Women and Alcohol: History, Myths, and Trailblazers

By: Autumn Jemison and Rachael Markow

Women have a long and complex history with alcohol: from cultural myths that stigmatized women who drank, to forgotten female distillers, to the association of femininity with fruity cocktails. During Women’s History Month, we’re highlighting episodes that uncover the past and upend our preconceived notions about it. Plus, this playlist spotlights leaders in the beverage industry today who are changing how wine, beer and cocktails are made, served, and understood as well as making the world of drinks a more inclusive one. There are countless women past and present doing this work, many more than could ever be included in one playlist. Look no further than our drinks page to meet more.

Here’s a toast to all the women contributing to a beverage space with greater diversity and endless delight!

A Taste of the Past Episode 373: The Women Left Out of Cocktail History: The history of cocktails in America is heavily skewed toward the male’s tale when, in fact, that is only half of the story of the cocktail’s rise to social prominence. Women are largely absent from the tales of the cocktail until the late 20th century, but they were making, serving, and writing about the scene and its art long before Jerry Thomas’s famed bartender’s guide. Dr. Nicola Nice recognized the history gap while working in market research advising liquor companies. Now, along with her entrepreneurial gin liqueur business and website, she has extended her research to historical liquor literature in which she strives to fill that gap of the missing women. 

The Speakeasy Episode 449: Cleopatra, and Other Famous Party Animals: Author, screenwriter, historian and the best kind of nerd Mallory O’Meara sits down with Greg and Damon to talk about her new book Girly Drinks, which details the long, long history of female drinking and how we’ve all been talking about it wrong.

A Taste of the Past: Episode 376: Mothers’ Ruin: The gin myth of “Mother’s Ruin,” which was depicted in William Hogarth’s 1751 print, Gin Lane, has colored the perception of alcohol consumption by women for nearly 300 years. Dr. Nicola Nice, who built her brand, Pomp & Whimsy, in an effort to write women back into cocktail history, joins Linda Pelaccio to talk about the history of gin and women.

Agave Road Trip Episode 78: Mallory O’Meara Drinks like a Woman: Making a second appearance on the playlist, Mallory O’Meara zeros in on why you’re getting it wrong when you offer women fruity drinks: "It's the women who really are the ones who are so much closer to the process and usually so much better at being able to discern different flavors.” She talks more about her book and the intersection of women’s history and alcohol history. 

Speaking Broadly Episode 141: Wine & Race, Grit & Joy: Tahiirah Habibi: The life of Tahiirah Habibi is the journey from the deadly streets of North Philly to homecoming queen AND president at Penn State to sommelier in Miami to founder of the Hue Society in Atlanta, a curated community that serves as a lifestyle hub to all things Black wine culture. A tribute to her smarts, magnetism, intuition and excellence, Tahiirah has created a space for her community, no assimilation necessary.

The Grape Nation Episode 154: Julia Coney: Wine Writer, Activist, and Founder of Black Wine Professionals: Julia Coney is a wine writer, wine educator, speaker, consultant and activist. Her writings address the intersection of race and wine and are featured in both wine industry and mainstream publications. Julia Coney founded Black Wine Professionals out of necessity. It is a resource for wine industry employers and gatekeepers, professionals, and the food and beverage community. Their goal is to lift up the multifaceted Black professionals in the world of wine. 

Heritage Radio Network On Tour Episode 375: Cocktail Culture and Community with Shannon Mustipher, Johnny Caldwell, and Taneka Reaves at Charleston Wine + Food 2022: Shannon Mustipher and The Cocktail Bandits come together for a conversation about how the pandemic has affected cocktail culture, the meaning of tiki, and how they strive to make a positive impact in the beverage space. They have tips for those just starting to experiment with at-home mixology, as well as stories about extravagant bar build-outs and collections. Shannon Mustipher is a cocktail consultant, spirits educator, and the author of Tiki: Modern Tropical Cocktails. Johnny Caldwell and Taneka Reaves comprise the dynamic duo known as the Cocktail Bandits. They promote female empowerment through advocacy for the food and beverage community through a self-titled blog, events in the Holy City and beyond, and their book, Holy Spirits! Charleston Culture Through Cocktails

Heritage Radio Network On Tour Episode 166: Jill Kuehler at Feast Portland: Michelle Battista introduces us to Jill Kuehler, the founder of Freeland Spirits, a  women-owned and operated craft distillery in Portland. Jill makes a persuasive case for why women make better booze. She also talks regenerative agriculture and her off-the-charts horseradish gin. A traditional copper pot still brings juniper and 13 other botanicals to life. Meanwhile, a state of the art vacuum still cajoles quieter flavors including fresh cucumber, rosemary, mint and thyme. 

Beer Sessions Radio Episode 571: NYC Beer Week and Women’s History Month: Jimmy catches up with Kat Telesca and Vic Pitula from Coney Island Brewery; Meg Rickerson from Someday Bar NYC in Brooklyn, NY; and Fee Doyle from Beer Witch in Brooklyn, NY. Meg founded Save NYC Bars as a method to communicate the ripple effect that the pandemic has caused throughout the entire community. The gang all agrees that the history of beer is closely tied to women, and Kat, Vic, and Fee all chime in with interesting stories about the connection between beer, women, and witches. Finally, we hear about some exciting new beers and favorites, and Meg shouts out a special beer that supports lesbian-run bars, which is another underrepresented community that is struggling in the beer scene.

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