At first blush, you might think that Mallory O’Mera’s GIRLY DRINKS: A WORLD HISTORY OF WOMEN AND ALCOHOL is simply a compendium of influential women brewers and distillers throughout the ages, women whose names aren’t as part of the public consciousness as say, your Sam Addams or Jim Beams.

While GIRLY DRINKS does spend a significant amount of time shining the limelight on numerous women who aren’t as well-known, women like Isabelle Beaton — author of Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management, a watershed book that was one of the first to detail cocktail recipies) — and Joy Spence, a master blender widely recognized as the ‘Queen of Rum’, O’Mera (who previously wrote the illuminating biography of Milicent Patrick, THE LADY FROM THE BLACK LAGOON) has higher aspirations with her singular look at women’s involvement with all facets of alcohol and spirits.

GIRLY DRINKS examines thousands of years of alcohol, from the discovery of fermentation and hunter/gatherer-friendly high-calorie liquids, to Mesopotamian priestesses brewing beer, a side trip through the middle ages and Li Qingzhao who brazenly wrote about sex and inebriation, to the tectonic shift in post-WWII alcohol culture, nicely encapsulated by Sunny Sund who turned Trader Vics from a hole-in-the-wall to one of the most influential booze-based franchises, then capped off with the recent South African brewing revolution helmed by Apiwe Nxusani-Mawela.

The sheer breadth and detail of the history of alcohol that O’Mera covers is extraordinarily valuable, but she also clearly and breezily delves into the particulars of the cultivation and business of how booze is gendered, which predictable is often the byproduct of cultural constructs.

As if all of that wasn’t enough, GIRLY DRINKS also uses the history of women and alcohol to scrutinize power and gender dynamics, how history repeats itself, while also extolling the progress that has been made and also looking forward to what hopefully will be a brighter, more inclusive, more diverse future.

GIRLY DRINKS is not just an informative look at important boozy women in history, but an instructional cautionary tale. It’s a bold, insightful, fascinating text, one that merits your interest even if you’re a teetotaler.

For more info on GIRLY DRINKS, visit Mallory O’Mera’s website at:

Or you can order it directly via Bookshop!

Favorites of 2021: Books

I straddle a number of release years while reading so I rarely read as many contemporary texts as I’d like, but here are my favorite 2021 works:

DREAM GIRL – Laura Lippmann

“[DREAM GIRL] is peppered with all sorts of references to old-school noirs and detective fiction, novels like THE DAUGHTER OF TIME, references to her friend and author Megan Abbott, […] so many riffs on classic Hollywood and horror films, and even a quick moment with Tess Monaghan herself. In other words, it was tailor-made for me, but there’s also a lot to appreciate about the novel from a structural standpoint. [Laura Lippman is] exceptional at setting everything up so that, right before the reveals come, the curtains fall from your eyes, and you can’t help but appreciate the breadcrumbs she’s strewn through the prior pages.”


“THE FINAL GIRL SUPPORT GROUP goes above and beyond [horror tropes], and is a surprisingly brilliant example of what the genre is capable of.”

GIRL ONE – Sara Flannery Murphy

“[A] very inventive and engrossing take on, not only, the Frankenstein tale, but also witch folklore.”


“[A] classic Hollywood tale, but not the classic Hollywood tale most want to hear.”

IT NEVER ENDS – Tom Scharpling

“[As] amusing [of a memoir] as you’d expect from Scharpling, [and] far more interesting and deeper than you’d suspect.”

NIGHTBITCH – Rachel Yoder

“Nightbitch goes through one hell of a journey and, while it’s not nearly the horrific transformation tale I expected to read, it is a very satisfying one.”


“Patricia Lockwood’s novel — which is primarily concerned with self-reflecting on being extremely online, until it isn’t — may come across as utterly obnoxious to anyone who isn’t familiar with the litany of terms, memes, and bluntness that being ‘extremely online’ entails, but I’d like to think that her artful prose and peculiar framing supersedes the need for that sort of knowledge.”


“[A] tremendous accomplishment, one that I look forward to revisiting.”

2021 pieces waiting for my attention:

GIRLY DRINKS – Mallory O’Meara



Susan Orlean’s THE ORCHID THIEF is a real-life character profile of one John Laroche, a plant dealer working for a Florida Seminole plant nursery. Laroche has a plan — a heist, really, even though it’s sanctioned by his Seminole nursery boss — to lead a few Seminole co-workers into Florida’s Fakahatchee Strand, land that Seminoles have the legal right to take wild flowers from, and leave with several ghost orchids which Laroche will then clone and he and the Seminoles will profit from. Laroche sees it as a win-win.

Unfortunately, he and the workers are caught, and then the legal rights of the Seminoles are called into question.

While it sounds more like a legal thriller, the case simply simmers in the background for the bulk of the book. Instead, it’s really Susan Orlean trying to understand the personal and zealous obsession of orchid collectors, as well as scrutinizing the growers and dealers who live as aberrant fringe elements in an inhospitable environment (mirroring the deviancy and adaptation of orchids themselves), while also spotlighting the tenacity of the Seminoles to live on their own terms.

Over the better part of a year, Orlean travels to orchid shows, swamps, nurseries, and encounters some savvy strange folk, some natural inventors and businessmen, others are oddities that eke out an existence. The line connecting all of her subjects? They all want more flowers, and they want more -interesting- and -different- flowers. It’s never enough, despite the fact that the flowers often die due to undesirable conditions or lack of knowledge as to how to sustain them. It’s not enough to see the orchids in their natural habitat — it’s a need for possession and ownership.

Orlean’s claim in this investigation is that she’s trying to understand this obsession, but I think she does. She’s there to collect stories, collect enough to make an enticing piece — not unlike some of the orchid events. It’s what she’s done as a journalist for THE NEW YORKER her entire life. She puts herself in severely unsafe situations for the sake of her collecting, not unlike Laroche.

It’s a fantastically woven and admirable work; a once-in-a-lifetime confluence of events and personas that embody themes both small and large, personal and political, beautiful and ugly.