The Women Who Have Made Spirits History

The Women Who Have Made Spirits History

While there have been a number of pioneers and inventors who have revolutionized the spirits industry, too often the women who have made spirits history are excluded, or the importance of their contributions are diminished. In this post, we would like to highlight the brilliance and ingenuity of the many women who have led to the vibrant spirits culture that we now live in.

Mary Hebraea

The first alchemist

Without the work of Mary Hebraea in the 1st Century, the world may never have experienced the spirit at all. Hebraea, an alchemist, is often credited with having invented the first alembic still, which is a still wherein vapor is carried through a tube from a heated vessel into a cooling vessel where it recondenses into liquid. This distillation method is, in principle, the very foundation of the spirits industry. Anyone who loves a stiff drink owes much to Hebraea’s invention.

Helen Cumming

Pioneer in distaff distillation

Helen Cumming was not an inventor, but she was a fierce fighter for the love of spirits during an era when the high taxes on their production were illicitly avoided. In the 1800s Cumming worked the stills at Cardow Farm, owned by her and her husband John. Cumming was known for craftily avoiding the excise men who had come to cut the couple’s profits: she would bake bread to cover the yeasty smell of fermentation, often inviting the tax collectors in for tea and scones, and even invented a flag-based signalling system to alert fellow distilleries of the presence of government officials.

Queen Victoria

Her Majesty of Scotch Whisky

Queen Victoria, who reigned for the last 63 years of the 19th Century, was notoriously fond of Scotch whiskey. Her passion for it, as well as her popularizing the now common Scotch & soda mixed drink, led to the decline of Cognac as the most popular spirit and the rise of the whiskey-dominated market we see today. Without her support, the Scotch industry would undoubtedly be much more marginal than it is now. In addition, Queen Victoria serves as the icon of Bombay Sapphire due to her leadership at the time of its distillery’s first formulation.

Pauline Morton Sabine

The Society Queen Who Dethroned Prohibition

Though it might seem strange to include a fierce backer of Prohibition on this list, Pauline Morton Sabin switched sides when she realized how ineffective actually-existing Prohibition really was: after supporting heavy restrictions on alcohol in public, politicians would frequently toast with alcoholic beverages behind closed doors. Bootleggers and other nefarious business dealings troubled her, as well. Resigning from the Republican National Committee, she founded the Women’s Organization for National Prohibition Reform which served a vital role in the eventual repeal of Prohibition. Without her change of heart we might still live in a dry country.

Gertrude ‘Cleo’ Lythgoe

Queen of Rum Row

Gertrude Lythgoe is one of the most famous bootleggers of the Prohibition era. Upon the announcement of Prohibition, Lythgoe moved from her New York home to the Bahamas where she dominated in a male-driven industry. She was renowned for her intellect and beauty, but also for her fierce actions: when men believed they could disrespect her, she would haul them to her office and make clear that they could desist or take a bullet. Primarily a smuggler of whiskey, she was once charged with importing over 1,000 cases into New Orleans but managed to secure her acquittal.

Rita Cowen

The mother of Japanese whisky

Rita Cowan is the woman who is single-handedly responsible for the entire Japanese whiskey trade. She met her future husband, Masataka Taketsuru, while studying at Glasgow University and he asked her for her help and knowledge in producing Scotch-style whiskey in his native Japan. The two were married in 1920 and moved to Japan shortly thereafter. Their venture was a huge success, and Cowan is now often referred to as the “mother of Japanese whiskey.”

To all these women who have made spirits history and to those who have yet to make their mark, cheers to you!

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Sneak Peak at Via Perla’s Menu

Sneak Peak at Via Perla’s Menu

DiningOut, along with excited foodies from the Denver/Boulder area, has been eagerly tracking Via Perla’s path to opening for months and they just got their hands on a key piece of the puzzle: Via Perla’s menu.

Now open, the third concept from The Walnut Restaurant Group, famous for Brasserie Ten Ten and The Mediterranean, you can ogle the descriptions of dishes in advance. In addition to a weekly-changing family-style dinner served on Sundays, here are some dishes from the opening menu of Via Perla.


Olive Fritte
Fried, anchovy-stuffed green olives

Housemade ricotta with lemon zest, thyme, Paniole 2015, and grilled ciabatta

Hamachi, pickled radishes, red grapefruit, Calabrian chiles, and pink peppercorns

Pork-veal meatballs, tomato sugo, basil pesto, currants, and pinoli

Carciofi alla Giudia
Roman-style fried artichokes, garlic, fonduta, and anchovy-focaccia crumbs

Zuppa e Insalata

Tuscan seafood stew with seasonal fish, clams, and green olive tapenade, served with grilled ciabatta

Cavolo alla Griglia
Grilled Savoy cabbage, toasted hazelnuts, piave, garlic fonduta, brown butter, and balsamico

Via Perla new menu


For the Primi and Secondi dishes that Via Perla will be offering, see the full article on DiningOut→

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Inside a Sushi Class at Izakaya Den

Inside a Sushi Class at Izakaya Den

Dining Out editor Maya Silver had the chance to sit down with Yasu Kizaki, one of the sushi masters behind nationally-renowned Sushi Den, to get the inside scoop on his SLICED! sushi classes and she definitely delivers the goods!

