These Women Are Crushing Mexico City's Bartending Scene
The problem of gender inequality is pervasive in the bartending industry at large. A study we published just last month indicates that women are less likely to be in high profile bartending positions, less likely to make as much money and frequently subject to sexual harassment.
Mexico City certainly hasn’t been immune to these biases. But in a city where the cocktail craze has only recently taken a stronghold, several women are asserting their valuable place, leading from behind the bar.
Mafer Tejada was the first woman to win the title of Mexico’s World Class Bartender in 2015. She bartends at an equally prestigious bar, Licorería Limantour. She’s been one of many woman responsible for a massive culture change in Mexican bars. “At the beginning it was difficult, the culture in Mexico did not allow for certain standards, including not allowing women bartenders in bars,” says Tejada. “Now the doors are opening little by little and there are more women behind the bar, trying to be professional and make this not only a way of life, but a profession, a job and a passion.”
Mafer Tejada, bartender at Licorería Limantour and the first woman to win the title of Mexico’s World Class Bartender in 2015, has witnessed doors opening to women in the industry, as the craft is taken more and more seriously.
Raquel Ramos, a bartender at Fifty Mils in the Four Seasons (who will soon transition to working at Licorería Limantour), has witnessed similar shifts in her five years as a bartender. “I think that in the last few years the amount of women who work in the bar industry has increased and it has become more accessible to women," she says.
This increase in women behind the bar is reflective of the industry’s growth throughout the world, and some attribute an influx in women to the career being taken more seriously internationally. “I see more and more females becoming involved with bars and in the cocktail culture every day,” says Berit Jane Soli-Holt, head bartender at Artemisia and an American ex-pat. “I think this is part of a larger shift in the culture that is recognizing the legitimacy and professionalism of a career in bartending and therefore it is easier for women to see themselves in the profession.”
But it’s not just about being permitted to work in bars, it’s also about the greater cultural acceptance of women as bartenders. It’s taken time for guests to expect women behind the bar and to treat them with equal respect. “Over the years I have seen a change in that the clientele has confidence and trust that shows in their treatment of women as bartenders. Mexico is transforming ... with an emerging culture and grand opening in the mentality of the Mexican,” says Vicky Torres, general manager at Bar Leonor.
Of course, there is still significant room for growth in the Mexico City bar scene. “... There are definitely those finer points of misogyny that have yet to be tackled head-on when it comes to gender equality,” says Soli-Holt. “For instance, boys’ club mentality and the preference of speaking amongst ‘the boys’ instead of maintaining inclusivity with female colleagues; an idea of ‘protecting’ women by making choices for them (supposedly in their best interest) instead of actively engaging their viewpoints or their strength … I have experienced each one of these in my treatment as a female bartender; although, on the whole I am respected and I don’t believe that any male I have worked with really understands that this type of treatment is misogynistic.”
Lisa Mulligan, owner of Jardín Chapultepec and Mexico’s Absolut Brand Ambassador, has found that she gets more respect now that she's running the show, "I feel very equal in my own bar, but I have worked for machistas here who didn’t respect my opinion because I am a woman."
Culture changes of this scale and complexity take time, and the women who persist in fighting barriers are to be applauded. And as the female leaders of the Mexico City bar scene continue to overcome boundaries and challenge stereotypes, their success depends on building a supportive network. "We’re quite strong but could be more united. I think most women here don’t want to distinguish themselves," Mulligan says. "We just want to be treated as equals."
“I think female bartenders in the Mexico community is amazing,” Torres says. “There is a relationship of respect, friendship and even mutual understanding since we have walked the same path; we can always improve, but I think that we are doing pretty well. In a profession that was almost completely men, Mexican women bartenders have shown that we can be excellent.”
"They are professionals and are always supporting and teaching each other for the growth of the community, not just from woman to woman," says Ramos.
And that's, perhaps, the most important outcome of an inclusive community — growing an industry that is the best it can be — not just for women, but for everyone.