I do a lot of thinking about modern classic cocktails. The majority of the drinks that have achieved this status in the last 20 years are by white males since, like most industries, the bar industry is dominated by white males and has been for a long time. When the author of a modern classic cocktail is a woman, it’s usually either Audrey Saunders or Julie Reiner. But perhaps I’m overlooking some obvious candidates. Are there any classics by women bartenders that I’m missing, perhaps drinks that have more a presence outside of the United States?
Might be useful to list what we’ve already got in terms of drinks by women:
Earl Grey MarTEAni - Audrey Saunders, Bemelmans Bar, New York City, 2003/4
Gin Gin Mule - Audrey Saunders, Beacon, New York City, USA, 2000
Old Cuban - Audrey Saunders, Beacon/Tonic, New York City, 2001
CIA - Tonia Guffey, Flatiron Lounge, New York, 2011
Gin Blossom - Julie Reiner, Clover Club, Brooklyn, NY, 2009
Jamaican Firefly - Audrey Saunders, Beacon, New York City, 2000
Little Italy - Audrey Saunders, Pegu Club, New York, 2005
Siesta - Katie Stipe, Flatiron Lounge, New York City, 2006
The Slope - Julie Reiner, Clover Club, Brooklyn, 2009
Tantris Sidecar - Audrey Saunders, Beacon, New York City, 2000
Wildest Redhead - Meaghan Dorman, Lantern’s Keep, New York City, 2011
Critic Picks: (chosen by Robert, some with cajoling from me)
Ce Soir - Nicole Lebedevitch, The Hawthorne, Boston, 2010
French Pearl - Audrey Saunders, Pegu Club, New York City, 2006
Kill-Devil - Erin Williams, Pegu Club, New York City, 2008
Mr. Brown - Franky Marshall, Clover Club, Brooklyn, NY, 2011
Star and Garter - Jessica Gonzalez, Elephant Bar, NoMad Hotel, New York City, 2012
Juniperotivo - Jerri Banks, Fressen, New York City, 1999
Notably, all but one of these is from NYC. (The full modern classics list is heavily New York-weighted, too, for various interesting reasons.)
Yes, those are the drinks from the app. Thanks, Martin. Very New York-centric, it’s true. (Though you didn’t list Ce Soir by Boston’s Nicole Lebedevitch.) But there were three cocktail capitals in those early years of the cocktail renaissance: New York, San Francisco and London. Nothing I, or anyone else, can do about that. Though, as I said earlier, I’m always eager to learn new knowledge that has escaped me until now.
Whoops! Blew right past Ms. Lebedevitch. I just updated the list.
So, an extremely cursory survey of the first several pages of Punch Magazine’s recipe database makes it clear there are plenty of women creating original drinks in places other than New York. Many of their drinks may be too recent to have had much chance to infiltrate other markets, let alone ascend to classic status, and some of them may just not be the stuff that contemporary classics are made of.
Going back a ways, gaz ran his 101 Best New Cocktails project for five years, and while that was also dominated by men, there are a bunch by women represented from far flung places (I haven’t sat down and counted them). Many of the drinks in 101BNC were fussy enough they wouldn’t travel, but some could have. And yet, for whatever reason, it seems they did not.
Maybe the drinks weren’t “good enough”, but maybe the bartender networks through which recipes travel just weren’t as strong as in New York? And certainly New York has always enjoyed a particular advantage by being the preeminent media center.
I think, as in so many fields for so many years, the deck has long been stacked against women. If you don’t own the bar and don’t run the bar program, and if the male-dominated press doesn’t choose to interview you or focus on you, how are you going to get your drinks out there and better known by the public? The reason Reiner and Saunders stand out as exceptions is they owned their bars and ran their programs and could thus promote their best cocktails. Makes you wonder about all the great cocktails invented by women that may have gotten away during the early years of the cocktail revival.