Four nights drinking in San Francisco, seventeen bartenders - only one of them with two x chromosomes. Perhaps part of it is that I went to a lot of hi-falutin cocktail lounges where they have unheard of spirits and bitters infused with bug parts. Almost every one of these bars had its version of the quintessential San Fran barman. Think Alferd Packer with cuff garters, tattoos, and skinny jeans - if Packard could have given up man-meat for some absinthe-infested concoction in glass beakers.
Maybe it's because bartending is still a relatively new career for women. In the 1895 U.S. census, there were almost 56,000 male bartenders, but only 147 women. It wasn't until WWII, when America's young men were fighting on two fronts, that women found their place behind the bar, stirring up dry gin martinis and shaking icy sidecars. But as soon as America's war heroes came home, they wanted their lucrative bar positions back and. In some cases, they ensured that women didn't work behind the bar.
In 1945, New York City, Atlantic City, and the state of Michigan made it against the law to be a female bartender. California had a law on the books that made it illegal for women to "pour whiskey." It wasn't repealed until 1971 when a gutsy strip club owner wanted to put his dancers behind the bar. In the mid-70s, Holiday Inn started hiring pretty young women in droves to bartend as they recognized the move meant more profit.
It is a new era for the woman bartender. Our innate skills of mixing ingredients, sincere compassion, and natural eye for detail will no doubt allow us to push what people think of a saloon, including the mood, cocktails, and service. But until females dominate the bar scene, do cuff garters come in pink?
The following is a concotion conceived by one of the trailblazers, Audrey Saunders, the first female internationally recognized mixologist in the history books. And yes, Saunders is still very much alive and owns the Pegu Club in New York City.
Muddle lime juice, simple syrup, and mint. Add gin and ice. Shake well. Add ginger beer and mix. Serve over ice with a splash of soda and a lime wedge as garnish.
12 oz lime juice
12 oz simple syrup
6 mint sprigs
34 ginger beer
12 oz bombay gin
splash of soda water