MEET THE TRAILBLAZING WOMXN REDEFINING THE DRINKS INDUSTRY
Women have always played an important role in the drinks industry, and many rise up to become important pillars in the community – sharing their knowledge and creating wonderful environments for customers and staff. We sit down with Eibhlin Colgan, Shannon Mustipher, Jo McKerchar, Anna Ngyuen, and Emily Chipperfield to hear their take on working in the drinks industry.
Make Mine a Guinness: Managing the Archives with Eibhlin Colgan
Based at the Guinness Storehouse, St. James’s Gate Brewery, Eibhlin manages the Guinness Archive. Her role is to curate the rich heritage of the Guinness brand, from its foundation in 1759 to the present. The Guinness heritage story is very much a living heritage, as the archive provides inspiration to their brand teams for strategies and activations that are happening both now and in the future.
What inspired you to work in the drinks industry?
Guinness is so much more than a beer; it is a company and brand that has been part of communities in Ireland and overseas for over 200 years. In the Archive we certainly hold records relating to brewing and raw materials, but we also hold almost 30,000 personnel files of former employees, reflecting the lives of the people behind the beer. Guinness has always been about community, and that is very much reflected in the Archive collection.
Is there anyone in the industry you look up to and has inspired your career path?
The first Guinness Archivist, Sue Garland, was a great role model for me when I first took over the Archive 20 years ago. She built the foundation blocks upon which the Guinness Archive collections have grown and expanded.
Today, I am inspired by our current St. James’s Gate brewers, who are the latest generation of brewers that can be traced back to Arthur Guinness, our founder. Their passion and commitment to creating consistently great beer and innovating within the beer category, will ensure that Arthur’s legacy will exist well beyond the 21st century.
Do you think there are still barriers for women in the drinks industry? How do you think we can best overcome these?
In the Middle Ages, brewing was considered an extension of the domestic work undertaken by women in providing ale for workers to eat and drink. Small, local cottage breweries were run by women who were known as “alewives”. It wasn’t until the industrial revolution that brewing became a male-dominated industry.
In a way, women in the drinks industry aren’t something completely new. However, much progress has been towards gender inclusion since the 1980s, with more still to be done.
What positive changes have you seen for women working for Guinness?
At Guinness, the first female brewer was appointed in the 1980s, which was considered groundbreaking at the time. Now, it’s considered perfectly normal for both male and female brewers to have equal employment opportunities, so we have come a long way in a few decades.
At St. James’s Gate, there is a very inclusive culture that celebrates employees as themselves. This benefits the business as a diverse and inclusive workforce can only lead to greater innovation and collaboration.
Want to know more about the archives? Here is Eibhlin at work:
Inspirational Women: Being a Cocktail Connoisseur with Shannon Mustipher
While in college, Shannon Mustipher watched Big Night with Stanley Tucci which inspired her to host an intimate dinner party for nine. She served nine courses for her friends, all made from scratch, and this is how she fell in love with hospitality.
Shannon began working as a barista, which was how she discovered her passion for crafting drinks. When she moved to New York to pursue work in the photo industry, she took jobs working in wine bars in restaurants which inspired her home mixology hobby. That led her to bartending full time from 2014.
Do you have a favourite woman bartender?
I have too many to count! They include Ms. Frank Marshall, Lynette Marrero, Ivy Mix, and Stacey Swenson. All of them are trailblazers who are incredibly hardworking and multifaceted.
If I must name one and only one, I will cite Tiffanie Barriere. She has had a long and fruitful career running one of the world’s best bars, working with brands, getting involved in trade education, and lending her amazing personality to consumer-facing, media appearances. In the words of one of my favorite entertainers, she’s “every woman” when it comes to the bar business.
What is your signature cocktail?
This is the easiest question by far: the Daiquiri! When I started the bar program at Glady’s in 2015, I embraced this as the marquee cocktail that the team would utilize to win the hearts and minds of our guests. The rum category did not have the best reputation, or a high level of exposure to the average consumer at the time. It has a fascinating history and is a great base to test what a rum - or a bartender - is made of.
What change would you make to the bar industry to encourage more women to join?
