Trend: More women are drinking whiskey

Bartenders at Fado are seeing more women ordering whiskey-based cocktails.
Bartenders at Fado are seeing more women ordering whiskey-based cocktails.

Hold the cosmo. Women want whiskey.

“Women look cool when they order whiskey,” says Chelsea McNett, bartender at Fado Irish Pub on 15th and Locust. “It’s sophisticated. Whiskey is on a higher pedestal — it’s the caviar of alcohol.”

That’s the theme of our conversation with the bartenders and assistant GM at Fado, with the refrain: A woman who orders whiskey “has balls.” And while the assembled drink experts acknowledge that the trend of more females drinking whiskey comes from the top down, with companies targeting women to expand their market — and from the simultaneous resurgence of “classic cocktails,” courtesy of “Mad Men” — at the end of the day, whiskey is just damn good.

“I never put anything into it — I don’t want to ruin it,” says bartender Daryl McCallion, in his Irish accent. “But if you give it water or ice it can open up aromas and flavors. There’s a complexity to the quality and texture and flavor of whiskey.”

Of course, the average drinker isn’t going to understand that complexity as well as a professional drink slinger. But that’s part of the coolness factor: There’s a lot more to learn about the different types of whiskey than there is for, say, vodka, which makes the spirit more intriguing and exclusive — it’s all very hipster. “There’s a social currency to it,” McNett says. “You can be an expert and school your friends.”

And if you’re a woman who doesn’t know much about whiskey, the other bartenders chime in, that’s just fine — women don’t have to worry about feeling emasculated; they’re not expected to be whiskey experts.

Vincent Stipo, beverage manager at Vernick Food & Drink (2031 Walnut St.) says he’s seen more women trying “brown spirits” – but in a place like Vernick, it’s more about trusting your bartender. “It can be a little challenging to get ladies who have been drinking sauvignon blancs and cosmos to … switch over to the dark side,” Stipo says. “But I do definitely see more women being open to it, and letting us introduce new drinks to them.”

Vernick doesn’t have any vodka-based cocktails printed on its drink menu — especially not with the flavored varieties marketed towards women.

“Vodka flooded the market,” says Brenden Kisiel, assistant GM at Fado. “There are too many options – cotton candy-flavored, bubble gum. It cheapened the spirit. There’s a shift away from that.”

So what happens when whiskey’s popularity among women grows even more and we start seeing lo cal, lite, diet, bubble gum-flavored Jameson?

The answer at Fado is a collective grimace.


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