Food & Drink

There's No Such Thing as a 'Chick Drink'

Published On 02/20/2016 Published On 02/20/2016

The other night, I kid you not, I had some guy at my bar ask me which of our drinks was the manliest. You may think he was an outlier, but one of the most ubiquitous, if not idiotic, ideas prevalent in bars these days is that pink drinks, straight whiskey, stemmed glassware, and the like all say something about the drinker's gender.

As a bartender with well over a decade of experience, there's a lot I can tell you about your drink. If you'd like, we can have a conversation about the ingredients, what they are, and how or why they were used. We can go into the history of a classic cocktail or talk about what inspired a modern recipe. We can even talk about the distillery that produced the base spirit, what makes it unique, and why it was chosen. But there's one thing I absolutely will never be able to tell you about your drink: 

I cannot tell you whether your drink is manly or effeminate. 

It’s an impossible thing to tell you because it's an impossible thing to know, because, and this is crucial here, it does not exist. Wine, spirits, cocktails, and beer are not here to affirm or compromise what's in your pants. So please, please, stop caring about it.

The idea of gendered drinks comes from a conceptual misunderstanding of alcoholic beverages themselves

This was likely spurned by a combination of advertising and the fact that long ago drinking was indeed a man’s endeavor, mostly because the men were chauvinist sausage-party lovers who wouldn’t let women in the bar. That last part has, thankfully, ended. The former will always be with us, but, also thankfully, can be easily ignored.

Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock

A drink is not an accessory

Accessories exist to attract attention, so that attention is then transferred to whatever or whomever they adorn. Deciding what jewelry, shoes, or hell, even what car to buy all comes down to what you want to tell the world about your taste, financial status, current mood, and/or needs. They are a reflection of, and an advertisement for, you. There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with wanting to control how others see us, but using alcohol to accomplish this task is a huge waste of perfectly good booze and one that severely limits your enjoyment of one of humankind’s greatest inventions. 

The color of a drink says a lot about the drink and nothing about you

In the world of wine, for example, color is determined by the amount of time the juice of a grape is in contact with said grape’s skin. Beyond hue, this contact plays a significant role in restricting or enhancing tannins, acidity, and the depth of various potential flavors in the resulting wine. Pink wine then, aka rosĂ©, is not pink because it’s for women who desperately need a beverage that reflects the color scheme of the Barbie car they had as a child. The wine is pink because of minimal grape-skin contact. 

Is rosé great for women? Yes! Is it great for men? Yes! Do rappers love the shit out of it, making them brave, cultural pioneers? Also, yes

While we're at it, many cocktails are pink because they have a red component and something that lightens it, like lemon juice. Red spirits are typically red to indicate that they're aperitif bitters of some sort, which are designed to open up and refresh your palate. Some are super bitter, some not so much. The good news here is delicious drinks like these have never once fully (or even partially) castrated a man. Not one. 

And women, please stop making fun of men for drinking pink cocktails. In my experience, behind nearly every man cringing at a "girly" drink, there’s an equally vain moron woman making fun of him for it. Please, don’t be either of these people. 


The shape of the glass serves a purpose that has nothing to do with gender

Champagne flutes are skinny to reduce surface area at the top and slow carbonation loss. They’re not designed to be fancy or effeminate; they're a practical way to enjoy an expensive wine longer. 

Larger red-wine glasses trap aromatics and guide them toward your nose as you drink, which makes the wine you spent your money on taste better. All stemware is cleverly designed to keep your gross warm hands from throwing off the temperature of the drink. When you pick up a saw, do you grab the handle or the blade? If you answered the former, then do the same with stemware and pick it by its handle (aka, the stem). If you answered the latter, go to the hospital, you’re bleeding everywhere. 

The temperature of a cocktail is critical, and how it affects a drink as it changes determines how that drink is served. Cocktails like Manhattans or martinis -- which have little sweetness and taste better when not critically cold (and thus over-diluted) -- are served "up" rather than on ice, because in 10 minutes a slightly warmer Manhattan is preferable to one that is still cold, but watered down. Hold your Manhattan by the stem, of course, so as to not accelerate the warming process. 

Margaritas and other drinks that contain a balance of sweet and sour flavors are often served on the rocks to prevent their temperature from rising, because as temperature increases, so does the ability to taste sugar. 

Your drink should suit the situation. That's it.

What’s in your glass isn’t you. It’s just booze. It’s great, it’s delicious, and for many of us it’s what makes dancing possible, but it’s not who we are. You should drink a whiskey because that’s what you feel like drinking, not because you’re a "whiskey person." And conversely, you're not a wimp because you don’t like to drink alcohol straight. If you try to define yourself by your drinks, you might just miss out on how incredible a Tom Collins on a porch in the summer can be.

The world doesn't need yet another person pairing a plate of oysters with a California cab, the culinary equivalent of using a sledgehammer to unclog a toilet. The sledgehammer might be perceived as manly, but it's wholly unfit for the job.

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Brett Adams is a bartender in Portland, OR at the Multnomah Whiskey Library and a taco advocate. Follow him at @4chordkitchen or Four Chord Kitchen



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