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Women In Drinks

In honour of International Women’s Day 2018 (and the 100 year anniversary of the Suffragette movement), we’ve partnered with ultimate booze babe, BarChick to celebrate badass women within the drinks industry - releasing an exclusive set of interviews with some of the ultimate girl bosses who are running the world of booze.  

The drinks industry is not all about boisterous barmen and silly stereotypes – the world of UK booze is celebrating women, we’ve known it all along – and everyone else should too.

This collection of phenomenally passionate women shows that the female of the species has undeniably cemented themselves within an industry which, until recently, has been extremely male-dominated – and are calling to arms others to grow the girl gang.  

Check out the full video here:

Mia Johansson - Managing Partner, Swift

Mia - International Women's DayHow did you get into the industry?

I had a work experience opportunity when I was 14 - you got to pick what you wanted to go and learn about, and I picked a bakery - even though I wanted to be a nurse. I thought I’d go and eat some pastries and this lead to me getting to know the guys who ran the sandwich shop next door. I ended up working there for the summer and then began running it for a few years until I was 18. I just loved the atmosphere of it, with the returning guests, there was such rhythm in there that I really fell in love with. From there, it was into restaurants and then bars, which allowed me to travel - I was hooked!


What’s your biggest achievement?

My little bar in Soho called Swift is the thing I’m most proud of, but particularly within that, it’s really the team. They are just the nicest bunch of people and the atmosphere they’ve created means so much to me - they are amazing to each other and to every guest they meet.

What other women in the industry inspire you?

My business partner Rosie Stimpson has created a warm and successful empire and she is the leading lady in her own life. I can’t not take away something from her that encourages or inspires me each time I see her. To be able to create your own hospitality business, keep a straight head, a happy family, be warm and welcoming, willing to share education and progress everyone around her is something truly admirable.

What advice do you have for other women looking to get into the industry?

Getting into the industry is easy but the key is to believe in yourself and your brand, not trying to adapt yourself too hard into what other people want you to do or be. Stick to your guns - that’s what makes you stick out.

Have you seen changes in the way women are progressing in the industry or making their mark?

The voices that we have are louder but that’s probably because it’s becoming annoying that not a lot has changed. There still needs to be more wiggle room, there needs to be doors left opened left, right and centre. It’s still so rare that you walk into a bar and you see two women behind a bar or a whole female team, but you walk into a bar and there’s a whole male team and you don’t even notice it. There still needs to be a lot more done, but I’m kind of happy that the women who are speaking up are speaking up quite loudly, I think it’s the start of a revolution.

Pippa Guy - Senior Bartender at The American Bar at The Savoy

Pippa - International Women's DayHow did you get into the industry?

I started when I was at university, after my first year I just wanted to earn some money for myself part time so I started working in the bar around the corner. Then, after Uni I started to work full time, just because I loved it - and that’s never changed.

What’s your biggest achievement or the thing you’re most proud of?

Probably when I got the role as a senior bartender at The American Bar (in The Savoy, the World’s Best Bar 2017). I’m the first female bartender in nearly 100 years. I remember in my interview, about six months ago now, Declan (Bar Manager of The American Bar) interviewed me for about an hour and a half - he really really grilled me! Then at the end, he told me that he’d signed all the paperwork two days ago. I just sat and burst into tears, it was so cruel but it was definitely my proudest moment.

What other women in the industry inspire you?

Camille Ralph Vidal, Global Brand Ambassador of St. Germain. She is super friendly and fun and very much at the forefront of driving our industry forward. Alongside Tim Etherington- Judge, she has started a community initiative called Healthy Hospo - aimed at getting everyone in our industry to look after themselves a little more and to talk about our health and wellbeing and become more supportive of each other. I think this is a fantastic initiative and something much needed. Wellness is the new sustainability and with both of these notions, and working in such a volatile industry - it’s so important that everyone is more aware and has a larger responsibility for their actions on our bodies and environment.

What’s your advice to women looking to get into the industry?

