Women’s History Month is still going strong, threatening to run right into April. Los Angeles is not only one best places in the country to get a drink, but is also a wellspring of women in the booze business. In Movers & Shakers: Women Making Waves in Spirits, Beer, and Wine, I interviewed women around the country who have built careers in the beverage industries, but came back time and again to Los Angeles, where the talent runs deep. The following are a few of L.A.’s finest in the beer, wine, spirits, and bar worlds that are shaking things up and making a better culture (along with fantastic drinks).
Future Gin is a brand inspired by and made in L.A., created by a veritable supergroup of local food and beverage talent: Amy Atwood, producer of Oeno Wines and owner of Amy Atwood Selections; longtime hospitality professional Mary Bartlett, formerly of the Ace Hotel and Proprietors LLC; and ice cream empire architects Freya Estreller and Natasha Case (Coolhaus Ice Cream, Tea Drops).
Find the fruit of their “collective 50+ years of experience in food and beverage” at the city’s finest drinking establishments, such as The NoMad, Everson Royce Bar, Normandie Club, the Mermaid, Botanica, and Majordomo to name a few.
Christine Wiseman - Broken Shaker
Broken Shaker at the Freehand Hotel in Downtown L.A. (416 W. 8th St., Los Angeles 90014) is awash with personality. It’s apparent in the eclectic patio furniture, the playful drinkware, and most notably Bar Director Christine Wiseman. Wiseman’s creativity and sense of fun infuse the cocktail menus here and at previous projects—she was part of the opening crew at Break Room 86 and her resume is a greatest hits list of L.A. cocktail bars. It is the fun and a little kitsch—this is no full-on Tiki bar—that makes this quite elevated cocktail program right at home next to the pool on the Freehand’s rooftop. Despite Wiseman’s publicly professed love of shooters, there are flavors and presentations here for even the snobbiest among us.
Opened in 2018, The Mermaid (428 E. 2nd St, Los Angeles 90012) offers the relaxed vibe of a comfortable neighborhood bar with the light kitsch its nautical theme commands. Industry vets Katie Kildow and Arelene Roldan set out to make the space—formerly a hostess bar—a safe and comfortable place for people of all genders to relax and enjoy tropical cocktails. The generous Happy Hour (5pm - 8pm daily) draws a loyal crowd of locals and Little Tokyo visitors alike. Like any great neighborhood joint, there are activities: a rotating calendar of trivia nights, loteria games, DJs, and a monthly guest bartending spot for prominent industry women they call #WCW, the Cocktail Party (full disclosure: I was a guest bartender there last year after the publication of Movers & Shakers). Going a step further, the owners have a stated commitment to carrying women-owned or -helmed spirits brands with a list that includes Appleton Estate Rum, Yola Mezcal, and Future Gin.
Morgan McLachlan - The Spirit Guild
The Spirit Guild (586 Mateo St, Los Angeles 90013) is described as “a collection of artists, weirdos, and dreamers,” and has one of the most interesting and affordable distillery tours in DTLA. Their Astral Pacific Gin and Vapid Vodka were created by Head Distiller Morgan McLachlan to feature an unusual base for spirits: California clementines from co-owner Miller Duvall’s family farm. The gin is a citrusy, herbaceous standout in a field of many excellent LA-made gins. Each step of the production process from fermentation to bottling happens on site at their Arts District facility, which is open each weekend for 45-minute tours and tastings.
Genever (3123 Beverly Blvd, Los Angeles 90057) is an Art Deco oasis, a cozy haven for gin lovers and cocktail fans at large. Its story is anything but standard: founded by Roselma Samala, Patricia Perez, and Christine Sumiller with the help of a Kickstarter campaign, the spot prides itself on being a Filipina-owned business in the heart of Historic Filipinotown. Slick and stylish all through the details, this is a peak cocktail den experience for fans of glassware and local ingredients.
Courtney Kaplan - Tsubaki
Echo Park’s Tsubaki (1356 Allison Ave, Los Angeles 90026) is a modern Japanese neighborhood drinking den with a commitment to the izakaya’s purpose: food, drink, and revelry. While the food does not disappoint by any stretch, co-owner and sommelier Courtney Kaplan’s wine and sake list has earned national attention since she and Chef Charles Namba opened up shop in 2017. Focusing on small-producer/craft sake and shochu difficult to find anywhere else, and a selection of interesting French wines, Kaplan’s izakaya experience satisfies both traditionalists and those looking for a new discovery. For those looking to get down and nerdy, Tsubaki hosts “Sake School Happy Hour” Tuesday-Friday each week featuring a themed tasting with paired snacks.
