Women influence the bar

How female patrons and professionals are shaping the beverage industry.

A woman walks into a bar. Today, it’s no joke. “Women are probably the most important demographic out there in terms of opportunities for a bar business’s growth,” says Donna Hood Crecca, senior director at the Chicago research company Technomic. “Their income levels, education levels, spending levels—all of that is growing.” According to a recent Technomic study, women are 30 percent more likely to spend more on adult beverages on-premise than last year. We asked four women who are new and established leaders in the industry to talk about what else is changing for women, both in front of and behind the bar.


Donna Ruch

Master mixologist, Red Robin (multiple locations)

How female customers have changed the business

“There are now marketing campaigns and promotions created around the female drinker,” says Ruch, who finds that women customers at Red Robin are very open to promotional items. “They respond to the descriptions, the photography and how we place it on the menu.”

How times have changed for women behind the bar

Women are more engaged at the bar, in front of it and behind it, says Ruch, and she’s seeing it pay off in more high-profile positions. “It’s just a really good environment for that rise right now,” she says. “Women are becoming much more knowledgeable about what they are serving, whether it be wine, beer, whiskey, dark or light spirits. There’s a lot more education behind the bar now.” 


Angela Steil

Certified cicerone and beer director, Gravity, Grand Rapids, Mich.

How female customers have changed the business

“I’ve noticed that women want to try a bit of everything, versus men, who are more apt to say, ‘Nope, this is what I like,’” Steil says. She also notes a shift among the “lady beer crowd,” away from fruit-based flavors. Pouring samples and showing women different beer categories is a good way to demonstrate beer’s broad range, she says. 

How times have changed for women behind the bar

“My gender, whether I like it or not, makes me noticeable,” says Steil, one of few female cicerones. Bar culture still has a ways to go, she adds. “Some of the beer labels and names can be offensive. Like a beer called the ‘Panty Dropper.’ Come on, guys! I’m right here! Are you paying attention to that? That gives me some goals to keep in mind for helping to promote more women in the industry.”


Shirley Brooks

Lead bartender, The European, San Francisco

How female customers have changed the business

“Women are not just going for the light, easy vodka drink. They’re looking at the scotch drinks, and they’re looking at the amari drinks. Ten years ago, a woman wouldn’t order an old fashioned from me. Now they do.” 

How times have changed for women behind the bar

Brooks credits the mixology boom with increasing opportunities for women. "There are more women mixologists today simply because there’s more room for them now,” Brooks says. “There are more cocktail bars, and more jobs and opportunity for women to really shine.”


Laura Maniec

Master sommelier and owner, Corkbuzz Wine Bar and Kitchen, New York City

How female customers have changed the business

Maniec finds that women especially respond to the stories behind wine. “We will pour flights of wine that take people through different grapes, regions and experiences,” she says. While pouring, the staff talks about the labels, the names and the winemakers. Wine dinners, demos and classes also resonate with women. “These are ways we educate without preaching or teaching,” says Maniec. 

How times have changed for women behind the bar

There are just 20 female master sommeliers in North America, according to the Court of Master Sommeliers. Maniec and her peers are “encouraging women to take the exams and empowering them to learn about wine” through women’s networking events and supportive discussions.  

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