“‘What’s it like to be a woman in the industry?’ is a terrible question. Imagine you are a rising star in the field you love, building a business, making a name. Now imagine, over and over again, people asking you not about your accomplishments but about your gender. As if it weren’t enough to succeed against the added impediments of sexism and/or racism, you are tasked with qualifying your success.”
When editor Olivia Smith and I were talking back in 2016 about what happens when you search online for women + alcohol + books, the problem became clear. We found a plethora of tragedies, bad mothers, victim-blamed victims. Sobriety memoirs and cautionary tales. The same combination for men yielded icons or iconoclasts, tales of shenanigans and adventure. There was something celebratory there, even when the ends were ignoble.
While the personal and cultural wreckage of addiction shouldn’t be underplayed, it is well documented. My experience as a bartender and cocktail nerd and Olivia’s experience as a sommelier showed us different stories. The booze business in the past couple of decades has been a booming field for creativity and entrepreneurship, birthing some incredible new products and careers. Women were a huge part of this. From craft brewing, conventional and organic/natural winemaking, the resurgence of pre-prohibition style culinary cocktails and attendant boom in craft distilling, really interesting things were, and are, going down.
Movers and Shakers: Women Making Waves in Spirits, Beer, and Wine is an attempt to tell these stories. The rum fan with a career in public health management who reinvented herself as a distiller with a zero-waste facility. The brewer who struck out across the country in a camper van to find other women in her bro-dominated field and wound up founding a movement. The Italian upstart who argued with her viticulture professors about chemical fertilizers, then started her own business at 21 and blew everyone away. The writer that barreled through all the gendered criticism the internet had to offer to create a whole new kind of publication.
I wanted to talk about how, a year before allegations of sexual abuse and harassment in the entertainment world broke open the #MeToo movement to the mainstream, a group of bartenders came together online to speak out against a powerful serial predator in the bar world, and how their words help spur a larger conversation about our responsibilities when it comes to the safety of our colleagues and customers.
This book is a collection of profiles and insights from some of the bar industry’s brightest. It’s far from comprehensive–every day I learn about another badass woman and gender non-conformist I wish I could have included. But it is a labor of love and admiration for all of them, and a preview of their progress.