Don’t let your fears or insecurities hold you back. Sometimes the more scared you are about pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone, the more rewarding the end result is. That’s what I’ve found anyway. Self- confidence and stage fright are two big issues for me but part of what I love about what I do is that I get to challenge and push myself daily.

Shervene Shahbazkhani - Head of Brand Advocacy - Bacardi

Shervene - International Women's DayHow did you get into the industry?

My first job was aged 15 as a kitchen porter, from there I worked in every aspect of hospitality through school, uni, and during my two years travelling. After my travels I was going to pursue a career in marketing - but realised I loved hospitality too much and came back to run bars and restaurants in Scotland, which became my career.

What’s your biggest achievement/the thing you’re most proud of?

Landing the role of Bacardi Brown Forman Head of Advocacy has been my biggest achievement to date. It’s a role I aspired to hold back when Alex Turner led the team, and something that I have set my sites on for some time. To run the Ambassador team, a collective of ambitious passionate people in one of the most advanced cocktail markets is extremely rewarding.

What other women in the industry inspire you?

There are quite a few women in the industry that inspire me daily. Many of those I’m lucky enough to work with. The passion and drive of my fellow ambassadors; May, Karine and Andrea is beyond belief. My true inspiration is Lisa Jazwinski, one of my former bosses, and Marketing Director for Bacardi Rum. She has taught me to lead fearlessly, with passion and conviction. She gave me opportunities that built my career and gained valuable experience. I would also like to shout out Hannah Sharman-Cox and Hannah Lanfear who both embody girl power and are pillars of our community - and amazing at what they do.

What’s your advice to women looking to get into the industry?

Make yourself present. Turn up to events, trainings, enter competitions. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there… we are always on the hunt for new talent, if you don’t ask, you don’t get. I will personally help any female who wants to progress in the industry and give them all the contacts, pointers and support they need. Reach out! My email address is shervene@bacardi.com.

Have you seen a change in the way women are progressing or making their mark in the industry?

Sadly no. The pool of women is still as small as it was when I started… I can name in one hand the number of females, running bars, winning competitions, opening their own places! It’s a shame we haven’t changed much in the last ten years…. The girls that worked in bars at the same time as I did, are now working alongside me in brand roles… the group is that small.

Ali Dedianko - Director of London Beer Week

Ali - International Women's DayHow did you get into the industry?

I started as a waitress at 17 in Baltimore’s Little Italy and eventually moved to working behind the bar in NYC where I went to college. I worked as a bartender in various venues around New York for 8 years before joining Belvedere Vodka as Global Brand Ambassador in 2011. After 6 years with the brand - I left to join the girls of DrinkUp.London, where I am Creative Director of London Beer Week. Like many people I’m sure, I didn’t set out to make hospitality a career, it started as a way to make money but I fell in love with the industry and have never looked back.


What’s your biggest achievement/the thing you’re most proud of?

In September of last year, I opened a restaurant in North London called Ceremony with my husband. It is a vegetarian restaurant and bar, and while it’s certainly the hardest thing I’ve ever done, it’s also the most rewarding.

What other women in the industry inspire you?

I work with an entire team of inspiring women at DrinkUp! We are 7 females; Hannah is the MD, Siobhan runs London Cocktail Week, Emma looks after London Wine Week, Tina is in charge of events, Bea looks after our relationship with bars and Sammy is in charge of everything digital. We are the ultimate #girlgang

What’s your advice to women looking to get into the industry?

Pretty simple really, just go for it, there is nothing inherently male about working in booze. All of the women I know love a drink as much as any guy, so it’s certainly not a question of the liquid. And when it comes to the physical aspect of bartending, its not as though women aren’t capable of standing on their feet for long hours. Plus, we are way better at multi-tasking, a skill any good bartender should have!

Have you seen a change in the way women are progressing or making their mark in the industry?

Of course! But progress always takes time and we need more women to put aside their own self-doubt when it comes to things they think they ‘can’t’ or ‘shouldn’t’ do. Ignore the haters, do what you love.

