11 May 5 Kickass female bartenders you need to know about.
Over 60% of the worldwide bartending scene is female, yet throughout history females have been sorely under-represented in the bartending halls of fame. It’s no surprise, given that up until the 1970’s, bars and pubs were still considered a ‘man’s domain’; but a few stars shone through, and continue to do so today. Here, Bums on Seats celebrate the women who have shaken and stirred throughout history.
Suzon- Female bartender at La Folies-Bergère, 1882 (ish)
Not much is known about the mysterious Suzon in Eduoard Manet’s famous realism painting, ‘The Bar at La Folies-Bergère’, painted in 1882. At the time, La Foilie Begere was a raucous music hall, known for gaudy shows, operettas, and many more things besides. This is where the great and good of the Parisian bohemian scene, along with the landed gentry looking for something a little more salacious, would flock in the evenings for entertainment and good company. Suzon, the model for this painting, was an actual barmaid at this establishment at the time, although the term ‘barmaid’ back in 1800’s Paris was also probably code for ‘casual prostitute’. The gentleman in the top hat, pictured behind her, is a classic patron of such places; a rich young Parisian man looking for a good time. The most fascinating thing about this painting though, isn’t the surroundings: it’s the look on Suzon’s face. Her expression has been the subject of debate for years, but one thing’s for sure: Suzon has been bartending for a while and isn’t about to put up with any of your nonsense. Although she’s not specifically ‘famous’, Suzon deserves a mention in our line-up for being a representative of the hundreds of nameless barmaids all around the world in the 19th Century, living a hard life, rolling with the punches, and always ready with a comeback to any sass.
Ada Coleman, 1875-1966
A line-up of the most famous female bartenders wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the legendary Ada Coleman. Ada, or ‘Coley’ as she was more commonly known, fell into hospitality after her father (a steward at the D’Oyly golf club) died when she was 24- Richard D’Oyly, Golf club owner and hotel tycoon, offered her a job at one of his hotels, Claridge’s, and thus a star was born. She moved across to the Savoy American bar shortly after, and to this day is only one of two females to have ever held the position of ‘head bartender’ behind the American bar. Coley’s professional life was not without a touch of scandal; it was rumoured that she had a rivalry with fellow female behind the bar, Ruth Burgess- apparently, they worked separate shifts, never spoke and wouldn’t even use the same shaker! While Coley’s talent shone, Ruth continued to work at the Savoy, but eventually slipped into obscurity.
Ada’s legacy still lives on in the wonderfully named cocktail, the ‘Hanky Panky’. Legend has it that this drink was born when a regular of hers, Charles Hawtrey (famous comic actor of the time), stumbled in, overworked and tired, and asked her to hit him with something that had ‘a bit of punch in it.’ After trying it, he exclaimed, ‘Well, Hanky Panky!’- and the name stuck.
In 1925, Ada retired from the Savoy American bar- but by then her mark was well and truly made. So, here’s to you, Ada- and all your Hanky Panky’s.
Joy Perrine, 1946- 2019
Joy Perrine was always going to be a mixologist; she practically had moonshine running through her veins. Born into a bootlegging, rum-running family in New Jersey (and part of the inspiration behind certain characters in the Boardwalk Empire series), the self-proclaimed ‘Bad girl of Bourbon’ started her career in the Caribbean, mainly working with her family’s favourite of rum, in the cocktail bars that had sprung up when the tropical islands became the go-to destination of the 1960’s glamorous jet-set. She loved how rum and sweet tastes such as fruit infused so well, but it wasn’t until she moved to Kentucky in the late 70’s that she found her real calling. Now, this is where it gets interesting; not only was Joy a female bartender working with bourbon, which even now has a reputation for being a ‘man’s drink’, but she was in Kentucky: a place which didn’t even let women behind or in front of a bar until the 1970’s- calling Joy a trailblazer really doesn’t cover it. Joy found that the flavours which worked with rum could be adapted and transferred to bourbon cocktails, something totally unique in the mixology space at the time; she called bourbon the ‘Fall and holiday season’ spirit, mixing it with earthy, rich flavours like pecan, pumpkin, spices and cranberries. After working in both Equus Restaurant and Jack’s lounge since 2000, Joy was inducted into the Kentucky Bourbon Hall of fame’ in 2016- basically the equivalent of a knighthood in the Bourbon world. Sadly, this Badass girl lost her fight with cancer at the age of 73 in December of 2019, but wherever you are Joy, we’ll be raising a tumbler to you.
Juyong Kang- 1979- present
Originally from Philadelphia, Juyong Kang first entered the world of hospitality when she answered a ‘wanted’ ad looking for Banquet servers. She was immediately drawn to the bartending side, and finally got her break when a tender failed to show up for a 300-person wedding. At the time, Juyong was in college studying filmmaking, but found herself more and more interested in spirits and would spend her spare time going around liquor stores and making notes about the different drinks they sold. Originally thinking that she wanted to become a sommelier rather than mixologist, she also studied winemaking, until realising that (in her words) she found both strains of her studying boring and make the full jump into the bar world.
Juyong has gained notability through innovative mixology techniques, bold flavour palettes and an intense eye for detail. After moving to California to start her career, Juyong eventually relocated to Las Vegas where she could be more experimental in her drinks making. She’s worked at several incredible venues, including Comme Ça and Las Vegas supper club ‘Rose.Rabbit.Lie’, before eventually going on to hold the prestigious title of head bartender at the legendary Dorsey cocktail bar inside the Venetian Hotel. In 2017, Wine enthusiast magazine named her as one of their ’40 under 40 tastemakers’, and she’s won ‘Most imaginative bartender’ from GQ magazine. Juyong takes creating a cocktail menu very seriously, and says, “When you’re creating a beverage menu, it’s not about you, your creativity, or how cool your drinks are. It’s about the guests that are sitting at your table.” We’ll drink to that, Juyong.
Monica Berg, ?- present
Whilst the internet is mysteriously elusive about how old Monica is, it’s clear to see that she’s the new generation of mixologists. Originally from Norway, this Oslo native began working in the hospitality industry at the tender age of 15, before going on to attend bartending school as a teenager; in fact, she was so desperate to get behind the bar that she moved to Greece at the age of 20 so she could start bartending several months before the legal drinking age in Norway. By the time she returned at 21, Monica was more than ready to dive in, working in every venue from Dive Bars to hotel cocktail lounges.
As well as making, Monica has also been busy teaching, and as well as training wannabe mixologists at Bartending school, she also set up her own Bar consultancy firm to bring her knowledge to other brands and companies. By the time she was ready to come back into the game, Monica had a clear vision; bringing the fresh, distinct flavours of her Nordic routes into cocktails. Her deceptively simple looking yet incredibly complex flavoured cocktails have garnered her international praise, and in 2019 this passion and knowledge led to her being the first ever female to win the Altos Bartender’s Bartender award in the world’s 50 best bars competition. She now co-owns Old Street cocktail bar Tayēr and Elementary with partner Alex Kratena.
So, there you have it; five fierce females representing in the wonderful world of mixology. Feel like we’ve left someone out? Let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org- we always love learning about amazing people!
Ada’s Hanky Panky recipe:
- 1 1/2 oz Gin
- 1 1/2 oz Sweet vermouth
- 2 dashes Fernet-Branca
- Garnish: Orange twist
- Add all the ingredients into a mixing glass with ice and stir.
- Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
- Garnish with an orange twist.
- Sit back and enjoy in the knowledge that you’re a teeny tiny bit smashing the patriarchy. Ada would be proud.