March is Women’s History Month.
Let’s Celebrate with Tropical Cocktails!
Bartending has long been considered a male-dominated profession. Since the inception of craft cocktails, which is often considered to have begun with Jerry Thomas, an American Bartender than owned and operated saloons in New York City, male characters have predominately flooded the history books. There are few instances where you hear of women called out by name who were bartenders or impacted the industry in an impactful way. And it’s understandable. In the United States, it wasn’t until Prohibition that it became far more common to see the acceptance of women imbibing in bars. Now, I’m not saying that women were never permitted in bars because, in urban cities, there were ladies entrances to many bars, and depending on the state, barmaids may have been found working in the bar. During World War II, women began owning and operating bars and female bartenders became a much more integrated part of the bartending community.
Women continued experiencing discrimination over the years, whether by their male counterparts, the unions, or the customers. Still, women continued to persevere. During the 1960s, with a massive cultural shift that came with the Civil Rights Movement and the Equal Pay Act, it became far more acceptable to find women working in the bar environment.
Over the years, it’s important to mention a few women who persevered and pushed for equality and the advancement of women in this space during the so-called “dark ages.” Ada Coleman, the head bartender at The Savoy for twenty-three years, was only one of two women ever to hold the position. Sunny Sund, Donn Beach’s wife, is also often not given the credit she deserves for actually being the brains behind The Beachcomber’s operations.
Nowadays, women make up over 60% of bartenders working in the United States. And although we’ve made tremendous strides into advancing and promoting gender equality over the past 150 years in craft cocktails and bartending, we still have room for improvement. For instance, although women make up a large percentage of bartenders these days, women are still underrepresented in high-paying, higher-profile bartending positions, and fewer women are represented in the cocktail competition circuit.
When we opened our first cocktail bar, Counter-Intuitive, in February 2015, there had already been many advancements towards the equality of female bartenders in the industry. However, it was still challenging to find women that wanted to work in craft cocktails in Phoenix. As an employer, many times, you are limited to the pool of candidates that apply. As owners Rich Furnari and Jason Asher experienced, the collection of females seeking out work in the craft cocktail community was sparse.
Jason Asher explains, “Every time we’ve opened a new concept, we conduct interviews day after day, and still only a tiny percentage are women. We strive to have a balanced staff, diverse within themselves, from different backgrounds, experiences, ages, and gender. Diversity forges growth, at a personal level, and for our business.” He continued explaining, “We’re always elated when we find a female that wants to work for us, especially one who is driven and motivated to learn and grow with us. Over the years, this has become a little easier.”
Most recently, when Barter & Shake conducted interviews to staff their concepts inside Century Grand, the owners had felt like they hit the jackpot. “We already had a few strong female bartenders working at UnderTow and were able to hire a few more with the new concept. The women that work alongside us every day are assets to the business, and we couldn’t offer the same experience of the level of service without them,” says Rich Furnari.
To celebrate March being National Women’s History Month, International Women’s Day (Monday, March 8th, 2021), and National Equal Pay Day (Wednesday, March 24th, 2021), we wanted to share five influential women who continue to be movers and shakers in the Tropical Cocktail Bar community. Some of these women are frontrunning influencers at a national level, and others have directly impacted UnderTow and the customer’s experience with us. Either way, we think these women all deserve a nod for their continued hard work to push the envelope and pave their path. See below for the five women we’d like to highlight this month.
General Manager at UnderTow
Kristina has been a force to be reckoned with since her arrival in Phoenix. Originally from New Orleans, she has 20 years of hospitality experience under her belt, ranging from nightclubs to becoming a respected female mixologist and manager in the craft cocktail Phoenix community. She made her way to Barter & Shake when we first opened Platform 18 and was initially the only female bartender inside the train. She quickly gained the ranks as a lead bartender and was promoted right before closing due to COVID in March 2020. We were thankful that she chose to continue working alongside us once we could re-open our venues in September 2020. She came back with guns blazing and ready to take the reins as the manager of UnderTow. She’s got big things ahead. Kristina works hard and has proven to be a strong female mentor in our local hospitality community.
Why we love her: She’s all ours and has a heart of gold. She leads her team, is professional and caring.
Favorite tropical cocktail: Polynesian Guava Daiquiri, featured on UnderTow’s Chapter 7 menu
Why? “I love this cocktail because it is gin-based, which helps to keep it light & refreshing. It also has tropical fruit (guava & banana) without being overly sweet.”
0.75 oz Reàl Guava Puree
0.50 oz Rich Simple Syrup
1.25 oz Lime Juice
0.75 oz Giffard Banane du Brésil
2.00 oz Gin
Add all ingredients with 2 cups of crushed ice to a spindle mixer. Blend. Pour into a tall glass. Garnish with Mint and a dehydrated Banana Slice.
Bartender at UnderTow
If Ashley has taken care of you once, you are likely to remember it. She’s witty. Originally from Rhode Island, she relocated to Arizona in 2014. She’s been bartending for the past three years and loves it. She regularly participates in local bartending competitions and enjoys spending time with friends and family when she isn’t working.
Why we love her: She’s fast, she’s funny, and she can make a mean drink. What isn’t there to love?
Favorite tropical cocktail: Singapore Sling
Why? “It’s the first tropical classic cocktail I ever learned how to make. I think it’s incredibly delicious when done right, even though it has obscure, funky ingredients.”
