Welcome to In the Cups, a new weekly column about booze in all its delicious and varied forms. Every Monday, Voracious blogger Sonja Groset will focus on wine, beer, spirits, or other libations. Whether it's a new distillery, a wine-tasting class, a beer-tasting festival, or other booze news, you'll read about it here. Skål, Sláinte, Sante!
There's a long-standing stereotype about women and cocktails: Women like things fruity and sweet that don't taste like alcohol and may or may not have umbrellas in them. This stereotype was further perpetuated during the Sex and the City years, when Carrie and crew sipped cosmopolitans in nearly every episode. Coincidentally, a women's cocktail society was founded at about that same time. These women, however, were drinking something entirely different.
"Ladies United for the Preservation of Endangered Cocktails," or LUPEC, is a women's-only classic-cocktail society. Founded in Pittsburgh in 2001, its members are " . . . dedicated to the Gin Fizz, the Widow's Kiss, and the Singapore Sling--the drinks our mothers and grandmothers drank, the drinks we strive to save from extinction as a small measure of remembering those great women and their great cocktail parties."
There are now LUPEC chapters around the country. The Seattle chapter was founded in 2009 by cocktail enthusiast and travel blogger Wendy Miller, and ALL cocktail-loving ladies are welcome to join. There are monthly meet-ups at the city's best cocktail bars, spirits education classes for a nominal fee, and even occasional events that boys are invited to. Meetings are usually held the first Wednesday of the month to accommodate the off-nights of women who work in the industry, so if you work a 9-5 job, you learn to not schedule meetings on Thursday mornings.
Recent gatherings included a rum-tasting class (for $25) with bartender Marley Tomic-Beard (who's bartended at Spur and Bathtub Gin and is currently at Maria Hines' new Golden Beetle in Ballard). During the three-hour class, Marley schooled the 30 women in attendance about the origins of rum and its distillation and trade throughout history. She then led the class through a tasting of 17 rums--some mixed into cocktails such as Planter's Punch and the Zombie--and others served straight up for swirling, sniffing, and sipping. The class learned about the different grades of rum, aged rums, regional variations of rum, and the difference between a Trader Vic's mai tai and a Don the Beachcomber mai tai.
Another LUPEC meeting was held at the "Pussy Room," the private event space at the Copper Gate in Ballard. Behind the plush, pink curtains separating the space from the rest of the bar, members were given a brief history of the establishment's sordid past from the bar's owner, plus samples of some of the food (Scandinavian specialties to match the Viking-themed bar, like Swedish meatballs and pickled herring). Like most LUPEC meetings, there was a no-host bar, which means you can choose how much or how little the evening will cost you. That night the LUPEC ladies were able to sneak into the men's room to check out the extensive pinup posters. The entire bar is plastered in old-timey nudie pics, but the ones in the men's room are a bit more X-rated.
I sat down with founder Wendy Miller recently to chat about LUPEC's past, present, and future:
SW: How did you first hear about LUPEC and made you want to create a Seattle chapter?
Miller: At the Tales of the Cocktail event in New Orleans, LUPEC Boston was there promoting the cocktail book they'd just published. They are a smaller and more exclusive group, but they host a number of public events to raise money for local women's charities. All LUPEC chapters do various fundraising to support women's charities.
After returning home to Seattle, I brainstormed the idea of a local LUPEC chapter with Rob Roy owner and bartender Anu Apte and cocktail blogger Stevi Deter. We wanted something that was more inclusive, because the more women you can educate about great cocktails, the better. We also wanted to introduce as many people as possible to the great cocktail bars and bartenders around the city.
How many women were present at the first LUPEC Seattle meeting, and how many were at the last one?
The first meeting was 12 people. The last meeting was at least 30 people.
Are there any hazing rituals for new members?
You have to tie a cherry stem into a knot using your tongue within five minutes. If you fail, you have to do a tequila suicide: snort a line of salt, drink a shot of tequila, and squeeze the lime in your eye. OK, not really. There are actually no hazing rituals--we are ladies, after all. . .
What has been your favorite LUPEC meeting so far?
The rum class was a lot of fun because it's always great to have an educational element to our meetings. If people are learning while they drink, it's really successful. Our last meeting was at Liberty, and owner and bartender Andrew Friedman taught us about Japanese whisky.
What are you concocting for future LUPEC meetings?
Definitely more classes and more charity fundraising events. There are some exciting new bars opening that we will visit--but I can't talk about those specifically just yet.
This Saturday, Feb. 19 from 8 p.m. to midnight, men and women are invited to join the ladies of LUPEC for "Cocktails for a Cause," a cocktail party benefiting Jubilee Women's Center. The party is being held downtown at The Penthouse, a private event space on the 37th floor of one of Seattle's premiere high rises. For the price of admission ($40 advance, $50 at the door), you get two cocktails and light hors d'oeuvres from Ethan Stowell Restaurants. Left Coast Libations author Ted Munat will be signing and selling his book. Bring an article of winter women's clothing to donate to the Center and get an additional drink. Complete details and ticket information can be found on the event page.