By Jane Harkness
Back in the day, if beer was for the man relaxing after a long day, and wine was for a girls’ night out, whiskey was a drink for the gentlemen’s lounge, sipped through a fog of cigar smoke, a companion for hours of card games and late night business dealings. It was also the go-to drink for men with rowdy lifestyles, unshakeable sorrows, or a heady combination of both. Whiskey has always been a motif in masculine spaces.
Fast-forward to today, where women are taking a seat at the bar. This drink is steadily gaining in popularity among female consumers, who are overturning old stereotypes and proving that the gendered characterization of whiskey is now irrelevant.
There were always women who invited themselves to the old boy’s club of whiskey drinkers, like Janis Joplin with her signature bottle of Southern Comfort. Joplin was, by all accounts, the quintessential image of a “woman who drinks whiskey.” She was bold, rebellious, and unafraid to step outside the boundaries of traditional femininity. But with more and more women of all backgrounds enjoying whiskey, it’s time to lay this stereotype to rest—any woman can be a “woman who drinks whiskey,” no rockstar swagger needed.
Alcohol brands typically target women with campaigns for white wine or rosé; however, there is no need to “feminize” whiskey in order to capitalize on the new wave of women who love it. It’s time to acknowledge that the qualities associated with male whiskey drinkers—strength, complexity, intelligence—are actually gender neutral. The idea of a woman who simply enjoys whiskey shouldn’t be shocking, it should be commonplace.
Perhaps ordering a certain drink isn’t the most earth-shaking form of protest against a patriarchal norm. But I must admit, choosing whiskey over a fruity mixed drink still feels slightly subversive, as though it’s a small act of resistance served neat. Make mine a double.
Photos: Chia Messina