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Lessons in History: The Spirit of Women


Although often eclipsed by their male counterparts, women have always been a part of history's greatest discoveries and accomplishments. Recent generations have worked diligently to shine a light on our overshadowed sisters and we're sharing the real history behind the secrets of the spirit industry; no longer locked in the vault of a gentlemen's club.

Been there, done that Dating back over 100 years, women have played integral roles in the world of spirits. From tech advancements to recipe creation to bootlegging, women have done it all. Just a few of the badass women behind your favorite libations include:

  • Mary the Jewess (0-200 CE): The earliest alchemist writings credit Mary (or Maria) as the inventor of the tribikos. The tribikos is a vessel with three arms that was used as a distilling machine.

  • Helen Cumming (1824): Helen Cumming is not only the first female found of Scotch Whisky, but she also founded Cardhu, a Speyside distillery in Scotland. Distilling historians wrote, “she possessed the courage and energy of a man, and in devices and plans to evade the gaugers, no man nor woman could equal her.” In her legendary ways, Helen would disguise her distillery as a bakery to evade alcohol taxation. She would serve collectors tea while she “surreptitiously raised a red flag above the farmhouse to signal to other distillers that the revenuers were in the neighborhood.”

  • Jennie Churchill (1874): Mother to famous Prime Minister Winston Churchill, Jennie Churchill is also recognized as the “mum” to the Manhattan cocktail. According to the proprietors of the Manhattan Club in New York, Jennie hosted a party at the club to celebrate the election of Samuel J. Tilden as governor of New York. She requested a rye and vermouth mixer to sip during the party. People later requested the unfamiliar concoction and referred to it as the Manhattan.

  • Bessie Williamson (1954): Bessie Williamson is proof that hard work pays off. After working 20 years at Laphroaig, a Scotch distillery on the island of Islay, Bessie became the new owner of the distillery after the previous owner left it to her in his will. She became the only woman to own and run a distillery in the 1900s.

While this list is short, it is only a small glimpse into the incredible contributions women have made to shape the industry. So, the next time you’re clicking a glass, don’t forget to pour one out for the mothers of modern mixology.

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