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The Beverage Network’s 2015 Women to Watch

Posted on  | August 27, 2015   Bookmark and Share
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Celebrating eight bartenders at the forefront of establishing women’s leadership behind the bar.

Text by Jack Robertiello, Portraits by Andrew Kist

No one is certain where the quote originated, but in an attempt to make sure Ginger Rogers got the same recognition for her elegant dancing as her more celebrated partner, someone wrote: She does everything Fred Astaire does, but backwards and in heels.

It’s clearly no longer true that a similar special argument needs to be made for women bartenders, although like with much else in Cocktail World, things have shifted dramatically over the last decade. As new career paths open up, competitions highlighting skill become more common and the possibilities of a promising bartending life look better to both men and women. Doors that were once tightly shut have opened, or been kicked down.

It’s not like well-known women bartenders are unique or even a new idea; the creator of the Hanky Panky and famed for holding sway for many years at London’s Savoy Hotel’s American Bar, Ada Coleman set a very high bar at a time when cocktail culture was just emerging. She helped train her more famous successor, Harry Craddock, who included many of Coleman’s recipes in The Savoy Cocktail Book.

It may seem odd, but while women bartenders (“barmaids,” as they were called) were a common sight during World War II, post-war many states banned their employment—it wasn’t until the 1970s that the Supreme Court disallowed that discrimination.

Today, many women stand at the pinnacle of anyone’s list of top bartenders. Audrey Saunders of the Pegu Club is credited by dozens of men and women now running their own bars for the training she provided. Julie Reiner of NYC’s Clover Club made sure her bars similarly became both a launching pad and a finishing school for emerging talent. Bridget Albert trains hundreds of midwestern bartenders annually from her perch at Southern Wine & Spirits. Charlotte Voisey assembled an extraordinary team of bartenders to represent William Grant & Sons’ brands. The list of successful female brand ambassadors and bartenders is so long it calls into question why achieving success as a woman is even remarked upon. As one of our subjects, Lacy Hawkins, says below, “The challenge is that nobody would ever ask a man what the challenges and advantages are for him behind the bar.”

Touché. So just to be clear, we don’t celebrate and profile these bartenders because they are women. Rather, the Beverage Network decided that the uniquely qualified finalists in the immensely successful annual Speed Rack competition deserved attention because it takes top-class skills to get through the nerve-racking heats to finish in the top eight.

Ivy Mix, who recently opened her own Brooklyn bar, Leyenda, with the assistance of Reiner, and Lynnette Morrero, the dual queens of Speed Rack, launched the women-only competition to raise money for breast cancer research in early 2011.

Now, with Speed Rack having gone international in its fourth year, we are pleased to bring the spotlight to the program and the individuals. The Beverage Network’s 2015 Eight Women to Watch were photographed at Meaghan Dorman’s Dear Irving in Manhattan, an especially appropriate setting as this parlor openly embraces the camaraderie and talents of “sister locations” (Raines Law Room, The Peacock and The Shakespeare) as well as an “extended family” of bars and allied professionals. Above all, the leading women behind the stick today are fully aware of their sense of community. 

 

Tacy Rowland 

City: Vail, colorado

Bar: Bol

What’s your proudest moment in the hospitality business?

Two things that constantly rejuvenate and inspire me. First, if I can make someone a drink that gets them excited about what’s in their glass, either by introducing them to a new spirit or flavor profile. The second is anytime I get a compliment about a member of my staff. I’m very proud of my staff, and it means a lot to me that others recognize the amazing job they do every day.

What are the challenges and advantages of being a woman behind the bar?

Stereotypes are the biggest obstacle we face. For a long time, women have been viewed as an object behind the bar, not the talent. Obviously, this doesn’t apply to every woman behind every bar in every city, but, working in a bar in a tourist destination, it is a situation that I encounter on a fairly regular basis. On the other side of the equation, it is a really exciting time to be a female in the bar industry right now. The idea of a ‘craft’ cocktail program is quickly becoming the standard instead of the exception, and it is creating a lot of jobs and opportunities.

What’s your favorite method of decompressing after a week behind the bar?

Sitting in a dark cool theater and being entertained for a couple of hours is one of my favorite ways to decompress. I also take barre classes a few times a week, which is a great way to work out some kinks and frustrations from the week.

What advice would you give to women looking to pursue a career behind the bar?

Being good is not good enough. You’re going to need to work twice as hard, twice as fast, and twice as nice as your male counterparts. No one is going to hand you something for nothing, and that’s okay. That’s great, even, because it will force to you to be the best.

 

 

Jacquelyn Goldstein

city: San Francisco and Oakland, california

Bar: ABV and The Ramen Shop

 

What are the challenges and advantages of being a woman behind the bar?  

The challenges are some people still live in the 1950s and think I don’t know what whiskey is good because I am a woman. The advantage is that other people have a lot of respect for a woman behind the bar doing everything a man could do.

Who have been your role models, in life and in the bar world?

My parents for teaching me to work hard. Also my fiancé who’s also a fellow bartender, Kevin Dowell, who never stops pushing me and supporting me.

