Meet the Blogger Sharing Her Cocktail Knowledge with Likeminded Women
Ettie Berneking / February 23, 2016
Published by: Tales of the Cocktail
Back at the start of October, 70-some women gather one evening at Urban Roots Farm in Springfield, Missouri. Bonfires crack at the edge of the property, and chickens cluck their greeting as visitors walk past. The star-filled sky above is the night’s only canopy as these women wander around the farm. While the weather is beautiful and the mix of conversation and live music is enough to lure in a sizable crowd, it’s not the cozy fall atmosphere that brings these women together. Tonight’s gathering is all about cocktails.
Welcome to Cocktails on the Farm, where imbibing is done with a dose of education.
This monthly women’s-only cocktail workshop is the brainchild of Mallory Leicht, who for years noticed a lack of women frequenting and/or working at cocktail bars around Springfield. She decided to try and change that by creating a place where women could gather, learn about craft cocktails, and then head back to the bars with a new wealth of knowledge.
“I think often times women don’t feel comfortable at a cocktail bar,” Leicht says, adding that the wealth of options can be difficult to navigate. “If we can spark an interest, passion or curiosity in these women, that’s big.”
After partnering with Urban Roots Farm, Leicht initially geared the event toward other CSA members, but by the time word got out on social media, the estimated 30 attendees had grown to 75. Just like that, Cocktails on the Farm became bigger than Leicht could have ever imagined.
Each month, Leicht chose a different technique to focus on, from fat washing and homemade infusions to bitters and homemade shrubs. Guests had six cocktails to choose from during the night, but instead of simply being handed a ready-made tincture, the attendees chose a cocktail, and then were handed the directions. “We kind of threw them to the wolves,” Leicht says. “And we were pretty clear about that on the ticket description, but we still had some people who were surprised that they were the ones about the make their drink. It was one of my favorite parts about the event. We had the whole spectrum there from those who have been making cocktails for a long time and just wanted to hang out with other women to those who had never made their own cocktail, and this was their first time.”
But her guests weren’t the only ones learning. Leicht, who has worked on and off in the coffee and cocktail worlds, is not a bar professional; she’s simply an enthusiast, and just like the other women at Cocktails on the Farm, she’s learning as she goes.
Like the time she burnt her arm on boiling hot simple syrup the night before one month’s event. When she was told it would be a 5-hour wait in the ER, she bought a bottle of Rieger whiskey, went home, and cried away the pain.
“It was a rookie mistake,” she says, laughing. “Inherent in Cocktails on the Farm is that we’re learning together, and we’re not experts by any means. That’s part of the fun.”
Each month, Leicht watches as guests come back and talk about how they are using shrubs and bitters at home after attending past Cocktails on the Farm. “One big goal was to create a more educated base of cocktail drinkers,” Leicht says. “Anytime you can create community around a shared passion, that is awesome.”
As for Leicht, her interests and curiosities spread well beyond the realm of craft cocktails. “It’s like most interests,” she says before speeding off into a list of other foods and drinks that have spiked her curiosity. “You start with one and move on to the next. Like cheese. I don’t know anything about cheese, or champagne … or freaking mezcal. Someone tell me about mezcal!”
But for now, goat cheese and the untapped world of mezcal will have to wait. Leicht is focused on taking Cocktails on the Farm back to the basics. With a new year ahead, she wants to refocus on what makes a cocktail a great cocktail whether it’s balance, mouth-feel or complexity. At the end of the day, Cocktails on the Farm is all about education and community. There might be a few tinctures thrown, but as Leicht explains, the main premise is to create a fun environment where women can talk about cocktails. “If you want to geek out you can, and if you don’t, that’s fine too,” she says. “We're just here together to hang out.”