Bar culture would benefit from scaling back on the glorification of the party aspect of the profession, which unfortunately is linked to creating environments where women are made to feel unsafe or discover that they are in fact in an unsafe situation.
Over the past few years, the industry has not only made a concerted effort to address and correct this, it has made significant strides in providing in-depth education that makes it possible for women to improve their knowledge, skills, and marketability.
The next step would be to provide more financial education and mentorship to assist women in becoming owners of their own businesses - be it as bar proprietors, distillers, or consultants to create more options for individuals to participate in the industry.
How do you create a supportive and inclusive environment that encourages the growth of women in the drinks industry?
When I managed the bar program at Glady’s, I made a point to expose anyone on the staff - women or otherwise - to educational resources - be it taking the time to taste with them, take a few extra minutes to review a technique, to point them to travel and seminar opportunities.
We only had three women who bartender there for a year or more, as it was a small crew and I split most of the shifts with a gentleman for the first three years we were open, but they all went on to become bar managers, owners, and consultants, so I think something rubbed off.
Currently, I curate a pop up called Women Who Tiki - we activate six to eight times a year and invite three to six guest bartenders to showcase their cocktail innovations, get exposure via our social media channels, travel, and network with bartenders and producers from diverse areas of the industry.
‘Hers is a Tonic and Mine is a Gin’: Malts and Gins with Jo McKerchar
Jo McKerchar has been working at the Diageo Archive for the last 16 years. Her role is managing Malts and Gins in the Diageo brand portfolio. She is involved in all types of operations but has, most recently, been working on the re-opening of Brora and Port Ellen, four corner distillery experiences, and new product innovations such as Tanqueray Blackcurrant Royale. Jo gives us an insight into malts and gins with Diageo.
How did you get into the spirits industry?
Like many Scots, the spirits industry has always been in my family. My Grampa used to work at the site where I am now based, and my Dad worked in the whisky industry for over 25 years – so growing up I was always aware of the whisky industry and the women that were involved in it.
I remember going to visit distilleries on family holidays, so I guess it was kind of inevitable I would continue the family connection into its third generation. My personal journey is a bit of a unique one. I am a huge believer in following your passions in life, so when choosing a university degree, it had to be History. I followed that with a Masters in Archive and Records Management, following a year’s placement at the National Archive of Scotland.
I was incredibly lucky that the job at the Diageo Archive came up just as I was about to graduate. 16 years later I am still here, doing what I love.
What has your experience as a woman working in spirits been?
Women in the spirits industry are incredibly supportive of each other, and they will go out of their way to do what they can for you. Occasionally you will find yourself at events where there are very few women there, but we always seek each other out for a friendly hello.
As the industry is quite small, it’s lovely as you always bump into the same friendly faces. You see the success of women in the spirits industry from all aspects, whether it be female coopers or coppersmiths, distillery managers, marketing directors, or running the archive, the women of this industry succeed.
I think you need to ensure that inclusivity and diversity is at the heart of all you do. By promoting this through all levels of your company, and holding your partners to the same standards, will not only encourage the growth on women in the drinks industry but the industry as a whole will benefit.
More than Cosmopolitans: Women and Bartending with Anna Nguyen
While working as a waitress in university, Anna Nguyen met some incredible bartenders who taught her about the history and wondrous world of cocktails and spirits. After they encouraged her to get behind the bar, she continued her journey in cocktail making. Now working as the Restaurant Manager for Door Knock, Sydney, Anna shares her insight into bartending.
Do you have someone that you look up to in the bar industry?
Natalie Ng (Door Knock) has been a long-time mentor and close friend of mine. She is an incredible woman to work for.
Do you think it is harder for women to make a career in the drinks industry?
Being a woman in the industry has its challenges - and being an ethnic woman has not made it any easier. However, I believe that the industry has shifted to a more inclusive mindset in the last few years, and female empowerment is currently at an all-time high meaning there are more opportunities to climb the ladder.
What’s your favourite bar?
Atlas, Singapore - gorgeous venue and even better Martinis.
Is there a spirit you’re passionate about in particular?