Recipe: Check it out here
At age 22, Chicago native Kymm! Bang emerged as a fixture artist of a popular lowbrow gallery and never looked back. Throughout the following decades, her “futuristically retro” designs have been featured in tiki bars, galleries, television shows, museums, books, magazines, and personal collections worldwide. Kymm!’s art is defined by her distinctive style, use of cleverly provocative assemblage, and affinity for powerful colors. She’d been notorious for her saucy pin-up inspired imagery, but has more recently become renowned for her work as the premier Gravel Art Revivalist; where she fluidly combines her strengths in graphic design, with her penchant for mid-century aesthetics to create distinctive pieces of Poly-Pop and Modern Kitsch. Recently, she has been revisiting her love for jewelry design and decorating the tiki elite in her signature pieces.
Why we love her: UnderTow has been working with Kymm! for years to create and produce their custom pins based on the original illustrations from UnderTow’s fictional narrative created by Tom Thordarson. Visit her shop here.
Favorite tropical cocktail: Jet Pilot, Beachbum Berry’s Sippin’ Safari version
Why? “With so many amazing and delicious things in this world, I am hard-pressed to pick a “favorite“ anything. Many I love and adore, but a favorite at any given time completely depends on the mood— which is always in flux. However, I do have my preferred go-to’s… and in the tropical cocktail world, that would be the Jet Pilot! I honestly couldn’t tell you why this is, because sweet and fruity is my jam. Earthy spices are not, unless in apple pie. And good lord, anise needs to stay far, far away from me! But somehow, I just LOVE a good jet pilot. I guess to me, it’s just so perfectly balanced; fruity but not, sweet but not. It doesn’t even taste boozy… just… interesting. It scratches a part of my palate I didn’t know itched.”
0.5 oz fresh lime juice
0.5 oz fresh grapefruit juice
1 oz dark Jamaican rum
0.75 oz gold Puerto Rican rum
0.75 oz 151-proof Lemon Hart Demerara Rum
Dash of Angostura Bitters
6 drops of Pernod
0.5 oz cinnamon-infused syrup
0.5 oz Falernum
4 oz of crushed ice
You can also view this cocktail recipe here.
Mari was born and raised in Hawaii and relocated to Arizona to attend Arizona State University. She has worked in the restaurant industry for over 20 years, with her first bartending job was at age 19 before she could even legally drink! She learned a lot through many great mentors, the USBG, and traveling. Mari explains, “I feel my turning point as a bartender happened when I started working at CounterIntuitive in Scottsdale. I had great mentors there and learned a lot about creating original cocktails from fresh ingredients and implementing craft techniques.” Mari claims that she’s a nerd when it comes to all spirits but is incredibly passionate about Agave Spirits and Whisk(e)y. She relocated back to Maui a few years ago to be closer to family. She’s passionate about utilizing fresh local ingredients and growing many of the elements she uses in her cocktails. Mari is also known for creating unique garnishes and presentations in her cocktails. Visit her Online Shop.
Why we love her: Mari worked with all of us when we were launching Barter & Shake Creative Hospitality. Since the beginning, she’s been through it with us and now often will create specialty items like bracelets and custom UT women’s dresses, like what we featured last summer.
Favorite tropical cocktail: Green With Envy (created by Mari Howe)
Why? “I wanted to create a drink that represented my favorite places: Hawaii, Arizona, and Mexico. This cocktail incorporates indigenous flavors to each area and reminds me of the love I hold for each.”
1.50 oz Fortaleza Blanco
0.75 oz Pineapple-Poblano-Cilantro Syrup
(2 part pineapple syrup: 1 part poblano syrup: 1 part cilantro syrup)
0.75 oz Fresh Lime
0.50 oz Cocchi Americano
Baby Doe Von Stroheim
**Tiki Oasis is being held next month in Scottsdale at Hotel Valley Ho**
Baby Doe is an event producer, dancer, and choreographer, and forerunner in the Tiki revival. Currently, she co-produces Arizona and San Diego Tiki Oasis with her husband, Otto von Stroheim. Tiki Oasis was conceived as a fundraiser in 2001 to support the Palm Springs Caliente Tropics Motel‘s rehabilitation, the most elaborate of a chain of five California Tropics Tiki motels and an essential part of Tiki history. The big event was moved to San Diego in 2006 to support the historic Bali Hai Restaurant and Hanalei Hotel. Now Tiki Oasis is proud to be the original and largest Tiki event globally, boasting five nights of music, art, fashion, crafted cocktails, educational presentations, and more. In honor of the 20th anniversary of Tiki Oasis, artists MP and Eekum Bookum designed a Tiki Mug in her honor, wearing her signature sunglass hat!
In 2019 Baby Doe and Otto created Arizona Tiki Oasis, which brings the island lifestyle to the desert in full Mid-Century glory. This April 2021, the Arizona event will be reimagined to be a “Tiki takeover” of the historic Hotel Valley Ho, where those staying on property will be able to unlock curated experiences designed with the Tiki community in mind.
Why we love her: There is a rich history of tropical drinks and the venues that served them in the 60s and 70s in Arizona. We are grateful that others recognize and want to bring that culture and community together in our backyard.
Favorite tropical cocktail: While Baby Doe plots out her next event, what has she been sippin’ on? Top of the list is the scrumptious Donn Beach ‘Pearl Diver’!
Why? “Who doesn’t love a perfectly balanced classic?”
Recipe: Check it out here
Need rum for your home bar or want to make some of these drinks at home?
We’ve got you covered! Check out our retail rum selection here.