Ariel E. Neal is leading today’s cocktail culture one pour at a time. The Chicago native first fell in love with the hospitality industry while serving tasty libations as a bartender. Now this social entrepreneur and multicultural hospitality educator is also a community advocate and holds space for the career advancement of hospitality professionals.
As the CEO of Leira Knows Cocktails Events LLC, Neal designs cocktail, wine and spirits-driven social and corporate events. With a laser-focus on education, inclusion, hospitality and professionalism, Neal and her team wow guests and corporate clients with sustainable cocktail demonstrations and a curated lineup of signature libations and pop-up events.
In response to the challenges, she and other hospitality professionals of color experienced, Neal was the Original Co-Founder of the Nonprofit Causing A Stir. Fueling her passion for change in the industry she Co-created Good Vibes Healing Haven, a Retreat consulting agency that creates educational workshops and hospitality driven experiences to deliver professional development with a holistic approach. We hold space for hospitality professionals and guests by extending an opportunity to experience a wellness reset. Through rest and relaxation, we create a relationship with their inner voice that expresses their natural creativity, guests leave empowered to return to regular schedule life feeling balanced and courageous enough to give more attention to their physical, emotional, mental and spiritual well-being.
Through education, mentoring, leadership training and immersive travel programs, Neal is transforming bartenders into hospitality professionals with skill sets that allow them to indeed, exceed the bar.
Neal’s motto: “Connecting people through cocktails,” stems from her mission to make wine, spirits and cocktail education accessible and approachable. A lifelong South Sider, Neal believes in the power of community to foster economic growth and development. Neal believes hospitality shapes society and is doing her part to include the narrative of multicultural accounts by hosting industry events in various cities that encourage individuals to explore overlooked neighborhoods within the city’s thriving food and beverage scene. Additionally, Neal educates her community on cocktail basics with the goal of motivating young adults to consider a career in the hospitality industry.
To get Neal talking for hours, just ask her about her two passions — the hospitality industry and educational travel. You can find her nerding out with other hospitality professionals in various events nationwide. Neal has been featured in Ebony Magazine, Food and Wine, Industry podcasts, Tales of the Cocktail seminars and panels, Cocktail Swagger and many more publications.