Natalie Bovis is a writer in Los Angeles. She publishes The Liquid Muse.
There was a time when it was unseemly for a woman to let a sip of hard alcohol pass her lips. It would be crass for her to raise a glass and toast alongside a man. And, certainly, only women of ill repute would be seen in (gasp!) a bar.
Today, our society is somewhat accepting of the other extreme. Teenage girls are swigging gulps of high-proof jungle juice in high school. No college party is complete without licking and sucking body shots off a member of the opposite gender. And, strings of plastic beads reward drunken female revelers flashing body parts at Mardi Gras. Heck, we’ve all (allegedly) been involved in some variation of those scenarios, and though it was fun at the moment, didn’t we always know that we deserved something, well, more sophisticated from our drinking experience?
So, what about the women who are neither throwbacks to the women’s temperance movement nor binge drinking sorority girls? Where does a somewhat classy-but-cool cocktail “nerd” go to mix and mingle with like-minded maidens who appreciate fine booze and can skillfully mix a cocktail from a century-old recipe? Why, she goes to a L.U.P.E.C. meet up, of course.
The acronym stands for “Ladies United in the Preservation of Endangered Cocktails,” which always provokes a little smirk on the part of the person hearing it for the first time. What is an endangered cocktail? Who are these ladies? Isn’t it just a drinking club for chicks?
Well, yeah, it is a drinking club for chicks. Bad-ass, mixology-driven, quality-liquor swilling chicks, that is. Chicks who come from various walks of life – bartenders, consultants, PR reps, brand ambassadors, writers, and plain old civilians (otherwise referred to as “enthusiasts.”) Chicks who would chuck a florescent green fruity “martini” in your face should you be so ignorant as to offer her one, and mix herself up a Corpse Reviver #2, thank you very much.
I first became aware of L.U.P.E.C. through the incredibly active and uber-awesome ladies of L.U.P.E.C. Boston, which was founded in 2007 by respected mixologist / bartender Misty Kalkofen. Luminary personalities both behind and in front of the bar make up their membership and their chapter is always up to something interesting. Among other things, they put out their own cocktail book (and rumor has it there may be another in the works); they produced a USO show; and threw a Boston (spiked) Tea Party. Kirsten Amann (“Pink Lady”), who works with DrinkPR , also helps organize and promote the L.U.P.E.C. Boston events says “People are usually intrigued by the fun concept of the group [that] serves as a gateway to learning more about classic cocktails and spirits about which they may previously have given very little thought.”
Another exemplary chapter is L.U.P.E.C. Chicago, which was formed in 2008. The concept received such overwhelming interest that they have now added two additional chapters to accommodate all the ladies. Sonja Kassebaum, L.U.P.E.C. member and owner of North Shore Distillery remarks, “Until this year, our role has primarily been to ardently support the craft of the cocktail in Chicago through social events and occasional charitable events. With the addition of two new chapters, one of which is industry-dominated, we hope to further increase our impact in the coming year.”
LUPEC was first founded in 2001 in Pennsylvania. The women who first started the group have some specific goals and guidelines, which include each member choosing a name for oneself from among old / endangered cocktails & spirits, and occasionally dressing up in period garb. From the LUPEC.org website, other principles are:
- To create a secular “coven-like” atmosphere in which Classy Broads of today can invoke and honor the spirits of their Forebroads
- To continue the 150 year American tradition of dangerous women calling themselves Ladies and getting together in groups, clubs, and societies to work undercover while they chipped away at the patriarchy.
- To protect the collective Joie de Vivre of LUPEC members by assuring them at least one good party a month
- To encourage the accumulation and use of vintage serving and barware.”
Inspired by the concept of a “sisterhood” in an otherwise male dominated industry, I gathered up some gals in Los Angeles to launch L.U.P.E.C. L.A., in 2009, which will hopefully find its legs this year. Other cities with L.U.P.E.C. chapters include New York, Seattle, London, Paris, Dallas, Denver and maybe even a few more by now. Tales of the Cocktail provided an opportunity for women from all of the above to meet face-to-face at the Swizzle Stick bar in the Loews Hotel. Renowned mixologist Lu Brow mixed up typical New Orleanian brandy milk punches, and announced that the Big Easy will soon be starting up its own LU.P.E.C. chapter!
The ladies of New York and Boston also joined forces for a sold out spirited dinner, a cocktail pairing dining experience, which takes places in restaurants around New Orleans during Tales. More and more, the spirits and hospitality industries are recognizing the contributions and support from the female sector of both the biz and the cocktail-consuming public. And, as Amann points out, “Of course, if Boston didn’t already have a vibrant cocktail culture filled with great, knowledgeable bartenders and curious consumers where many of our members came up, we probably wouldn’t have a LUPEC.” Proving that when all aspects of the industry come together, it’s a recipe for success – and some damn fine drinks enjoyed by both women and men.
Signed – Natalie / The Liquid Muse, aka: “Green Fairy,” L.U.P.E.C. LA.