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A Feminist’s Guidebook to Good Drinking

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(illustration: Merrily Grashin)

Merrily Grashin loves a dive bar that’s not too dive-y—the kind of place where the happy hour drinks are cheap and you can hear your friends speak but also that has a reputation for late-night rambunctiousness. That’s why we’re sitting at the bar of Union Pool in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, right when it opens at 5 p.m. (It’s also why she works at The Three Diamond Door in nearby Bushwick, a popular spot for weekend day drinking.)

This kind of taste is unusual for writers of cocktail books, but Grashin has written and illustrated one called “Women’s Libation: Cocktails to Celebrate a Woman’s Right to Booze” (Plum, $16). The result is something that’s both a history and bartending lesson, with the requisite list of tools and approachable recipes, with the added bonus of short biographies of women such as Simone de Beauvoir and Dolores Huerta, and explanations of birth control, as well as other important aspects of women’s history. Puns abound.

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Merrily Grashin

In fact, puns sparked the idea for the project. Grashin and a friend had a list going of drink puns based on famous feminists in history, and when her line of handmade illustrated greeting cards, Greet ’N’ Potatoes, began to get press and agent attention, it was this list she turned to for inspiration.

“I’d say that I’m mediocre at a good amount of things in life and exceptional at puns and dad jokes,” she says. “My brain works in puns.”

(illustration: Merrily Grashin)

Grashin has no formal art training but says she has always made political art—”art for a message,” she says, “something you could pass around.”

That also influences her approach to bartending. “What I really enjoy about drinking, bars and even restaurants is that anybody can enjoy them,” she says. “It’s an affordable luxury.”

(illustration: Merrily Grashin)

Almost all of the 75 recipes in the book are variations on classics and can be made by anyone with a well-stocked bar cart, even the nine-ingredient Feminine Mys-tiki. Throughout the book, Gershin assumes the role of an affable bartender, guiding you through the menu on a slow evening.

This is the opposite of many more serious cocktail books, which have tended toward thickness, banking on the serious drink concerns of at-home bartenders. But Grashin’s approach was not to intimidate the reader but instead to invite them to pull up a stool and play.

(illustration: Merrily Grashin)

And maybe you’ll learn something too, as Grashin isn’t shy about wanting to make an adjustment to dude-centric drinking culture. “I grew up thinking a bar was a dude’s place,” she says. “Like, ‘I gotta get out of the house with the old lady.’ I don’t quite feel like that anymore.”

Years of work have gone into changing that, with the massive success of women’s bartending competition Speed Rack and the recent publication of Jeanette Hurt’s “Drink Like a Woman: Shake. Stir. Conquer. Repeat.” (Seal Press, $16), proving we’ve reached a new cultural moment when it comes to women getting both behind and in front of the bar. With “Women’s Libation” and Grashin’s cheeky style, we’re taking yet another step forward.

Locations: Brooklyn New York
Series & Type: Products
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