Sandrae Lawrence - Coowner, The Cocktail Lovers & Drinks Journalist

Sandrae - International Women's Day

What’s it like being a woman in the drinks industry?

I absolutely love it, it’s a really fun industry. I’ve been in lots of different industries - fashion, beauty, music and drinks is by far my favourite. Why is it my favourite? - just because there’s a real comradery with the women and with the men it’s not girls against boys it’s very much about everyone getting on.

Do you think that men in the industry have a lot of respect for women?

I think they definitely do, I think also the drinks industry attracts a certain type of woman - they’re very feisty, they’re independent and they’re fun so i think that that’s very much a part of it. It’s a very particular type of woman that works in the drinks industry, and i think that men respect that.

And what do you do?

I publish and edit a magazine called The Cocktail Lovers with my husband. It’s an amazing time to be working drinks and to be writing about them - there’s so much creativity!

Do you think there’s a lot of scope for different backgrounds in the industry?

Yes, especially for women - as they often feel like it’s not an industry that they can work in but we want them to know of the scope available - obviously bartenders is a role that sticks out but there’s also brand ambassadors which is a great place for women to be working, there’s consultancy, writing and all sort of creative roles - it is such a creative industry

How exciting is your job?

I love my job and I love the fact that I created it. We get to travel the world, we judge cocktail competitions, we go to new bar openings, we’ll go and interview the most amazing people. There are so many layers to drinks, there’s the creation of the spirits, the labelling and we try to bring those things to life. That’s one of the reasons we got into it in the first place, because of the people that work in it - we were just so passionate about what they did and we wanted to share that passion with other people.

What is your biggest achievement?

Getting the magazine off the ground but having that achievement recognised at Tales of the Cocktail - The Spirited Awards. Having a magazine that you create with your husband at the time and having that recognised as the best publication about drinks at the time in the world - is pretty damn awesome.

Which women inspire you?

There’s a big list - Clare Warner is one, Shervene & May from Bacardi. There’s a lot of women in rum, I don’t whether rum is just this universally brilliant spirit but there’s a lot of ladies doing shit-hot jobs in that space. Some people don't get the recognition they deserve because they just do their job because that’s what they love. It can be harder but now there’s so much more scope for women to do whatever they want, and not just in drinks. 10 years ago it was a very different story - so this momentum and change I think is pretty rocking.

What do you think the future holds for women?

I think it’s great - we have the right mindset. The only thing that stops us doing what we want is our own imagination.

We know it’s not men who are holding back women in the industry, but what do you think it is?

I think women hold themselves back and that’s probably because they’ve seen it in their mind as something that males do - understandably as most bars have see mostly male teams, but that’s not because women cant be there, it’s because we hold ourselves back from being there. Even working in drinks companies, you’ll see most of the secretaries or PRs are women but what I want to say to people is don't settle for being the assistant. If you want to be the assistant that’s great but if you want to be the boss, be the fucking boss.

Claire Warner - Head of New Brands for Seedlip

Claire - International Women's DayHow did you get into the industry?

I worked in hospitality throughout my time at university, and when I graduated I really did’t want to pursue a career in law. I slowly discovered the wonderful stories and industry that lay behind the brands and bottles on my back bar and progressed through the bar industry ranks, firstly by competing in every competition going, and then eventually crossing over into the brand ambassador world. Having spent some time working with Henry Besant and Dick Bradsell, I was recommended to Moet Hennessy to conduct a vodka training for their newly acquired Belvedere vodka. That was back in 2002 and I joined as the UK brand ambassador in 2003. Over time, I progressed within the company, spending a lot of time with the then flavour distiller in France. Once he retired I took over the liquid development side for Belvedere in 2008 moving the production of the range of macerated flavours to our distillery in Poland. From that point, together with the brilliant team at Polmos Zyrardow we developed 13 new Belvedere vodkas over the course of a decade. That journey also instilled within me a deep love for health, wellness and nature, and wanted to find ways to bring more of what I loved into my work. In joining Seedlip to head up new brands this year, I have discovered a meaningful way to work with liquid development while harnessing nature and in doing so, further helping to grow the category of brilliant non-alcoholic brands for the future.  