In 2015, Yasu taught 1,000 students how to roll temaki, tatemaki, uramaki, and nigiri, and this marks his 10th year spreading the sushi gospel. Yasu co-owns Izakaya DenSushi Den, and their newest venture, OTOTO, with his two brothers: Toshi, master chef; and Koichi who visits the fish market in Japan everyday to hand-select the fish that will arrive at his brothers’ restaurants less than 24 hours later.

sliced! sushi making class | Sirvo

The secret to the remarkable success of Yasu’s sushi classes lies in an epiphany he had after the very first one, which he dreamed up after a loyal customer asked him to think of a creative Christmas gift. After the inaugural lesson, Yasu asked his wife Elizabeth, who had sat in on the class, if she had enjoyed it.

“I love you, darling, but …” she began, which Yasu immediately knew was precursor to criticism. “I couldn’t believe how boring it was.”

Yasu was shocked. He had been so excited about the idea of turning his customers into sushi chefs, and now he felt disillusioned by his wife’s cutting honesty.

But then something made sense to him…

“I know!” he said during a revelatory shower. “I need to make fun of my customers.”

And the rest is, more or less, history. In the first year, he offered three classes and didn’t promote them at all, only letting people know about them if they asked. Eventually, he ramped up to one class per month, but when demand grew even more, he increased the classes to weekly. Now, he hosts everyone from mother-and-daughter pairs, to couples and groups of friends, to politicians and businesspersons entertaining their clients, to corporate staffs seeking team-building experiences and professional hackers. Yes, professional hackers love sushi, too.

Yasu draws a diverse audience for good reason. The two-and-a-half-hour experience is one you’ll never forget, and if you do want to learn how to make sushi, there’s simply no substitution for learning from a master in-person. Part sushi-themed stand-up comedy, part storytelling, and part instruction, the class goes by faster than you can say “sliced.”

A few of the things to know before going to one of Yasu’s classes include: It’s Yasu’s way or the highway, prepare to sweet-talk your roll and come hungry!

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5 Ways Mentorship is Transforming the Restaurant Industry

5 Ways Mentorship is Transforming the Restaurant Industry

Mentorship not only opens the door to opportunities that would have never before been accessible, it can also propagate change on a broader scale at the industry level. One such mentorship program is the James Beard Foundation’s Women in Culinary Leadership Program, awarded to women who are aspiring to careers in the culinary industry.

Cindy Pawlcyn, chef and owner of three restaurants in California, is one of the established restaurateurs providing mentorship and leadership training to grantees through the 2016 program. Cindy, along with Minneapolis restaurateur Kim Bartmann — of Barbette, The Third Bird, Pat’s Tap, and many more concepts — explains how they see the role of women evolving in this industry and how mentorship can help.

“There’s not that many women who stick with this business. The more mentoring they get, the more helpful it will be for them to be successful and stay with it long-term.”– Cindy Pawlcyn

Create a supportive kitchen culture

Kim started her career as a line cook in restaurants in Minneapolis. “I had a couple of bad experiences, especially being a woman in the kitchen in the ’80s,” she says. “I quit and vowed I would never work in a restaurant again.”

Eventually, Kim found her way back to the industry when she opened a coffee shop with a friend, and now she has eight restaurants. But early on she struggled to be taken seriously by some of her male colleagues, especially when she became an expeditor and had to tell everyone else what to do. She points to “the usual butt pinching” and the fact that at that time, there were almost no women in the kitchen at all.

Cindy knew she wanted to be a chef when she was as young as 13. She took cooking classes, catered, attended trade school at night throughout high school, and eventually graduated college with a hotel and restaurant management degree. When she was 28 she opened her own restaurant, Mustards Grill, in Napa. “Everybody told me I couldn’t do it because I was a woman,” she recalls. Having to endure name calling and other discriminatory behavior, Cindy says, “some wouldn’t believe it now, what happened in those days.”

When she applied to the Culinary Institute of America, she was told they had filled their quota of women for the next three years and advised to reapply then.

Now, Cindy says the door is opening for women, but she’s still eager to see more women finding success in this business — and that’s where mentorship can help affect change.“I think it’s good for our restaurant community if everybody could have someone that they’re bringing up. When you start being more in a teaching and nurturing and developing mindset to this one person, it spreads to all the rest of them. It’s a good culture.”

Reward people who work hard and want to learn

When asked how they managed to achieve success in the environment of those early days, Cindy and Kim have similar answers: they put their heads down, worked hard, and learned as much as they possibly could.

For Kim, that meant becoming familiar with new ingredients and learning to execute the same dishes and techniques perfectly every time. “The only way you can get that skill set in a kitchen is by having a mentor, a chef, or a teacher teach you how to do it – on-the-job training,” she says. “And to be able to utilize a mentor, you have to be willing to accept the help and learn from other people’s mistakes and successes. Those are rare people in the world.”

