Monday, November 1, 2021

Girly Drinks: A World History of Women and Alcohol by Mallory O'Meara


I was lucky enough to score an advance copy of GIRLY DRINKS, which made me super excited because, as you probably know if you follow me on social media, I really like booze. The alcohol industry has not exactly historically been the most friendly to women, though. When people think booze, it's often in the context of a bunch of dudes just hanging out, or within the context of a cautionary tale about how drinking leads to rape (for women). So I was really excited to see this feminist history about alcohol of all kinds, going from prehistoric times to the present day of clubby cocktails and female sommeliers.

Reading GIRLY DRINKS took me a while, though, and I'm sorry to say that's because parts of it were so tedious. The first couple chapters were fantastic, but then in later chapters, the author started jumping around. So she might start talking about the creation of gin in Europe, which would make sense because the title of the chapter would say something about gin, but then she would jump to rice wine in Vietnam or corn beer in Mexico, which made it kind of feel like this was filler because she didn't have enough material to flesh out her chapters.

The best chapters were, unsurprisingly, the ones that felt the most fleshed out because of their abundance of material. I loved the chapters about Cleopatra and what douches the ancient Romans and Greeks were, and the brewing culture in nunneries and what an unexpected pioneer Hildegard was. Then there was a lot of slog, which didn't really pick up until the chapter about tiki bars, which I found fascinating because I love tiki drinks, despite their shady origins. I also really liked the chapter about the 90s and 2000s, about lesbian bars and the changing social landscape of drinking for women as date-rape drugs became more commonly used (and how sexist it is to tell women to be careful instead of telling men to STOP. RAPING). I also loved how Sex and the City and Bridget Jones both helped popularize different kinds of drinks for career women who just wanted to unwind and feel sexy, and how that kind of paved the way for wine moms. Sorry, I mean #winemoms.

Overall, I think this was an interesting read. There were parts about it that I loved but I also skimmed a lot of the chapters that I was less interested in. If you enjoy drinking but hate how it feels like a "man's world" so much of the time and would like a fresh take on the history of alcohol, I think you might like this. But you should know that it reads like a textbook and is less about pop-culture than it is like a historical docuseries. I think if you go into it with that mindset you'll be more prepared than I am.

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review!

2.5 out of 5 stars

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