Cari Hah - Big Bar
Cari Hah is another L.A. bar manager with an impressive resume—having built a name as a freelance guest bartender, doing liquor brand promotion, and working alongside some of the industry’s biggest names at places such as Cole’s in DTLA and Neat in Glendale. However, it is her tenure at Big Bar in Los Feliz (1929 Hillhurst Ave, Los Angeles 90027) that really cemented her place as a leader in the L.A. bar community. Big Bar’s consistency in drinks and service speak to this leadership. When I profiled Cari Hah for Movers & Shakers, she had this to say: “In my bar family, it should not matter who is behind the bar, your drink should always taste the same, and you should always feel welcome and you should always get great service.”
Coly Den Haan - Vinovore
After opening successful bar/restaurants Perch and The Must, sommelier and third-generation restaurateur Coly Den Haan decided to venture into wine retail. Her Silver Lake shop, Vinovore (616 N Hoover, Los Angeles 90004) was already in the works when the 2016 election led her to a decision: she would only carry wine made by women (and multi-gender partnerships). On your way to finding the perfect lady-made wine, the shop’s classification system helps by sorting wines by flavor according to a zodiac-like chart: fans of big reds look for “red lion” bottles, while those looking for something bright and vegetal steer toward “green snakes.” The shop has recently started selling books by women as well, so all your night-in or last-minute gift needs are covered.
Yael Vengroff - The Spare Room
When Yael Vengroff won the 2018 Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Award for Best American Bartender, it was kind of a big deal for L.A. Not only was she the first Angeleno to crack the category, but it marked the second time in the entirety of the awards’ 12-year history that Los Angeles was represented in the winners’ circle. Her resume speaks for itself: Harvard & Stone, Honeycut, Chapter & Verse. She currently runs the drinks show at The Spare Room at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel (7000 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles 90028) and created cocktails for the Chinese/Jewish dining concept Genghis Cohen. Even if you’ve never been tempted to lob a bowling ball down a wood-paneled lane, Vengroff’s creative, quality, and always fun cocktail program is a draw unto itself.
Sabrina Minks & Danielle Motor - Sunset Boulevardier
Cocktail consulting is a bustling new industry of this decade, and no consultancy better embodies the marriage of classic and contemporary L.A. glamor than Sunset Boulevardier. Co-founders Danielle Motor and Sabrina Minks have decades of industry experience between them, and have trained staff and set up cocktail programs at venues including the Chateau Marmont, Petit Trois, the Hungry Cat and the re-vamped Gold Diggers in Hollywood.
Ting Su - Eagle Rock Brewery
When Ting Su co-founded Eagle Rock Brewery (3056 Roswell St, Los Angeles 90065) in 2009 with her husband and father-in-law, L.A.’s craft brewing scene had tumbleweeds blowing through it. In fact, they were the “first microbrewery to open its operations in the City of Los Angeles in over 60 years.” Over the past decade, the brewery has amassed an impressive line of community-inspired beers with names such as “Solidarity” and “Populist,” and has continually asserted its role as a community organization. In 2011, Su started the Women’s Beer Forum, a monthly meeting for women to explore and learn about different styles of beer and the brewing industry, to avoid the all-too-familiar experience of “getting pigeon-holed into drinking the worst-tasting, syrupy-sweet, weak cocktails or bland, industrial light lager.”
Find Eagle Rock Brewery beers at their taproom or the Eagle Rock Brewery Public House (1627 Colorado Blvd, Los Angeles 90041) where Ting’s brother, Chef Jerry Su has been racking up accolades for his elevated, beer-friendly provisions.
Marie King - Tonga Hut
Tonga Hut (12808 Victory Blvd, North Hollywood 91606) is a venerated institution - the O.G. Tiki bar that weathered the decades of cocktail dark ages before it reemerged—along with the Tiki style itself—into its current glory. A healthy part of that resurgence was due to Marie King, who has served as the Bar Manager since 2012. A hospitality pro with firm footing in modern cocktailing, King’s menu and presentation manages to perfectly straddle the divide between old school cheese and new school class. The Hut remains a welcoming spot for locals while bringing on appreciative fans from all over the city and beyond. Its second location in Palm Springs attests that some things are actually timeless, particularly if they contain rum.
Alexandra Nowell & Lynne Weaver - Three Weavers Brewing Company
Since opening their doors in 2014, Three Weavers Brewing Company (1031 W. Manchester Blvd., Unit A-B, Inglewood 90301) has stood out for creating hit after hit on the local beer scene. From perfectly balanced IPAs to an intense Imperial Stout to traditional (quaffable) styles such as an ESB and a light-bodied porter, brewmaster Alexandra Nowell can’t seem to go wrong, and the bustling Inglewood tasting room is a testament to this. The company also happens to be woman-owned, founded by homebrewer Lynne Weaver with “the mission to promote a positive sense of community through our passion for craft beer.” Find Three Weavers on tap, in cans, bottles, and crowlers all over Southern California.