Women In Whiskey Spotlight on Julia Ritz Toffoli
I had the opportunity to sit down (virtually) with Julia Ritz Toffoli, to chat all about her impact on the whiskey industry as the founder of Women Who Whiskey.
Women Who Whiskey is an experimental whiskey club and a haven for women looking for a safe environment to learn about and enjoy whiskey. Welcoming both amateurs and connoisseurs alike, If you are interested in learning more about whiskey, you are welcome to join a chapter nearest you.
Like many, Julia’s first delve into the whiskey world was during college in Montreal, where rye and ginger cocktails were all the rage. Flash forward a few years, all of 5 foot 2, and fresh on the New York bar scene, Julia finds herself questioned regularly about ordering a whiskey.
This is a familiar story for women everywhere who order something more potent than a glass of wine at a bar. As Julia starts chatting with other female whiskey drinkers, she realizes that it is way more common to be questioned about the choice than she initially realized. She knew there needed to be a safe place to enjoy a glass of whiskey or cocktail, without judgment or fear of being mansplained about how strong it is.
“We need to be able to feel comfortable drinking whiskey in our own city. So why don’t we get together and do that? And so that’s kind of how the idea was born.”
Julia says the club started out casually. She would create Facebook events to meet at bars around the city. and blog about their experiences. While the blog didn’t stick, it put the small group in the path of other women looking for the same thing.
And the group exploded from there.
With the growth, the club started utilizing “Whiskey Mondays,” a usually slow time in the industry, by having meetings at various bars. Eventually, they could have brand ambassadors for multiple whiskeys, do tastings and food pairings, even hold events at distilleries. Julia calls it an “experimental, experiential whiskey club.” The perfect description if you ask me.
Julia does stress that the club’s goal is not to be gender exclusive (there is an occasional gentlemen’s edition) “It’s more about making sure that there is a space where women can feel comfortable and learn and come together.” She says.
Currently, there are 25 chapters in the U.S. and five international, and the numbers keep growing. Even Covid-19 can’t stop the successful club. “Interactive virtual events have been consistently high, which was very surprising to me. I thought people would get zoom fatigue really fast, but demand just continues to outpace supply. It’s also allowed us to kind of break down geographic barriers”. Although Julia admits she misses the in-person meetings as well, and even with consistent attendance to meetings from members, the pandemic hasn’t been easy to navigate, but so worth it.
With over 16,000 women involved in the club, Julia hopes to use her status in the industry to help whiskey brands see what inclusive marketing looks like and that marketing whiskey to women doesn’t mean excluding men. Which is what she describes as her long term ambition for Women Who Whiskey.
Lastly, Julia says her current go-to whiskey is Koval based in Chicago, specifically, their alternative grain whiskeys. Julia says their 100% millet whiskey is one of her favorites.
Want to join a chapter near you? Visit Women Who Whiskey and be sure to follow them on Instagram @womenwhowhiskey.