When Ada Coleman retired from bartending in 1926 five newspapers hailed her as the “Queen of Mixers.” The master mixologist estimated that she’d poured over a million drinks in the famous Savoy American Bar. During her career, she crafted cocktails for Mark Twain, Charlie Chaplin, Prince Willhelm of Sweden, as well as thousands of other patrons. At a time when women were hard to find behind the bar, Ada awflourished and introduced the world to some of the most ingenious and delicious cocktails out there. For example, her electrifying Hanky Panky was like magic in a glass for the worn-out comedian and actor, Sir Charles Hawtrey. “By Jove, this is the real Hanky Panky!” he cried after downing the drink in one gulp (at the time, in England, Hanky Panky meant magic or witchcraft).
As an outspoken critic of Prohibition in the United States and a career bartender with just as much acclaim as the celebrities she served, Ada continues to be a teacher and role model for anyone pursuing a career tending bar. Even after Prohibition, laws prohibited many women from consuming alcohol or taking up careers behind the bar. As late as the 1970’s women were still fighting for the right to work behind a bar. That didn’t stop Joy Perrine from becoming the “The Bad Girl of Bourbon” at a time when less than 21 percent of bartenders in the United States were women. Joy grew up in a family of famous bootleggers but left her home in New Jersey at an early age for warm water and sunny beaches of the Virgin Islands. While tending bar in a veritable paradise, Joy experimented with local rums and created a name for herself throughout the islands as a master of her craft.
When she moved to Kentucky in the 1970s, a time and place where most women weren’t even allowed to sit in bars, Joy immersed herself in bourbon, figuratively, and created incredible bourbon cocktails that helped kickstart a craft-cocktail revolution in the United States. “When I started getting some press and recognized for making bourbon cocktails, a lot of people got really pissed off,” Joy shared. Bourbon makers were upset that someone would mix their spirits with other ingredients, claiming bourbon should only be enjoyed neat. Well, they didn’t rattle Joy, and years later, in 2016, she became the first woman inducted into the Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame.
Winning awards and blazing trails didn’t keep Joy away from the bar, she continued to work at Equus & Jack’s for 30 years until her passing in 2019. “I’m a bartender. I’ve always been a bartender — born a bartender, die a bartender,” Joy shared with local reporters. As we step into Women’s history month, let’s raise a cocktail to the women who made cocktail culture what is today.
Prep Time: 5 min
- 1.5 OZ. GIN (LIKE PRAIRIE ORGANIC GIN)
- 1.5 OZ. SWEET VERMOUTH (TRY CARPANO ANTICA)
- 2 SPLASHES OF FERNET (I ENJOY DON CICCIO & FIGLI’S DON FERNET)
- 3 DASHES ANGOSTURA BITTERS
- GARNISH: 1 ORANGE PEEL TWIST (See Pro Tips For An Easy Orange Garnish)
- An orange peel twist garnish is as simple as peeling a stirp about the width and length of your thumb. You can use a potato peeler, sharp knife, or Y-peeler. Twist the orange peel around your index finger with the pith (white part) facing your skin. Slide off your finger, tighten if necessary, and rest against the rim of the glass.
- Expressing an orange peel (or any citrus) is a common and effective way to impart a hint of citrus flavor in cocktails. It’s as simple as crimping the peel with the outside (colorful side) facing towards the liquid. The crimp, will squeeze out an “expression” of oils onto the top of the cocktail, and infuse it with the aroma and flavor of the fruit.
I’ve written extensively about Don Ciccio & Figli, and it’s worth mentioning the ship to almost every state in the country. They make all their spirits with 100 percent natural ingredients, and they offer free tasting at their Sirena bar. I haven’t written as much about Prairie Organic Spirits, which make their organic spirits with Minnesota corn from local farmers. They also donate 1 percent of their profits to advancing the education of the next generation of organic farmers. Their award-winning sustainable spirits are an easy and affordable way to drink better cocktails.