Where do you see yourself in ten years?

My fiancé and I will hopefully be restaurant owners living in Oakland.

If you weren’t tending bar, you’d be…?

I would be selling antiques full time. It’s something I’ve done for years and I just launched a vintage glassware line called Thirsty Vintage online at Etsy.

What drink or spirit is your go-to, and why?

Sparkling wine is always my go to. It gives me a happy buzz.

What’s your proudest moment in the hospitality business?  

Winning Speed Rack San Francisco.

What advice would you give to a women looking to pursue career behind the bar?

Do it! It’s an amazing career. Never stop learning either. Pick up as much as you can from veteran bartenders and just be the best at what you do.

 

 

Jacyara de Oliveira 

City: Chicago, illinois

Bar: Sportsman’s Club

 

What’s your proudest moment in the hospitality business?

For the bar’s first birthday, I organized a fundraising punch party with a bunch of our friends and their brands. We had a solid 13 punches batched out for about 50 servings each. By 11:30 we were out of punch due to the amazing turn-out. I couldn’t have been happier.

What are the challenges and advantages of being a woman behind the bar?

It can give you a particular vantage point so you see things differently from your counterparts. You may have personal experiences different from your coworkers that can aid and influence your work style. However, it can also be hard to have your voice heard over a crowd. It can be tough to maintain your views and opinions when there are few to none advocating alongside you.

Who have been your role models, in life and in the bar world?

My heroes and mentors vary from direct influence (bartenders like Charles Joly and Cristiana DeLucca) to indirect (my extremely supportive brother and insightful mother.) I gravitate towards strong and truthful people and I hope that some of that will rub off on me.

Where do you see yourself in ten years?

In the words of a good friend of mine, “full speed ahead and in no particular direction.”

What drink or spirit is your go-to, and why?

A Campari and soda is a beautiful thing.

What makes you a good bartender?

I work to be a warm and hospitable host to my guests. I’m always looking to engage and entertain as well as make good drinks. Happiness is contagious so if you’re sitting at my bar, you’d have to try to have a bad time.

What advice would you give to women looking to pursue a career behind the bar?

I have the same advice for everyone: Find the bar you want to own and find the person you want to be—and let them know. I love working with people that want to work with me.

 

 

Julia Hurst

City: Washington, DC

Bar: Rose’s Luxury

 

What’s your proudest moment in the hospitality business?

I think the hospitality industry is all about the accumulation of little moments: the repeat orders and repeat guests; the connections you build with your team; the satisfaction of giving someone great service and a perfectly-suited drink. It all works out to be greater than the sum of its parts.

What are the challenges and advantages of being a woman behind the bar?

Being a female bartender can certainly be challenging as we are often passed over in favor of men or underestimated by guests. The advantage of these challenges is the sense of community it creates; we are all working together to exceed expectations and to make ourselves and each other better. Women bartenders look out for each other.

If you weren’t tending bar, you’d be….?

I would still be working at an art museum, or I would be pursuing my true calling according to a high school personality test: cabinetmaking.

What drink or spirit is your go-to, and why?

I love rum because it has so many expressions, is inexpensive for an aged spirit, and is essential for my favorite cocktail category, tiki.

What makes you a good bartender?

I always think of good bartending as the right balance between confidence and humility. You have to have the confidence to run the show, to be the salesperson, to manage personalities. (Most of us bartenders have this quality in spades.) But it’s important to also have humility and remember that you are there to serve, not to star.

What advice would you give to women looking to a pursue a career behind the bar?

1. Do it!

2. Don’t expect to do it right away. Put in the time as a server or barback to learn from the outside-in and meet people who can help you develop your skills and find a job.

 

 

Zulcoralis Rodriguez 

City: San Antonio, Texas

Bar: The Esquire Tavern

 

What’s your proudest moment in the hospitality business?

Aside from winning Speed Rack Dallas, the night an Austin bar owner told me, at a hotel downtown years ago, I provided the best hospitality experience he and his lady ever had. It was unexpected and I almost cried from happiness.  

What are the challenges and advantages of being a woman behind the bar?

I have to fight against the stereotype I got hired because of looks as opposed to knowledge and/or potential. People assume that I have no desire to progress and accomplish as much as my male counterparts. The bar industry has always been predominantly male, but as time goes on, more women are willing to accept and rise to these challenges.

Who have been your role models, in life and in the bar world?

My role model has always been my mom—she has fully supported my autonomy and decisions. In the bar world, my role models are Ivy Mix, Lynnette Marrero and Elisabeth Forsythe. They’re accomplished, knowledgeable, skillful, humble and have managed to stay true to themselves. And my general manager, Garry Baker. He breathes hospitality.

If you weren’t tending bar, you’d be…?

I would be working at a funeral home. I studied mortuary sciences, and hold an associate degree for both funeral directing and embalming.

What makes you a good bartender?

Character as well as technical skill, and passion for what I do. I’m approachable, and anticipate guests’ needs. My ultimate goal is not only making great cocktails, but to provide the best experience my guests can have.

