Cocktail Club

Meet Kitty Amann, cocktail book author who champions women in spirits

"It allowed me ... to sit and think about these unknown women from history."

Kirsten "Kitty" Amann holds a cell phone
Kirsten "Kitty" Amann will be mixing drinks with bourbon for Cocktail Club on March 2. Photo courtesy of Kirsten "Kitty" Amann

Kirsten “Kitty” Amann felt that she had a turning point when she published her book “Drinking Like Ladies: 75 Modern Cocktails from the World’s Leading Female Bartenders.” Working together with co-author Misty Kalkofen, Amann found a powerful moment when she realized she could channel her work in the beverage industry to support other women.

“I realized it was more than a hobby when we really got the book published,” Amann said. Published in 2018, “Drinking Like Ladies” features cocktail recipes to match illustrated biographies of “trailing blazing ladies throughout history.”

Today, Amann is the New England market manager for Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey, a brand of whiskey headquartered in Tennessee. The company gets its name from Nathan “Nearest” Green, a formerly enslaved man, who taught the young Jack Daniel “the craft of distilling.” Between her work with Uncle Nearest and her writing about women in history, Amann said that she strongly believes in the importance of telling stories that often go unheard.


We talked with Amann ahead of her virtual event with Cocktail Club on Thursday, March 2 at 7 p.m. where she’ll show us how to make a Winter Old Fashioned and the Perfect 36 with host Jackson Cannon. Below, read about her commitment to supporting women in spirits, what it was like to write her book, and what she enjoys about the drinks she’ll be preparing.

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.

How did you get involved with Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey, and can you tell us about the company’s namesake?

I heard about the brand, probably the same way that most people heard about it. In 2016, there was an article that was published in The New York Times that was about Jack Daniel’s decision to re-incorporate the [Nathan] “Nearest” Green narrative into their marketing. And I had never heard of the “Nearest” Green narrative. So that was a huge reframe for me. … They were hiring in the market, and [a] former boss of mine, who really knows me well, understood the history element and the storytelling piece, and that that would be a good fit for my skill set.

[Uncle Nearest] is a project unlike so many others. We have an all female executive team. We’re telling a little-known story, up until now, outside of Tennessee. It celebrates an African American man, who was the first known African American master distiller. We have members of both sides of the Nearest Green family and Jack Daniel’s lineage involved.


[Nearest Green] was enslaved when he was first distilling. We don’t have a lot of information about him, anecdotally. But we do know he ended up in Tennessee, and he was the distiller on the farm where a young Jack Daniel went to work as a little boy. … He was six or seven when he first met Uncle Nearest and went to the farm where they were both working. Fast forward, after emancipation, Green was still working in distilling as a free man and mentored Daniel. … When Daniel eventually bought the distillery and started selling the whiskey that would later become Jack Daniel’s, Green was his employee, and he was the master distiller who made the whiskey that Jack would go on to make world famous.

Tell us about your book “Drinking Like Ladies” and what your writing process was like.

We started the process with that book like 10 years before the book was actually published. …Misty Kalkofen is the woman who founded the group that I was a part of, and she’s my co-author. [The group] is called LUPEC. It stands for Ladies United for the Preservation of Endangered Cocktails. Really, the whole concept was hers. She wanted us to write about women’s history and cocktails in a way that toasts these unknown women from history.


In a previous career moment, I was working in publishing. I had a really good friend… and she was like, “This is a book. You can make this a book.” … We made a proposal, and we pitched and pitched. For years and years, it got rejected and rejected, as it happens. It’s kind of one of those things where … timing is everything. By the time we had secured a contract and had a publisher behind the project, social media had taken off in a different way. We were just so much more connected globally. We were able to use our networks to connect with working female bartenders all over the world and find people who were able to contribute to the book. We gave them information about the women that we were celebrating, and then they would create bespoke cocktails in honor of the women. It was truly an incredible project because it allowed me and Misty to sit and think about these unknown women from history and figure out how to tell their story, but also to work in collaboration with these other really awesome women that were creating delicious cocktails.

One of the drinks that touched my heart the most and made me feel a lot of different emotions was writing about Ruby Nell Bridges Hall, who was the little girl who desegregated public schools in Louisiana. It’s a very moving story that happened in my parents’ lifetime. It’s one that didn’t happen that long ago. It was tough to write and really interesting. The drink that celebrates her was created by a woman named Abigail Gullo, who lives in New Orleans now. … She created a beautiful, thoughtful cocktail that incorporates ingredients from many different cultures that coalesce in New Orleans. It’s a very New Orleans-y cocktail, yet it’s also very simple. It’s something that my mom could make at home, with the right ingredients, and always tastes delicious.

If you were a cocktail, what would you be?

When we started LUPEC, we each chose a cocktail name! My cocktail name is the Pink Lady. That drink is Plymouth gin, applejack, fresh grenadine, lemon, and an egg white. It’s frothy, it’s pink, it’s fluffy, it’s fun, while still being a serious cocktail.

What are the drinks that you’ll be making, the Winter Old Fashioned and Perfect 36, like?

The Winter Old Fashioned is great. It’s a super versatile cocktail. It’s really forgiving. That’s really interesting about it. It’s fun to teach, especially with beginners. It’s fun to see how you can experiment with that drink, depending on which types of sweeteners you use, or which types of bitters, or which types of citrus oil, if you’re going to go for a garnish. It’s a good teachable cocktail because you can teach people what is the point of all of those things, then narrow it down [to] what they might want to have in their bars. You can also teach them how to stir, which is fun. I love that drink. It’s so simple.


For the Perfect 36, that one is a riff on a drink called the Jack Rose. The Perfect 36 is a nod to Tennessee history, in terms of name. The woman who created that is a woman I worked with, and she was just honoring that Tennessee was the 36th state to vote for women’s suffrage. … It features grenadine, lime, and obviously, whiskey. It’s a really cool, very simple structure. The grenadine piece, you want to make your own, fresh grenadine. We’ll talk a little bit about how that’s different from the store-bought stuff that we all grew up drinking in Shirley Temples. It also is a super, classic structure, in the sense that it’s looking to complement and enhance the flavors of the base spirit, versus covering them up. It’ll be fun.

Watch our virtual Cocktail Club

Mix whiskey cocktails with Cocktail Club host Jackson Cannon and guest bartender Kitty Amann.