Lady Bartenders: Changing the Stereotype

Bartending is no more an all-male-bastioned career and limited to a few five-star hotels. Today, bartending is considered as a passion and is equally adopted by the ladies. However, in a society where equality is still an issue and women are still struggling for their rights, paving the way as a ‘lady bartender’ is definitely not an easy task, because it’s not about competing, but in fact, proving that even a woman can mix and stir like a pro!

Esparsh Sarawagi interacted with some of the lady bartenders in town who are breaking gender norms and career stereotypes through their techniques and skills as bartenders. Here’s a short excerpt of their experience as a lady bartender so far:

Salina Shrestha, Wicked Spoon

I feel that people feel the same whether it’s the male or a female bartender. I just want to advice the aspiring young ladies to convince your parents first, which will provide them with immense courage to move forward in the journey.

Ruja Maharjan, The Bartender’s Factory

Journey to this career: After graduating from Global Academy of Tourism and Hospitality Education (GATE), I got an opportunity to work in The Diplomat Radisson Blu, Bahrain, where I worked as a bar waitress for nine months. While doing my internship there, I decided to work as a bartender. Then I joined The Bartender’s Factory for training, and later started working as an intern there.

Your Experience: Throughout the shifts, I have made many mistakes, but it is exciting to learn so much about the world behind the bar. My mixologist teacher, Mr. Diwas, has always supported me and made me feel comfortable.

Difficulties faced as a female: One night, as the restaurant started getting busy, a man came up to me and ordered a drink. Then, he asked me, ‘What time do you get off? You look beautiful. What are you doing after your shift?’ I simply ignored him and started serving other guests. Later, I explained about the incident to the owner of the factory, and he advised me to inform about such incidents immediately.

Advice to the young lady bartenders: From my experience, I have learnt that being a female bartender, you have to be strong and have the ability to stand criticism, because sometimes, there are people who treat you without respect. Women face challenges in every industry, but it cannot stop us from working as a bartender or any other job that people think are only eligible for men.

Nancy Shrestha, Address Lounge, Kalikasthan

Journey to this career: Initially, I joined barista classes at an institute where they taught bartending course. It seems really cool that I thought that if boys could do bartending, why can't girls, as it’s a really cool profession. At first, I took training at Cocktail and Dreams for a year, and then joined Kathmandu Flair Bartender Academy for more expertise.

Difficulties faced as a female in this field: As a lady, there are a lot of difficulties in this field. At first, I was not supported by my own parents and relatives. It took me a long time to convince my parents. They still don't fully support me. As we are supposed to work late nights, so people take us in negative way. Still, girls can't walk freely till late hours. People in our society criticize the work that is done till late night.

Opinion on whether the profession is prejudiced towards women: I don’t agree that bartending business is prejudiced towards women. Both boys and girls need to be equally treated like in every field. It is a plus point to have a lady bartender in spite of having a male bartender.

Positive and negative comments: People who know well about this field give good appreciation that even being a girl I am at this place. People give good comments when I do juggling and fire flaring and also appreciate my mixology creations. Negative comments usually are like: “Good girls don't work late night.”

Advice to the aspiring girls: Bartending field is really a cool profession, and there is good scope for girls. If you have faith in yourself that you can do it, then no one can stop you. It’s important to stay strong and ignore the negative comments. Bartending is really a good skill to learn.

Reshma Budhathoki, Kathmandu Flair Bartending Institute

Journey to this career: I started bartending at the age of nineteen with one of the famous bartending institutes of Nepal, Kathmandu Flair Bartending Academy. I first started as a bar assistant, and then gradually started working for clubs, bars, and major events of K-town.

Difficulties faced as a female: When I first started, some men laughed at me. They asked, “Can you do it? It’s a man’s job.” My neighbors started gossiping about my profession, and my parents were also not happy. I never stopped, and crossed my arms instead. I chose to go against them.

Opinion on whether the profession is prejudiced towards women: No job is prejudiced to anybody; however, it’s a bit challenging because we are still there somewhere creating a society. I am very confident with what I serve, even if it’s just water, so I would deny the fact that women are not trusted behind the bars.

Comments: Many ladies thanked me for being a motivation to them. Some complained that the drink didn’t taste that good as made by a guy. I have seen tourists who are surprised seeing a lady working behind the bars in Nepal.

Advice to the young girls: Just do it if you have passion for it.