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Unreserved Wine Talk

237 EpisodesProduced by Natalie MacLeanWebsite

The Unreserved Wine Talk podcast features candid conversations with the most fascinating people in the wine world. Your host, award-winning journalist Natalie MacLean, dives into how it feels to compete in the nerve-wracking World's Best Sommelier Competition, the shadowy underground of wine forgery… read more


158: Girly Drinks with Mallory O’Meara on the History of Women and Alcohol

Did you know that the Egyptian Queen Cleopatra has her own, private wine club and that it was used against her to bring down her empire? Are you curious about the first people to make beer? They were women called alewives, but the church didn’t like that. Did you know that the first bars were created for women?


In this episode of the Unreserved Wine Talk podcast, I'm chatting with Mallory O'Meara, the author of the just-published Girly Drinks: A World History of Women and Alcohol.


You can find the wines we discussed at



How did Mallory’s thirst for knowledge take her from filmmaker to writer?

What has been the best moment in Mallory’s wine career so far?

What was it like writing about world history during lockdowns and the pandemic?

Why were libraries so important in Mallory’s research for Girly Drinks?

What can you expect from Girly Drinks?

How did Mallory’s curiosity lead her to write Girly Drinks?

Why did Mallory decide to put so much research into the writing of Girly Drinks?

What is a micro-history?

How does Girly Drinks take you on a journey from the beginning of civilization to the present day?

What was Cleopatra’s connection to wine and what surprising role did it play in her downfall?

How did the social stigma associated with women who drink begin?

What important role did alewives play for a significant time in our history?

What role did the nun Hildegard of Bingen early church play in the shifting attitudes toward women and alcohol?

How did the nun Hildegard of Bingen revolutionize the beer industry?

How did Catherine the Great harness the people’s love of vodka in her rise to Empress?

Why were bars originally a marker of feminized drinking?

What made Gertrude "Cleo" Lythgoe the most successful bootlegger during Prohibition?

What was Ada Coleman’s impact on cocktails as the first female celebrity bartender?


Key Takeaways

I was surprised to learn that the first known depiction of someone drinking was a woman, but not so surprised that men thought she was playing a horn from the wrong end.

I love the story about Cleopatra’s drinking club with Mark Antony called the inimitable livers and her intoxication ring. I need to get one of those. It’s fascinating how the gendered perceptions of alcohol consumption was used against her to bring down her empire.

It was also interesting to discover that women made most of the alcohol back in the day from beer to wine as it was considered a domestic art. Again, not surprised that the church cast alewives cauldrons and brooms as symbols for witches.


Join me on Instagram, Facebook and YouTube Live Video

Join the live-stream video of this conversation on Wednesday at 7 pm eastern on Instagram Live Video, Facebook Live Video or YouTube Live Video.

I’ll be jumping into the comments as we watch it together so that I can answer your questions in real-time.

I want to hear from you! What’s your opinion of what we’re discussing? What takeaways or tips do you love most from this chat? What questions do you have that we didn’t answer?

Want to know when we go live?

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About Mallory O'Meara

Mallory is an award-winning and best-selling author and historian. She lives with her two cats in the mountains near Los Angeles, where she is at work on her next nonfiction book. Bourbon is her drink of choice.

Her first book, The Lady From The Black Lagoon: Hollywood Monsters and the Lost Legacy of Milicent Patrick, is a Los Angeles Times bestseller. It won the 2019 SCIBA Award for Biography, the Rondo 2019 Book of the Year and was nominated for the Hugo and Locus awards.

Her second book, Girly Drinks: A Feminist History of Women and Alcohol, was just released.

Every week, Mallory hosts the literary podcast Reading Glasses alongside filmmaker and writer Brea Grant. The show is hosted by Maximum Fun and focuses on book culture and reader life.



To learn more about the resources mentioned in this episode, visit


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