What’s your biggest achievement/the thing you’re most proud of?

Helping to start the conversation around becoming a healthier hospitality industry, as well help raise awareness around the damaging nature of sugar, in particular, fructose when combined with alcohol.  

What other women in the industry inspire you?

So many, it is difficult to pick out just a few. I am inspired by all of the women who have made a successful career in this industry and I would love to encourage to join the industry and help lead in the variety of wonderful, creative and exciting roles that exist within the industry. My long-term mentor and close friend Hannah Sharman-Cox, founder of Drink Up, has is a great example of someone who has excelled in many roles within the industry and what she is doing with Drunk Up is incredibly innovative and pioneering. We should all aim to be a bit like Hannah.

What’s your advice to women looking to get into the industry?

Be flexible, do things that scare you or that you’re not an ‘expert’ in, ask lots of questions and find a mentor who can help guide you. There are many career trajectories within the industry and not all of them are obvious, so don’t be afraid to try lots of things until you find something that truly challenges and excites you.

Have you seen a change in the way women are progressing or making their mark in the industry?

Ultimately yes, but the changes are slow and there needs to be much more focus and a real concerted effort in finding ways to empower women and finding ways to support and champion female talent, as well as fostering more diversity in general, within the industry.

Metinee Kongsrivilai - UK On Trade Brand Ambassador for Bacardi Rums

May - International Women's DayHow did you get into the industry?

I fell into it by accident. After graduating, I went to Edinburgh to fine a ‘proper job’ as my friends and family would call it back then. After opening the Bon Vivant with Stuart McCluskey, who encouraged me to enter cocktail competitions, I discovered that I was actually good at what I did. I was also amazed by the industry itself. Such supportive community with so many things you can get into.

What’s your biggest achievement/the thing you’re most proud of?

My progression within the industry itself. I remember not having confidence in myself. I did’t think that I was as good as my peers. Even remember crying to Stu once as I didn’t like the pressure of competitions, then I won one, and another, and another.

What other women in the industry inspire you?

So so many! I absolutely love Sandrae Lawrence who has created such aspirational and educational content for her magazine. Andrea Montague, I’ve always been in awe of since I first met her. She’s so intelligent, creative and hard working. Georgie Bell, I’m just so proud about how far she’s come. I remember laughing at her stupid shake when we first worked together in Scotland. Today I think she is one of the most intelligent and inspiring people not just in the whisky industry, but the industry as a whole. And lastly, I don’t mean to be corny, but my partner in crime Shervene. We used to be absolute rivals in Scotland, but she has taught me so much about work and life. She’s so forward thinking, articulate and don’t forget, a lot of fun to be around. The best thing is these guys don’t even know how amazing they are and are so humble about everything.

What’s your advice to women looking to get into the industry?

Just do it! Enjoy it, and have some faith in yourself. No one is there to knock you down. Everyone there is to support you on your journey. You’ll make so many amazing friends and will have so much fun. You’ll never look back and will never let go of it!

Have you seen a change in the way women are progressing or making their mark in the industry?

Not enough. There are so many opportunities within the industry, not just bartending. I think it’s poor that we still have to encourage more females to embrace this industry, and keep making poor excuses for ourselves. So many of my female friends have done so well for themselves through hard work and self-belief, but there is just still not enough of us.

Maja Jaworska - General Manager, Super Lyan

Maja - International Women's DayHow did you get into the industry?

I started off actually working in coffee, which gave me a passage into the drinks industry. Three years ago I did a coffee popup - Black Lyan for White Lyan, so White Lyan was open during the day, making coffee. After this, I was asked if I wanted to carry on working and switch industries

What other women in the industry inspire you?

It may be a bit of a silly answer, but - all of them! The drinks industry is still very much male-dominated - so any woman that is 'forging' her way through, is someone I very much admire and am inspired by!

What’s your biggest achievement, or the thing you’re most proud of?

