Shaking It Up: How Women Changed the Alcohol Industry

The Alcohol Industry is no longer just a Good Ol’ Boys club. Meet these ladies who made great strides in the alcohol industry.

Shaking it up: How Women Changed the Alcohol Industry

Believe it or not: Women have been a major part of the Alcohol Industry since ancient times. Our oldest records of beer brewing can be traced back to Ancient Egypt, where almost all beer brewing and selling activities were predominantly completed by women.

Centuries long after, the tradition of beer brewing continued to be done by the female members of the family, up until the turn of 19th century. When beer brewing became a commercial industry during the Industrial Revolution, Victorian values took women out of the Alcohol Industry to be replaced by men.

But not for long. Today, women are slowly making their way back into the industry that we love. Here are just some of the women who have changed the alcohol industry over the years, and proved the industry is no longer just a Good Ol’ Boys club.


Josephine Tychson

Women Who Changed the Alcohol Industry

Image and reference from // VinePair

The late 19th century Nappa Valley was no place for a woman vintner. That was until the “intrepid Victorian widow”, Josephine Tychson, began running a 147-acre Californian vineyard after the tragic death of her husband. Josephine juggled with the tasks of mourning her husband’s death, raising two children, and the struggles of building the St. Helena winery, the first woman owned and operated vineyard in California.

Josephine opened the door for American women to be pioneers in the Wine Industry, and the St. Helena vineyard still survives today under a new name, Freemark Abbey Winery.


“Moonshine Mary” & the Bootleggers

Women Who Changed the Alcohol Industry

Image and reference from // Chicago Tribune

When you think of the Prohibition Era, mobster owned alcohol smuggling syndicates come to mind. However, some of the most notorious bootleggers and rum runners happened to be women, such as “Moonshine Mary” Wazeniak & Stella Beloumant. Stella ran a bootlegging ring in Elko, Nevada, and was hounded by an entire Prohibition Enforcement task force. By the time she was arrested, Stella was sitting on a stockpile of illegal hootch.

“Moonshine Mary” ran a speakeasy out of her home, and was only caught after a patron of hers wound up dead in a bog from “poison alcohol” [which we know today as a side effect from bathtub gin]. The still running, bootlegging ladies of the Prohibition era, like Stella and Mary, kept the flow of liquor running and helped bring an end to America’s failed attempt at sobriety.


Ada Coleman

Women Who Changed the Alcohol Industry

Image and reference from //

Today, it’s completely normal and common to see women bartenders. However, at the turn of the 20th Century, when Ada Coleman became Head Bartender of the American Bar at The Savoy Hotel in London, it was nearly unheard of. Barmaids made up less than half of working bartenders, and people were trying to put an end to the profession for women altogether. But that didn’t stop Ada, who at 25 was “getting to old” to be a barmaid.

While at the Savoy, ‘Coley,’ as she was called, made quite a name for herself and invented the Hanky-Panky cocktail. Coley served patrons at the American bar for twenty-three years. Her position is now in the capable hands of Erik Lorincz. While only two women have ever held the position of Head Bartender at the Savoy Hotel, Ada proved that women can hold their own behind the bar.


Madeline Triffon

Women Who Changed the Alcohol Industry

Image and reference from // Detroit Eater

In the early 20th century, a woman Sommelier was a newsworthy story. Today, it’s a growing phenomenon, but one woman stands out in the crowd. Madeline Triffon was the first American woman to earn the prestigious tile of Master Sommelier, in 1987. While that was surprisingly only 30 years ago, Madeline helped smash the ‘glass ceiling’ of the Wine Industry and opened the door for female Sommeliers. Today, 25 out of the 149 professionals from The Court of Master Sommeliers’ American branch are women.


Robin and Andrea McBride

Women Who Changed the Alcohol Industry

Image and reference from // Centric Tv

Robin and Andrea McBride are just a couple of wine loving sisters from New Zealand who are changing the representation of women in the Wine Industry. Robin and Andrea are the first African-American sisters to own and operate a luxury wine company. Their company produces affordable luxury wine selections and are dedicated to Sustainable Wine growing practices in their New Zealand vineyards.


Heather Nelson

Women Who Changed the Alcohol Industry

Image and reference from // Whisky Intelligence

Our Whisky sister at heart, Heather Nelson, is working to become the first woman to open a Scotch Whisky Distillery. The Toulvaddie Distillery will be the first of its kind, as Heather plans to own and operate the area’s first legal distillery alone. The distillery is planning to begin operation sometime in 2017, and while we’ll have to wait until 2020 before we get to taste Toulvaddie’s first single malts, we’ll be eager to try it.


Cat Wiest & the Craft Beer Queens

Women Who Changed the Alcohol Industry

Image and reference from // Good Times

The Craft Beer Industry is a booming business today, and it’s where women like Cat Wiest, brewmaster of Seabright Brewery, have been making strides in the art of beer brewing. Like other women in the brewing business, she’s dealt with the “women don’t know beer” sexism that is still unfortunately prevalent in the industry. As brewmaster, she’s experimented with new techniques and flavors that have become popular among Craft Beer aficionados. These women have had a real influence on the flavors of the Craft Beer industry, and have brought women’s role in beer brewing back. Their ancestors would be proud!



Kellie, head blogger at Brio Smart Life

About the Author

Kellie – Head of Content Creation

Creative Director | Web Designer | Blogger | Sake Enthusiast | Resident Ginger