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Feminist cocktails: to freedom, to the fight, and to bell hooks

Women and alcohol. Associations between the two abound, and Sophie Lewis’ excellent review of Girly Drinks: A World History of Women and Alcohol by Mallory O’Meara for the London Review of Books offers a double-layered analysis of their fraught, passionate, and pleasurable relationship. From the effective campaign to paint entrepreneurial beer-brewing women as witches to the radical subversion hidden in the stereotype of the drunken 1950s housewife, questions of if, why, how, and for whom women drink have been policed and contested for thousands of years. These questions are, of course, framed by wider systems of racism and misogyny and answered with resistance, control, and exploitation.

For anyone interested in a feminist perspective on what’s in your glass this Christmas, we can only recommend Lewis and O’Meara’s investigations, in particular Lewis’ complication of the role of women in the Prohibition movement, which was both led and dismantled by women’s groups. Merrily Grashin’s illustrated cocktail book, Women’s Libation: Cocktails to Celebrate A Woman’s Right to Booze, savours our post-Prohibition freedom with recipes to mix your own Morning Gloria Steinem, Margarita Atwood, Simone de Boulvardier, Frida Kahlada, and more punny homages to the women who have inmutably shaped feminist work and thought.

The world lost an irreplaceable name from that shortlist when bell hooks passed away last week at the age of 69. Born and raised in Jim-Crow era Kentucky, hooks manifested a generation of feminist scholars, writers, and activists through writing which built high theory in skyscrapers but foregrounded matters of the heart, guiding readers through hard questions while suffusing them with empathy and love. It’s hard to overstate her influence on the way we think about intersectionality and its essentialness to the fight against what hooks called the “imperialist white supremacy capitalist patriarchy” — a term that hooks herself didn’t find particularly catchy but believed to capture all the forms of oppression, brute or serpentine, that bind us today. She gave us the tools to understand who we are, and where we need to go.

To bell hooks we can only say thank you, and to come in where words fail, we’ve created a cocktail recipe in honour of her life and work. We hope you’ll join us in toasting one of the most brilliant minds and open hearts to grace our generation.

- Isabela

Recipe: Wounds of Passion, a cocktail in honour of the life and writing of bell hooks

At home in 1997 with the New York Times, hooks revealed that a favourite colour of hers was red. It evokes the power of life and blood, she said, and the title of her second autobiography, Wounds of Passion, similarly summons the visceral. It’s only fitting, then, to shade her cocktail with the remarkable red of life, and to integrate notes as complex as hooks herself, described by friends and colleagues as loving but sharp, argumentative but tender, radical but never angry.

2 oz Bourbon

3/4 oz lemon juice

1/2 oz grenadine

1/2 oz Campari

5 dashes Angostura bitters 

1. Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker.

2. Add ice and shake until chilled.

3. Strain into a rocks glass over ice. Top with soda if you wish. Garnish with an orange wheel or twist and a drizzle of extra grenadine.

Expertly mixed by Robert Gorwa.

Bartender's Note:

The goal for this cocktail was to come up with something that used Kentucky Bourbon as the base spirit (in honour of hook’s home state), that could achieve a deep red color with relatively accessible ingredients (rather than obscure liqueurs). Pomegranate juice is thickened on the stove with some sugar to make a simple and delicious homemade syrup. When used with classic ‘sour’ ratios the cocktail lands somewhere in Ward 8 and Blood and Sand territory. To complete the tribute, stay mindful of Bourbon’s dark and racist history. Hunt out whiskey from new producers like Fresh or Brough Brothers (both of which have a claim to being the first Black-owned and operated distilleries in Kentucky), or look across the Tennessee state line to Uncle Nearest, an award-winning project in ‘whiskey reparations’ seeking to highlight the underappreciated and crucial role played by enslaved people in the whiskey industry in the American South.

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