Photo courtesy of Basil Hayden's.

While a fun night out with the gals often involves sipping wine, times are changing. It’s now increasingly common for girls’ night out to revolve around whiskey, bourbon and other “brown” spirits – all once predominantly a man’s domain.

“Women’s false modesty toward dark spirits has faded,” says Julia Ritz Toffoli, founder of Women Who Whiskey, a New York City-based group with seven chapters across the U.S., Europe and Africa. “It’s been socially acceptable for women to drink in bars for decades, but an invisible line was always drawn somewhere around clear liquors.”

The first chapter of Women Who Whiskey was established in 2011 and currently has over 300 members, mostly women between the ages of 25 and 40. The individual chapters host events in different venues around their cities, giving members opportunities to try new spirits, discuss mixology with seasoned bartenders, and enjoy the company of other whiskey-loving ladies. And the intrigue just continues to grow.

According to the Beverage Information Group, women make up 25 to 30 percent of brown liquor consumers – a dramatic change from just 10 years ago. But, Chicago native Bridget Albert of Southern Wine & Spirits reminds us that the concept of women drinking brown spirits is not so new. Her 98-year old grandmother still enjoys a Canadian Club neat, she says.

“When a woman orders a brown spirit straight or in a cocktail there is perception that she is strong willed, well-traveled and a lady that refuses to put up with bunk,” Albert says.

Albert loves Maker’s Mark straight up or in a Bloody Mary in lieu of vodka.

Kelsey Morse, lead bartender at Elements, a top restaurant in Oregon, enjoys infusing brown spirits to augment the caramel flavors. Her choice is small-batch Kentucky bourbon, such as Buffalo Trace and Pappy Van Winkle, which she infuses with the likes of Madagascar vanilla and cocoa nibs.

“We’re now seeing more of a cocktail aspect to brown liquor rather than simply drinking it straight up, so it appeals to more people, especially women looking for a change,” Morse says.

One of her favorite drinks: Gentlemen Jack with a splash of St. Germain (elderflower liqueur), a squeeze of fresh lemon and an ounce or two of ginger beer.

As the weather cools down and we look for new ideas for a night with friends, move to the “dark” side with a round of seasonal cocktails that will warm you up inside. Try this smoky cocktail recipe with a citrus twist.

Penicillin

  • 2 ounces whiskey
  • .75 ounce fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • .5 ounce honey syrup
  • .5 ounce ginger liqueur

Directions:

1. Shake and strain.

2. Serve over ice in rocks glass.

3. Garnish with a lemon wheel.

 

Join Make It Better and Southern Wine & Spirits for a Mixology Class on Oct. 28Natalia Cardenas, an award-winning mixologist with Southern Wine & Spirits, will teach us how to use brown spirits in cocktails and provide drink recipes that are perfect for the holiday season. We’ll sample several cocktails during this fun class.

What: Brown Spirits Mixology Class

When: Wednesday, Oct. 28, 6:30-8 p.m.

Where: III Forks, 180 N. Field Blvd., Chicago

Cost: Free!

RSVP: Email [email protected] with your name and the number of people attending.

 

Recipe courtesy of Natalia Cardenas.

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