What a better day to celebrate Women behind the Bar than the 8th March?
It’s a real pleasure to host on my Blog a great friend and professional Bartender Rina Fermin from Venezuela.
I met Rina in Athens during the Diageo World Class Competition Global Final 2010, where we were both competing.
She’s one of the most genuine person I’ve seen working behind the stick.
You can see she has a great fun while attending guests, taking the job seriously but without taking herself too seriously, which I believe is a great awareness to have in order to perform this craft properly.
I’m proud to share with you all, her thoughts along with some researches she did on the subject “Women behind the Bar” as follows:
Before attempting to discuss the position currently held by women in bars worldwide we traced the struggles that women went through and the origins of how they have forged history.
In the 17th and 18th centuries the kind of woman you’d expect to see in a bar was either someone damaged in reputation, or lower-class women, not to mention it was not conceived a woman behind the bar.
Later on, in the era of prohibition, speakeasies became the most pleasant and glamorous places, allowing the ladies socialize with men without being frowned upon, allowing a more gentle treatment and interaction, leading to a change of the operational characteristics of a bar and opening the possibilities of the ladies behind a bar.
Before World War II, women rarely tended bar. When the men left for battle, women took their places…for a few years.
Female Bartenders were described as an affront to the male-dominated bar atmosphere.
In addition to that, Bartenders’ unions pressured bar owners to refuse to hire female Bartenders and were submitting proposals to state laws prohibiting the employment of women behind bars.
Bartenders argued that the presence of barmaids, would give wives reasons to keep their husbands from going to bars, endangering the category.
Temperance activists joined Bartenders in their efforts to prevent women from working behind bars.
One law was passed in Michigan in 1945, that made it illegal for a woman (except for the wife or daughter of a saloon owner) to make drinks and in 26 states was prohibited to work as barmaids by 1960.
In the 70’s all that changed, but took a while for women to be accepted.
While America was abolishing these laws, in India exclusion laws were still quite similar, until recent years.
Talking about great women in the industry…
ELIZABETH “BETSY” FLANAGAN
In colonial times (1779) Elizabeth “Betsy” Flanagan, opened an inn near Yorktown frequented by British and French officials, which include a dinner where they served chicken, accompanied the meal with drinks decorated with feathers to which an English soldier replied “Let’s have another cocktail” … in 1821 James Fennimore Cooper’s novel “The Spy” talks about how Betsy was well qualified by his education having been raised among spirits.
ADA “COLEY” COLEMAN
Known to her friends and customers as “Coley,” is perhaps the most famous and the best-known female Bartender of all time. In the pre-prohibition age, it was a man’s world behind the bar. Well, evidently someone failed to let her know that, or she just didn’t care.
Ada was 24 when she began tending bar at Claridge’s in 1899. She moved on to another of Carte’s properties in 1903. The bar was none other than The Savoy’s American Bar where she was named head Bartender. Ada served in that position until 1926, when she was 51 years old. Her time at the Savoy overlapped with Harry Craddock, who some say she mentored.
Years later when Craddock produced his Savoy Cocktail Book, he listed Ada’s most famous cocktail creation, The Hanky Panky.
Helen David opened the Brass Rail in Port Huron, Michigan in 1937 (between the tough times of the Great Depression and the Prohibition) and ran it until her death in 2006, representing a true pillar of her local community.
She loved her bar and ran it for 69 passion-filled years.
Helen was born in the flat just above the bar and lived there her whole life; even at the age of 91, she would came downstairs every single night to welcome and serve her guests.
She also was the first person to put a cocktail shaker into Tony Abou-Ganim‘s hand, being her cousin!
Just to mention some of them…
I wrote this lines in appreciation of all those pioneers who opened the door for us to work today without major difficulty, knowing that it is a profession with great dedication that was initially developed for men only, then conquered by women …
“As a Bartender and a woman, I have only words of thanks!
In my being, there is no doubt that I was born Bartender and if it wasn’t for the women who changed the way we see this profession, today I couldn’t do the job I love!
It has been proven through time and the work of fabulous Bartenders and Barladies, how performing this profession is just part of our being and that both men and women are born with that passion”
RINA FERMIN – Bartender – VENEZUELA
Thanks so much RINA!
Now…continuing with the post, amongst the great women who contributed to get our Industry at the level we see it today I would like to also add:
MARIA DOLORES BOADAS
She was the very first spanish female bartender and learnt the craft from her father Miguel Boadas founder of Boadas Cocktail Bar in Barcelona who worked at the Floridita, in Havana in the 1920’s, from where he brought with him what we know today as the “THROWING” technique still performed by Maria until few years ago and today by the staff of the Boadas Cocktail Bar.
The technique (by using 2 boston glasses and a strainer) delivers both the aeration benefits of shaking and the little dilution of stirring, perfect for spirit-based drinks such as Martinis and Manhattans.
Here a little video of Maria in her Bar
I would love to also mention some amazing professional that nowadays keep bringing to life the MAGIC started by the above mentioned Bartenders, with their special touch, sensitivity, attention to details and hard work:
(in no particular order)
– Audrey Saunders
– Charlotte Voisey
– Julie Reiner
– Patricia Richards
– Victoria D’Amato
– Misty Kalkofen
– Aisha Sharpe
– Christy Pope
– Bridget Albert
– Kathy Casey
and so many more, they won’t fit on one page…
Hope one day to have the honour of sitting at your Bar, best wishes of happiness and success !
Max La Rocca