What advice would you give to women looking to pursue a career behind the bar?

They absolutely have to possess the passion and personality for the bar industry because that can’t be acquired, and service can be challenging. Education! Everyday, there is something new to be learned. And most importantly, work harder. Remember, there are a lot of people that would love to be in your shoes.

 

 

 

Angel Teta

City: Portland, Oregon

Bar: Ataula

 

What are the challenges and advantages of being a woman behind the bar?

I worked in a beautiful hotel and the clientele was mostly older business men. A lot of them became my regulars over the years, but often when they first sat down at the bar, they would wait for a man to step behind the stick and ask for their Manhattan. They didn’t think as a woman I knew what it was, or anything about whiskey in general, which was annoying at the time, but taught me patience and gave me motivation to further educate myself on spirits.

Who have been your role models, in life and in the bar world?

My mother. She’s the strongest, kindest, most hard-working woman I know. She taught me to be dedicated, independent, and not afraid to go after what I want, while staying humble at the same time. In the bar world I look up to people like Lynnette Marrero, Ivy Mix, and Lindsey Johnson. Self starting, professional women who accomplish incredible things and elevate those around them.

If you weren’t tending bar, you’d be…?

A back-up singer for Erykah Badu. That’s the dream at least.

What drink or spirit is your go-to, and why?

If it’s sunny I love Blanco Spanish vermut on the rocks with lemon oil. If it’s chilly out, nothing is better than a beautiful bourbon in a dark bar.

What advice would you give to women looking to pursue a career behind the bar?

Be determined, and calculating. Don’t take the first job you’re offered if it doesn’t feel right, nothing is worse than putting your efforts into a place just to have to quit a year later because things didn’t work out. It’s important to commit to something and not job hop. Reach out for help when you need it. This industry is full of women who were once looking for their first job too, and their experiences can help you shape what you want to accomplish.

 

 

Lacy Hawkins 

City/Bar: Clover Club, Brooklyn, and The NoMad, New York City

 

What’s your proudest moment in the hospitality business?

My decision to move from Portland to New York City. It was a big risk to take, but I managed to snag two of the best and most challenging bartending positions I’ve had. I’ve grown exponentially as an individual bartender in the last two years.

What are the challenges and advantages of being a woman behind the bar?

Women aren’t taken as seriously as their male counterparts and there are less of us in the industry. At the same time, women bartenders are getting an incredible amount of acknowledgement right now, but it’s almost becoming cliché. The challenge is that we’re still seen as women bartenders, and not bartenders.

Who have been your role models, in life and in the bar world?

I have been incredibly lucky to be raised by some of the most powerful and talented people in the industry—Julie Reiner, Sue Federoff, Christine Williams and Ivy Mix. I’m constantly learning when I am around these people.

If you weren’t tending bar, you’d be…?

If I wasn’t tending the bar, I’d like to be a travel writer. Which realistically means that I’d probably be a traveling bartender.

Where do you see yourself in ten years?  

I’d like to have bartended on a global scale and have an understanding of what is happening in our industry outside of the USA. I’d also like to own a teacup pig and have a big garden, with lots of mint for juleps and mojitos.

What drink or spirit is your go-to, and why?

Gin is timeless and appropriate for any occasion. I love drinking wine and bubbles when I go out, but at home I am usually making Negronis, 50/50 Martinis or vermouth on the rocks.

What makes you a good bartender?

I’d like to think that it’s my ability to multitask, think quickly on my feet and give my guests exactly what they want.

 

 

Brittini Rae Peterson

Miss Speed Rack USA 2015

City: Los Angeles

Bar: Melrose Umbrella Co.

 

What’s your proudest moment in the hospitality business?  

Those moments when you truly make your guests happy, especially when that happiness surprises them. If you are able to create a cocktail or give them an experience that exceeds all their expectations, that’s a great feeling. That is what we are here for.  

Who have been your role models, in life and in the bar world?

My parents, especially since my father just passed away. They have taught me qualities I can’t teach myself—perseverance, strength and compassion. In the industry, Chris Ojeda for teaching me the history and rules to classic cocktails, and Giovanni Martinez for teaching me how to break those rules.

If you weren’t tending bar, you’d be…?

Distilling whiskey.

What’s your favorite method of decompressing after a week behind the bar?

I don’t know what “decompress” means. I like to work really hard for long periods of time, and then reward myself with a vacation. I’m hoping next year to go to Vietnam to hike the Hang Son Doong cave.

Where do you see yourself in ten years?  

In another universe, I’d sell everything, move to Scotland, and work in distilleries.

What drink or spirit is your go-to, and why?

Single malt Scotch.  When I first started getting into the industry it was not what I gravitated towards. But now I have learned to appreciate the different nuances of every whisk(e)y.  

What advice would you give to women looking to pursue a career behind the bar?

Talk to anyone in the bar industry, this is an amazing and supportive group of people, and WE WANT YOU! Do. Not. Be. Shy. The amount of support and encouragement available to you is limitless.


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