happy to announce, together with the USBG Bartender Relief Fund, that the HDRF is a registered 501c3 and are goal, short turn, is to help bartenders and their family as they recover from this terrible disease with the day to day expenses that are not covered by health insurance. We also plan to help those in need of pre-screening. One day our goal would be to also assist with medical expenses.
Imbibe: Why is it personally important to you?
TAG: I feel that our profession has been very good to me and provided a very wonderful lifestyle that I am most grateful for. I was always raised with the belief that one is not defined by what they receive but by what they give. There are many less fortunate who struggle day to day. My dream is that the HDRF continues to grow and is able to assist many of those working in our wonderful profession who suffer with breast cancer. If we can make help make one person’s day just a little easier, a little brighter, a little happier than we have made a difference. Helen David was an amazing woman, she opened and ran a bar for nearly 70 years, she survived breast cancer twice in her lifetime, she would be humbled and honored to know her strength and legacy is remembered by assisting other in our profession who are also suffering from breast cancer.
Imbibe: What are your hopes for the future of the cause? How can bartenders get involved? What about patrons and customers?
TAG: I would like to see the HDRF become a nationally recognized charity assisting those working in the bartending profession and their families who are dealing with and suffering from breast cancer. Bartenders can get involved in many ways and Negroni Week is a perfect example as your establishment is free to select a charity of their choice to benefit. There are many wonderful organizations doing wonderful things for many needed causes, the fact that the HDRF is an opportunities for bartenders to help fellow bartenders makes the HDRF special. None of us know when we may be in need of assistance. With every Negroni we can get a little closer to our goal! We have also formed the USBG-HDRF Bicycle Team (TEAM NEGRONI) which has been sponsored by Campari. As you know, one of the best things anyone can do for themselves is to help those less fortunate. It is a proven fact that those who give back regularly lead fuller, healthier, more productive lives. If you can also take better care of yourself by pedaling a bicycle for all those miles while raising funds and awareness for those less fortunate, it sounds like a win-win to me!
Imbibe: What’s your favorite way to mix a Negroni?
TAG: I first learned the drink as a stirred cocktail served straight up with a twist of orange back in 1991 and it’s still how I prefer it today. I did not have one served over ice until I visited Florence for the first time and went to Caffé Giacosa. I’m also a fan of the classic 1-1-1 ratio when making a Negroni, also the choice of gin depends on the sweet vermouth employed. But I would have to say my favorite Negroni is the one sitting atop the bar smiling at me right now!
Imbibe: Where will you be sipping during Negroni Week this year?
TAG: Well, I have quite a week planned. My first Negroni will be enjoyed with Natalie Bovis in Santa Fe at a luncheon she is hosting for the USBG. I will then fly to San Francisco for a couple Negronis at the kick-off bartenders bash. On Tuesday I will be participating in the first USBG TEAM NEGRONI bicycle ride to raise funds and awareness for the Helen David Relief Fund which benefits bartenders affected by breast cancer. At the conclusion of this 43-mile ride we will be gathering at Il Fornaio at Levi Plaza for a celebration and several Negronis. Not sure what Tuesday night has in store, but I’m pretty sure it will include a Negroni or two. Wednesday I say goodbye to the Bay and fly to Tampa where I will be speaking at this year’s Epicurean Festival where in addition to doing a presentation on vodka I will be joining my dear friend Armando Rosario behind the stick to make some Negronis with proceeds benefiting the HDRF. Friday I fly to Las Vegas to make drink’s for Mario Batali’s Charity Golf Tournament, and I’m sure that will also include sharing a Negroni or two with Mario afterwards at his restaurant Carnevino. Well, that sounds like a pretty amazing Negroni Week—how blessed am I?