Category Archives: Women in Bars

Bitter Delights and New Upstarts

Here’s something we’ve been keeping more or less under wraps: Basically since putting the final wrapper on Movers & Shakers, I’ve been at work on another super-secret plan to take over the world. Or a portion of the drinks market.

Vervet is our company name, and you can find us on Instagram and in the distillery. We’re making cocktails and canning them, because why would you not do that if you could?

We didn’t want to make just any old canned G&T’s however. I mean, a gin&tonic is fine, it’s great, it’s whatever if you have the proper gin and the proper tonic (so important! so frequently overlooked!), but my partners and I wanted to try something different. We have several different ready-to-drink drinks on the way, and they’re all a step beyond the 2-ingredient drink, or “highball.” I wanted to make fizzy drinks with depth and character for people with the same. More on that, later. I promise it ties in.

Adjacently: I love a bitter drink. Not bitter like, say, psychedelic tea, but bitter like folk medicines flavored with herbs and sugar to make them more palatable. Humans, we are weird and clever primates. A plant manufactures a chemical defense mechanism for itself like bitter flavor or fiery capsaicin, but because of its nutritional or intoxicant value, we bulldoze past these seemingly unpleasant defenses and in the process convince ourselves we love them. Sometimes our bodies adapt to make us feel good after eating them, just to seal the deal. I am personally great at convincing myself that things are fine when they’re not, or that I like things that I don’t, which I think makes me especially amenable to bizarre foods and strong drink, though prone, at times, to questionable life choices.

I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love a negroni, an Americano, a Rome with a View. They spark massive joy for me. Whenever I’ve served a negroni to a first-timer at a bar, I tell them to close their eyes and imagine biting into very dark chocolate. Something bitter, but also pleasurable. Something with a longer payoff.

The bitter in these cocktails comes from a particular type of red aperitivo. It’s Campari, or Aperol, or more likely these days, a homegrown red bitter from some upstart distillers in the US. I like classics, but I love innovation, particularly when it tastes good.

As part of our recipe development, we did tasting after tasting, in bars, at home, at the homes of our friends who, Stockholm-syndrome-esque, went along with it.

Top to bottom: the sweet one, the dark horse, my KRB, and the O.G.

And I have to say, there are some rock solid options out there. Some are colored with bugs, some with Red 40. Some are minty, some are sweeter. For mine, I wanted it medium-bitter with a strong citrus bite, with some native SoCal plants making up the green notes and a comforting finish of spice and bark. Spicebark. I love bark.

After over a year of trial and error (and error), through a variety of steeping methods and ingredient lists, through poring over countless books on the topic (more on that, later), we have something that I’m happy to say is pretty killer. 

So that’s what we called it. It’s a Killer Red Bitter. KRB for short. And it’s coming y’alls way along with the whole Vervet lineup.

But that’s a story for another time…

They Still Make You?

I love working the bar at special events. It means I get to be part of something really special, minus the oppressive need to small talk. I also like getting to work with a different crew almost every time–that ADHD brain need for variety satisfied in every way.

But there’s always the risk of bad eggs when the cast of characters rotates that much. Continue reading

Movers and Shakers: The Blog!

For the past two years, I’ve been hustling around the country, trying to connect with some of the most interesting personalities in the beer, wine, spirits, and bar industries. I’ve done interviews with master distillers, upstart brewers, winemakers that defy all limitations in funding and latitude, and bar managers working toward a more sustainable industry. To say I was inspired was an understatement: I am, and remain, awed.

BTW, all of the individuals referred to above are women. It’s kind of my thing. It’s not that I don’t think men(cis, gender conforming, typically white dudes, specifically) are capable of being awesome, it’s just that I feel like they get plenty of cred for their accomplishments. They don’t need me to add to the chorus.

I wrote a book about these women and non-gender conformists. It’s called Movers and Shakers: Women Making Waves in Spirits, Beer, and Wine and it’s coming on on October 9, 2018. Order yours today if you’re curious! Here’s a colorful graphic with a picture of the book cover on it! Huzzah!

IMG_6425

As much as I loved writing about this and as exciting as it was to finish a project of this size, I was a little bummed when the chapters had all been compiled. Not just because potential success is as terrifying as failure, but because I felt I’d only scratched the surface. Every time I told someone new what my book was about, they pointed me to a fantastic woman making her own vermouth from locally foraged plants, or a boss lady running an international liquor conglomerate. Even some of those I had interviewed along the way hadn’t made it into the final volume because of time, space, or continuity. I wanted to meet all these women. I wanted to tell their stories, too.

Welcome to the Movers and Shakers Blog. It’s my ongoing attempt to shout out the accomplishments of cool women & nonconformists in the booze fields.* Stay tuned.

giphy

*If you want to know why I focus on the booze fields, you’ll have to buy the book. I can’t give everything away…

 

 

It’s Beer Garden Season!

three-weavers-brewery

I know it’s still snowing in the northeast, and that sucks! But form my vantage point, it’s April, the sun is out, and those crisp/hoppy/malty/sour/but most of all fizzy cravings are in full effect. The brewery tasting room not only has the advantage of having the freshest drinkins possible but has a family and pet friendly license for its space. Bring your dog, set your kids loose on the giant Jenga (but watch them, duh), grab a pint, and spring the f* out of this joint.

For my Angelenos, it’s a great place and time to be at/in: Here’s a list I wrote about it a few months ago.  

To update this, I’d have to throw in the  Modern Times “Dankness Dojo” and the new Highland Park Brewery in Chinatown.

ToTC ’17 Dame Hall of Fame, or, In which I fan-girl out over chemists and bartenders

DameHallofFame

The 2017 Dame Hall of Fame inductees

The one event I knew I had to attend at Tales of the Cocktail, amid all the circus-like brand tastings and high-budget-circus-like brand parties, was the Dame Hall of Fame inductions. Tales was co-founded by Ann and Paul Tunnerman, and since the beginning, it seems there was a strong drive to celebrate the women in the cocktail biz. Which is absolutely appropriate, when you think about it. The craft cocktail scene is generally more meritocratic than the swinging-d*ck culture of, say, sports bars, or a push-up bra worshiping club scene. To be successful in craft, you need to be smart, fast, creative and hardworking; all gender neutral attributes.

The more women bartenders and brand reps I talk to, the more they are baffled by the idea that people would think their presence in their fields is anomalous. Frankly, as total badass and Big Bar director Cari Hah told me, “There are [a lot of] women in the industry.” I know this, the nerds know this, why don’t journalists seem to know this?

Continue reading

ToTC Recap, Day 5

We did it. We made it to Sunday without blacking out, breaking up, or embracing a NOLA-induced existential crisis! Now as I take a moment for some long-awaited hotel-room-lazing, here are some reflections.

I interviewed some amazing humans. People with passion who are great at their jobs. Highlights:

Continue reading