Remember the Ladies! Chicago’s Bartending Women Deserve More Attention

The voting is open for Eater Chicago’s best bartender of the year award.  There are some impressive bartenders on the list (my vote, in case you care, goes to Alex Bachman of Billy Sunday, the sleeper hit on Chicago’s cocktail scene and a place I don’t get to nearly enough) but they all have one thing in common – a y chromosome.  

This is not a new problem. In 2014, 2013 and 2012, Eater has put only men on the slate to be voted “Best Bartender.” That’s 15 different bartenders, and not a single woman to be found. 

Eater should clearly be doing better, but they’re not alone in their ignorance.  At Tales of the Cocktail, the nominations for Best American Bartender are almost embarrassingly gendered. In 2013, a single woman was nominated out of 10, while in 2014, the number skyrocketed to two.  Whoopee.

And don’t even try tell me there aren’t great female bartenders in Chicago. Eater managed to find some in 2011, when Lynn House, Revae Schneider and Debbi Peek got nominations.  Not to toot my own horn, but when I looked for Chicago’s up and coming bar stars earlier this year, I managed to find some people without beards and penises. 

So who are these ladies?

While House and Peek are both out from behind the bar, there are plenty of female bartenders who don’t get enough attention.  Annemarie Sagoi works magic wherever she goes (her drinks at the Dawson were amazing, and she’s working on a Vermouth bar), Krissy Schutte at CH Distillery is quietly making some of the best drinks in town, and Meghan Konecny is rocking it at Scofflaw. Liz Pearce, recently of Drawing Room and now working on a new spot, also comes to mind, and talented people who haven’t quite found their spot yet (like Erin Hayes, formerly of the J. Parker, now at Three Dots) might not be ready for Best Bartender in America yet, but they’ll be there in a couple of years.  I’m not thinking of at least a dozen more. 

There is some hope. The Redeye, who did their best bartender list earlier this year, included four women in a field of eight. (I’m sure it’s a coincidence that the project was helmed by a woman reporter).  It’s really, really not that there aren’t awesome women out there to find. 

In any case, I get that the spirits world is filled with machismo, vests, mustachios and big biceps from shaking those drinks like they’re pounding in nails. But at least some small corner of the internet is giving it up for the lady bartenders. Keep up the good work, and here’s hoping that the spirits world starts noticing.