Our name, The Bitter Housewife, started as an off the cuff joke I made to Dan, my husband and business partner. At the time I was writing a blog called "On Becoming A Housewife". It was a mix of urban homesteading and entertaining. It came about because I found myself in my early 30’s for the first time not supporting myself while I explored what was next. I wanted to turn the blog into a lifestyle brand with some merchandise and a book that had a vintage entertaining manual vibe. But I was also exploring the feelings I had around being dependent on my husband’s income and how I could stretch our dollars to make sure us two food and drink loving folks living in San Francisco didn’t feel deprived.
I made my first batch of bitters as something to write about on the blog expecting nothing more to come of it. However, they turned out to be awesome and so much more nuanced that the bitters I was used to. So I set about refining the recipe to make what I thought were the best bitters for an Old Fashioned. That is the recipe we still sell today as Old Fashioned Aromatic Bitters.
Anyway it was over old fashioneds made with these bitters that Dan asked if I thought we could make a business selling bitters. I replied, “I have no idea, but we should call them The Bitter Housewife.” Our fate was sealed with that simple sentence. The name was clever, a little bit cynical, and most importantly not taken.
In that moment I didn’t give the name much more thought. It felt right and I had already done some thinking about what the word/title housewife meant to me. I’ll get to that shortly. But as our business grows I forget that not everyone knows I’m the founder. They don’t know my sense of humor or background and they don’t know what’s behind the name.
The Bitter Housewife, it's a name that elicits many reactions. Most of the time it’s a laugh or comment of “I love it!”, but some aren't sure. Is it offensive? I certainly hope not, but accept that it may be for some. Is it dated? Maybe, but you could argue that so am I. Is there a story behind it and most importantly a woman behind it? Yes indeed!
I am The Bitter Housewife, even though I'm no longer a housewife and really not that bitter. Everything this company is about — the products I want to see in the world, the ways I want companies to talk to people — comes from me. There is a real person behind this brand and I have many opinions about many things. Some have a place in shaping this business and some don’t. I’d like to think that slightly snarky, sometimes clever bitter housewife in me can catch you off guard and make you appreciate what I’ve created.
The Bitter Housewife was always meant to be tongue and cheek, meaning to both poke at a stereotype and embrace it at the same time. However, what’s become apparent is that we, or more specifically I, as the woman behind the name and the brand, don’t talk about it enough. General consensus from the people that think it could be offensive or that it is outdated is that they also think it came from a man. I would question a brand called The Bitter Housewife without a female founder too!
While The Bitter Housewife was first uttered as an off the cuff response to my husband asking if I thought we could make a business out of selling bitters, the name is much more to me than a joke or play on words.
Let’s start with Housewife, it’s really where all the trouble comes from. Yes, it could be construed as derogatory and outdated. However my decision to use the word housewife came from embracing what it really means to be one, someone who manages the home. A housewife manages the finances, balances the check book, feeds the family, keeps the house in order, manages the chores that need to be done, etc. As I said before, when I chose the name I had also willingly become a “housewife” to stretch our single income to a comfortable existence for both of us.
I also view a housewife as someone who embodies hospitality. She welcomes you into her home, feeds you, gives you a drink, makes you feel cared for. This part is important to the image of the company and stems from my background in hospitality. I fully believe there is no better way to show you care for someone than to nourish them. To take the time to fill that need for another person is significant.
Housewife has absorbed negative connotations in recent decades with the image of a lazy woman sitting at home watching soap operas eating bon bons and then more recently with the whole Real Housewives series. But I embrace the original concept and put forth the image of a woman who has cultivated the skills of homemaking and opens her arms wide to welcome friends and family into her home to sit at her table.
But why is this housewife bitter? Honestly, who isn’t sometimes? I will not bore you with the laundry list of things that make me cranky, it has grown much longer in the past year. But I will call out rules and expectations that just don’t fit, that tell me what I like, what I choose is wrong. This is mostly pushback on the extremely male dominated and exclusive culture of cocktails. Like many exclusive things if you don’t “get it” or like it right away you are judged and talked down too. Even if you do get it, but you don’t buy into the clique, you’re just not cool enough to waste time on. It’s just a drink, there’s no call for that. And I ask, where’s the hospitality? But it is in these moments of bitterness that a spark of change can come. The motivation to do something different.
The Bitter Housewife is about both taking care of people and calling them on their bullsh*t. She's about giving you a pass for doing what makes you happy, especially if it flies in the face of "rules". Precious and exclusive just isn’t this housewife’s thing. Most importantly she loves a great drink and encourages you to try new things with an open mind and a willingness to accept that even if you don’t like it there is still value.
Let's embrace the bitter housewife in us all!