I've always been fascinated by the rich global history of spirits, the nitty gritty details of the production process, and of course, the integral role it plays in cocktails.
I absolutely adore whisky, and so does my father - it's a bonding tool for us and so has a very special place in my heart.
How would you encourage women to get into the drinks industry?
I think that more women in the industry (whether they be distillers, brand ambassadors, journalists, or bartenders) need to be acknowledged for their achievements to show young women all the different things that they can aspire to achieve.
It is important to champion inclusivity for everyone, no matter where they are on the gender spectrum. Healthy workplace environments where ALL are welcome to join and have a great time is key!
A wonderful example is Speed Rack - Lynnette and Ivy have created an incredible program that helps to support, educate, and showcase the skills of women across the globe.
How can people break through as bartenders?
Don't doubt your worth and always continue to educate yourself! Sign up for training programs, apply for jobs at venues that inspire you, don't be scared to enter a competition or to reach out to fellow females in the industry.
You miss 100% of the shots you don't take, and you never know which tiny little decision can take you down an amazing career path.
What did you wish you knew when you first started bartending?
I wish that I stood up for myself more. It took a long time for me to be confident in my skills and comfortable in my own skin. I'm so grateful to have had unwavering support from colleagues who stood up for me when I was too scared to stand up for myself.
Muddling through the Drinks Industry: Working in Hospitality with Emily Chipperfield
Starting off in hospitality, Emily Chipperfield soon fell in love with how fun it was to call a bar “work”. Hailing from an area that didn’t have much appreciation for cocktails, her first margarita aged 21 was a game changer.
She quickly understood cocktails would open her mind to a lot of new flavours – she didn’t like sour foods but loved citric drinks. Getting to learn about spirits and the dynamic style of content available, she realised she could never get bored in the drinks industry.
What is your favourite cocktail to make?
Charlie Chaplin. It’s also my favourite cocktail to drink, and doesn’t get ordered enough.
Do you think bartenders should stick to their specialities or branch out?
I believe every bartender should have basics in wine and beer as well as spirits, but I specialise in spirits because I don’t drink wine or beer. That’s the main reason I struggled to deepen my interest. I remember the first whisky I ever had was a cask strength peated whisky and it blew my mind. I had never tasted anything like it. Then learning about it never felt like work.
Do you have any advice for women trying to break through as bartenders?
Reach out to other bartenders. You’ll be surprised how supportive and helpful the bartending community can be. You might even end up giving back to the community in some capacity.
What sage wisdom would you give to someone starting out bartending?
So much of our personal and professional life intertwine, make sure to keep some separation between both. Keep hobbies. Giving 100% of yourself doesn’t mean 100% of your time.
Five Key Takeaways
1. Don’t be afraid to get started – reach out for support from other bartenders and you will get the support you need.
2. Learn the basics first – from here, you can build out your own offerings.
3. The drinks industry is an exciting, fast paced environment with sociability at its heart - enjoy interacting with your customers and colleagues.
4. The bar industry has more opportunities than meets the eye. Find out about seminars and other educational opportunities to push you further.
5. Acknowledge the achievements of women in the industry to inspire others and also to encourage them to continue being the best that they can be.
Bar Chat Episode 22: The Future of Women in the Industry
On this exclusive episode for International Women’s Day, guest host Lauren Mote, is joined by a global panel of guests discussing diversity in the industry, how it is progressing in different parts of the world and hopes for greater diversity in the industry moving forward.
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With International Women’s Day around the corner, we wanted to find out what being a female role model in the bar industry really means – and what needs to be done to truly achieve equality.
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Emma Walker is an expert whisky maker at Johnnie Walker – one of a small team of 12 craftsmen and women in Scotland tasked with the pursuit of blending excellence. After nearly 11 years at Johnnie Walker, we talk to Emma about a career in chemistry, changing whisky consumption and what it’s like to be a female whisky maker in the modern industry.
E-Learning: Equality and Diversity
Working in the hospitality industry, you will encounter people from all walks of life. In this module you will learn how to recognise potential biases and appreciate and accommodate people's differences, to create a more inclusive environment and promote equal opportunities and rights for yourself, your colleagues and your customers.