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The Myth of the Manly Drink

The Myth of the Manly Drink:

For years now, I have been railing against the notion that men should be relegated to drinking one type of drink, while women should be drinking another. It’s silly to me, this idea that one type of flavored ethyl alcohol is somehow more masculine than another type of flavored ethyl alcohol. Because if you really, really want to break it down, that’s all drinks are: ethyl alcohol, water and flavoring. Wine, beer, a Martini, a Strawberry Margarita—it’s all the same.

The entire premise is ridiculous to me, and yet I’ve seen it over and over again, night after night for over two decades now as a bartender. Frat boys sharing their bullshit opinion of each other’s drink order. Guys hassling complete strangers about their drink of choice. Men ordering drinks for women from a small database of what they find acceptable for women to be drinking, and women being told certain drinks make them too “butch” to find appealing.

Listen, bros: if you’re that concerned with the manliness of your drink, it’s unlikely that you’re much of a man in the first place. Adults don’t bother with shit like this; so you’re not exactly acting like a man, you’re being a little boy.

What is a manly drink, anyway? Apparently it’s not pink, since anyone will tell you that’s a violation of rule number one. So then what do we do about the Jasmine, Paul Harrington’s modern classic of gin, Cointreau and lemon with a splash of Campari for bitterness? Don’t try to tell me it doesn’t take some fortitude to knock one of those back. I dare you. And what about the rosy-hued Negroni? Or the Old Pal?

Okay, so then the second “rule” is that the drink can’t be sweet, right? What about the literal tens of thousands of Old Fashioneds we serve at my bars every year? Because I’ve got bad news for you: if you’re knocking back more than one Old Fashioned in a row, you officially prefer sweetened, flavored whiskey to the real thing. I’m serious here: swap those two dashes of bitters out for two dashes of cinnamon tincture, and you’re drinking something remarkably similar to Fireball. Does that mean drinking an Old Fashioned is unmanly? Or is just having more than one the real issue here? It gets hard to draw the line, doesn’t it?

But the third tenet of manly drinking that drives pretty much every bartender I’ve spoken with completely insane is this idea that stemmed glassware is somehow an affront to one’s masculinity. I’ve said this before elsewhere, and I’ll say it again here: using the excuse that you’ll spill your drink everywhere is not helping your cause. Knowing how to drink from a stemmed glass is something you should have figured out in college. If you can’t manage it, you need to go home and practice until you’re an adult.

But, for the love of all that his high and holy behind and in front of the bar, can we please stop holding Ernest Hemingway up as the quintessence of masculine drinking? The man was a brutal alcoholic with the absolute worst palate in history.

If that’s going to be your Platonic ideal of what a man should be, we’ve got to have a heart to heart about your priorities.


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