To be honest it’s a simple one - I’m working with the White Lyan group. Before I joined them I couldn’t find my place in London - it can be a bit of a harsh environment - and beginning my career with White Lyan meant finding a kind of family and home in London.

What advice do you have for other women looking to get into the industry?

Be yourself, ask as many questions as you can, be humble, but also be completely unapologetic for who you are. Push your way through but always be nice and humble.

Have you seen a change in the way women are progressing in the industry or making their mark?

Women have definitely been progressing in the industry and making their mark, especially compared to a few years ago, back then I don’t think there were as many visible women in the industry as there are now. So changes are definitely slow but they are happening.

Alex Chatwin - Owner of LX PR

Alex - International Women's DayHow did you get into the industry?

I actually got into the drinks industry by mistake... I'd always loved food and drink and trying new places but had never thought about it as a career. At my first agency they had a mix of lifestyle clients and I naturally gravitated towards the drinks clients as you get to work with such great people and on really fun projects. At my next agency there was a really specific focus on drinks which is where my knowledge and passion for the industry really grew.

What’s your biggest achievement/the thing you’re most proud of?

My biggest achievement to date is definitely launching LX PR with my business partner Alex Irving, we’re an agency that works with bars, bartenders and the drinks brands they would work with. Officially launching was quite a surreal moment but very exciting!

What other women in the industry inspire you?

Lots of women in the industry inspire me as there are so many doing great things, however personally my biggest inspiration is my co-founder and business partner Alex Irving. I met her early on in my career and it was her passion, dedication and mentorship which really inspired me to get to where I am today.

Have you seen a change in the way women are progressing or making their mark in the industry?

I think women have always played an important role in the industry, and whilst there's still some way to go, it's good that it's something which is recognised and celebrated more now. For a long time the general public's perception of drinks was very stereotypically gendered (e.g. men drink whisky, women drink cosmos), but as these stereotypes continue to break down there's no limit to what women can achieve within the industry or the roles they can take on.

Sophie Douse - Distiller & Gin Instructor at The Ginstitute

Sophie - International Women's DayHow did you get into the industry?

I actually started working as a hairdresser, but I was bar backing at night for extra cash; but I quickly realised that I was a lot better at making drinks than cutting hair! I was lucky enough that making cocktails took me to London and the Philippines, but there comes a time in your life when 3am finishes don’t feel as good as they used to. That’s when I saw Jake Burger’s post about becoming a Gin Instructor for The Ginstitute. I now get to combine my two passions of teaching and making gin.

What’s your biggest achievement/the thing you’re most proud of?

I am super proud of leading our team at The Ginstitute through last Christmas. We were super busy, and the team were working around the clock to get customers’ gins in Santa’s stockings on time. But achievements don’t have to be huge or financial. Last week I actually distilled a Big Mac in the quest for a Big Mac Martini. It was bloody delicious!

What other women in the industry inspire you?

Someone who certainly inspires me is Hannah Sharman-Cox the founder and MD of DrinkUp.London. She runs a group of badass females, who I was lucky enough to work with during London Cocktail Week.  But of the girls who work on the front line so to speak, I would certainly recommend paying a visit to Claire Best at Callooh Callay and Jessica Hellicar at Satan’s Whiskers.

What’s your advice to women looking to get into the industry?

To put it simply, be the best. Learn everything you can, therefore if you are ever challenged or questioned, you will be able to reply with a rock solid answer that will gain you respect and admiration. Being the best is nothing about gender, it’s about how good you are.

Have you seen a change in the way women are progressing or making their mark in the industry?

Certainly it is refreshing to hear labels such as ‘best female bartender’ be replaced with ‘best bartender.’ So we are heading in the right direction, but there is certainly more work to be done. I am the only female in an all-male team at The Ginstitute and it can feel a little bit like a boy’s club. For some reason this industry doesn’t reach to or appeal to many talented females. But hopefully doing things like this will help encourage women to seek a career behind the bar in hospitality. I am certainly privileged to be amongst the company here today.

Tagged in: international womens day, spirits, women, women in drinks. Categories: News, Just For Fun, 31D Loves.

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