There's an argument to be made that the original barfolk were as likely to be women as men. Along with everything else bad about Prohibition, that scourge also seemed to extinguish bartending as a career path for any "respectable" woman, although a strong female culture continued to exist in the country's taverns. Today's female bartenders don't face issues of respectability, but, as in other service sectors, they often are assumed not to have achieved the same level of professionalism that their male counterparts have. To help combat this and other oudated ways of thinking, the growth of Ladies United for the Preservation of Endangered Cocktails (LUPEC) fills a gap.
Mix: So, for those who don't know, explain what LUPEC is and what it does.
Lynette Marrero: Here’s the mission statement from founding chapter in Pittsburgh from 2001: “Ladies United for the Preservation of Endangered Cocktails. In a post-millenium world of beer and prepackaged Chex Mix, LUPEC works tirelessly to breed, raise, and release cocktails that are endangered or even believed to be extinct. The collecting of anachronistic recipes by women, and the resulting creation of endangered cocktails in an all-woman setting is intended to achieve the following goals: To create a secular 'coven-like' atmosphere in which Classy Broads of today can invoke and honor the spirits of their Forebroads; to continue the 150-year American tradition of dangerous women calling themselves Ladies and getting together in groups, clubs, and societies to work undercover while they chipped away at the patriarchy; to protect the collective Joie de Vivre of LUPEC members by assuring them at least one good party a month; to encourage the accumulation and use of vintage serving and barware.
Mix: There's been a lot of activity, at least lately in New York. Are you on a drive to raise the image of the organization? Looking to open new chapters?
Marrero: NYC has chosen to run its chapter quite differently. We are not limiting the number of members to 12 because NYC has a lot of great women in the industry and a lot of female bar talent. We have been working closely with LUPEC Boston since our launch in September 2009 and are doing our first seminar at “Tales of the Cocktail.” In our mission statement, we invite beverage-service professionals dedicated to the continued refinement of our craft, as well as women who work in media, press relations and marketing roles that support, educate and promote the industry. We’re looking to build and foster a sense of community among women, creating an environment for women to discuss and share creative ideas, educate ourselves to further our craft and to educate others. It’s our intention, desire and main focus to become the most skilled, knowledgeable and professional group of women professionals in the spirits industry. In addition to our education goals, LUPEC NYC has a strong philanthropic mission that connects to the community through charitable endeavors. Large special events will occur annually to support recognized women-focused charities. We intend to use our skills as spirits professionals to help raise funds for issues that affect women.
Mix: LUPEC is mostly about fun and awareness, but what are the serious challenges female bartenders still face in the workplace?
Marrero: There are still some double standards in the industry. We hear a lot about Jerry Thomas and Harry Craddock, but rarely hear about the Ada Coleys and the Dirty Helens. Truthfully, there is still a perception that male bartenders are "better"; women are still proving themselves as they are in most industries.
Mix: Without disrespecting the "Coyote Ugly" world of bartending, has that image of women bartenders held the more serious cocktail-focused women back?
Marrero: LUPEC loves having fun and taking shots and dancing on bars — it's entertainment. If Tom Cruise in "Cocktail" and flair competitions haven't held back the boys, I don't think these ladies hold us back. We are lucky to have amazing women pave the way for us, like Audrey Saunders, Julie Reiner, Charlotte Voisey and Aisha Shape — great business women and bartenders.
Mix: Share what's happening via the latest LUPEC activity, Speed-Rack.
Marrero: Ivy Mix (of LUPEC NYC) had an idea to have an all-women speed-bartending competition to raise money for breast-cancer research. It is a fun concept that has 16 women in 12 different cities competing for the local title of “Miss Speed Rack.” We will then hold a national competition next year in 2012.
Mix: Where do you have chapters now, what does it take to start a new chapter and how does it happen?
Marrero: NYC, Boston, Texas, Denver, San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, Chicago, Pittsburgh, and D.C. and Philadelphia is coming soon. To start a chapter, reach out to any other LUPEC chapter for advice, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mix: What's your favorite drink right now?
Marrero: It's summer; I am loving Gin Rickeys and G and T's with Fever Tree Tonic.