cover image Girly Drinks: A World History of Women and Alcohol

Girly Drinks: A World History of Women and Alcohol

Mallory O’Meara. Hanover Square, $27.99 (352p) ISBN 978-1-335-28240-8

“Who decided that drinking was a gendered act?” muses screenwriter O’Meara (The Lady from the Black Lagoon) in this thorough, and thoroughly entertaining, history. Using detailed portraits of 15 women—“all of [whom]... illuminate different facets of what it was like to drink through the ages for a woman who wanted to have a drink”—she dismantles false tropes around femininity with panache. Her subjects range from the 12th-century Benedictine mother superior who realized hops could keep beer fresh, to Catherine the Great, who convinced soldiers to overthrow her husband by promising them vodka. Throughout, O’Meara uses what might seem lighthearted trivia to build spot-on social critique: “The double standard that drinking women face is deeply rooted in male anxieties about... women acting like people, not property.” Elegantly woven into each cheeky chapter is rigorous historical context; a profile of the 19th-century widow who popularized Champagne, for instance, also educates readers on cocktail culture in the United States before dovetailing with the story of Japanese sake revolutionary Tatsu’uma Kiyo. O’Meara glides easily from the 17th-century pulquerias of Mexico to the feminine “fern bars” of the 1970s, making sure not to forget the queen of girly drinks: the Cosmopolitan. Provoking both thought and laughter, this serves as bracing refreshment from a master textual mixologist. Agent: Brady McReynolds, JABberwocky Literary Agency. (Oct.)