Cindy advises not to leave a job before you’ve learned everything you can from that place. “People come in with a pre-determined, ‘I’m going to work here six months or a year and a half,’ but it doesn’t really matter how long it is. It matters how much you get out of that experience.”

Offer real-life training for a broad range of skills

Grantees under Kim will have a program tailored to their goals, but she hopes to mentor someone who wants to learn about multi-unit management, her area of expertise. As manager of eight sets of chefs and front-of-house managers, she offers a unique perspective into the business and operations of a restaurant group.

Similarly, Cindy looks forward to teaching someone how to grow food for a restaurant in Mustards’ garden. They will learn how to harvest, order and plan ahead, work all stations in the front and back of house, work with all of the managers, and build their wine experience by working with local wineries. “I think you have to take the time out of your day to put somebody under your wing, versus just having them work a station,” Cindy explains.

“You have to teach them how your mind thinks and how you make a decision. You have to say how you’re going to do this and why you’re going to do it that way.”

She sees younger team members who come on board and don’t understand what the restaurant business really is — those who just want to be a TV chef. They don’t have management skills or know how to make the business profitable or cost recipes. “You don’t learn that in school, you learn that on the job and facing real day-to-day experiences.”

Make yourself a better, stronger leader

Young chefs aren’t the only ones who benefit from a mentoring relationship; As Cindy and Kim explain, there are massive rewards for the mentors, too. Once you’re explaining your thought processes and nurturing your team, you begin to reexamine and refine your techniques, which is always healthy for the team and the business.

“When they come in and go, ‘why do we do it this way?’ You’ve got to figure out why we do it this way,” says Cindy, because “maybe there is a better way.”

Provide the knowledge and confidence to achieve goals

Kim and Cindy both have benefitted from the support of mentors throughout their careers. Kim opened her coffee shop by maxing out her single mother’s credit card. Later on, she participated in a benefit dinner and was introduced to four female leaders of the Minneapolis food and wine scene: Brenda Langton, Lynne Alpert, Pam Sherman, and Nan Bailey.

“All of the sudden I had somebody to call when I had a really difficult question or a problem that I couldn’t figure out. That can be a really powerful thing, to have that assistance.”

Working with mentors like Rich Melman and Julia Child, Cindy built the skill set and confidence she needed to succeed. Julia taught her to stand her ground, to cook good food, and to use good ingredients. Rich has advised her every time she opened a restaurant; she would call him with questions or challenges (and still does).

She learned to trust herself even when others assured her she wouldn’t succeed. “That’s important, to be able to have confidence in yourself and go out on your own,” she explains, remembering making the decision to walk away from her business partnership of 22 years. “They would mess with me and say, ‘On your own you’re not going to be very good because you don’t know how to do this and that.’ In the end, I knew how to do all that stuff.” And it was because of mentorship.

The James Beard Foundation’s Women in Culinary Leadership Program provides aspiring female chefs and restaurateurs the chance to work with some of the industry’s most influential leaders, building in-depth skills in the front and back of house. Now in its third year, the program aims to break through the glass ceiling of the culinary world. Now accepting applications through February 8th. Learn more and apply here.

This article was originally posted on Open For Business.

Congrats to Linger on ‘Restaurant Bar of the Year’

Congrats to Linger on ‘Restaurant Bar of the Year’

Linger Eataury, the latest Denver dining establishment to be nationally recognized for its awesomeness, was named 2015 Restaurant Bar of the Year by Nightclub & Bar Media Group earlier this month, and rightly so!

The annual Nightclub & Bar Awards, established to honor “well deserving bars, nightclubs and lounges for excellence in the industry,” announced the 2015 winners in early March following a lengthy two-month selection period. Entries submitted by industry professionals on behalf of venues across the country were reviewed by a panel of recognized experts, who then determined the finalists and winners.

According to Jon Taffer, president of Nightclub & Bar and host/executive producer of Spike TV’s Bar Rescue, “the winners are visionaries who are instrumental in setting trends and forging the way for other hospitality venues,” and Linger most definitely fits the bill.

Situated in the former Olinger Mortuary garage – thus the name, which chef/owner Justin Cucci came up with by dropping the O and substituting Mor with Eat – this wildly popular restaurant/bar is the total package, from victuals to libations to aesthetics; the kitchen serves up a salute to the street food of the world, the mortuary theme is touched on without getting too kitschy (Linger tissues available for weepers, a “Harold and Maude” photo mural hangs over the open kitchen, funeral fans hang from a wall), and last but not least, the views overlooking downtown Denver are absolutely breathtaking.

Yup, it’s pretty obvious why locals and visitors alike haven’t stopped rushing the doors since they opened in summer 2011.

And now it’s official: Linger is the 2015 Restaurant Bar of the Year. Congratulations, it’s well deserved!