I’m Not Ashamed To Love Fruity Cocktails: A Non-Beer-Drinker’s Lament
It always starts the same way: “Come out for drinks!”
Maybe, I think to myself. I need to do more research.
“What’s the name of the place?” I ask. “O’Dooley’s Irish McIrishman Pub,” someone says.
I get a pit in my stomach. I fire up Google. I find the page on MenuPages. My fears are confirmed: yup, this place only serves beers and offers a dinky wine list.
“I’m going to pass,” I say.
“But come onnnnnnnnn. You never come ouuttttttt,” someone whines. That’s because I want to go somewhere where I can get a fucking fancy cocktail.
If you have a friend who’s a vegetarian or vegan, you probably make concessions for their dietary preferences: okay, we won’t get BBQ tonight, we’ll go get Indian! It doesn’t work out quite the same, though, with booze. Cocktail drinkers are expected to make do at any drinking establishment by surveying the bar and asking them to throw something together with what they have on hand. As if we’re supposed to be excited about ordering “Jack and coke” or “rum with orange and pineapple juice” (my usual).
No. I want a cocktail. I want something with a name. I want sugar. I want multiple tropical ingredients. I want frills. The more frills, the better! I want paper umbrellas. I want to drink out of a fucking coconut.
I’m aware that confessing my preference for cocktails over beer, or even wine, makes me sound like a snob. Beer is considered the populist drink: it’s easy to order, it’s lower priced than liquor, and it’s everywhere, from package stores to gas stations. I think at some places in the South they even sell beer at church. (Calm down, that’s a joke.) The problem for me is that beer — all beer — tastes disgusting.
I’ve tried. Oh, over the years, I’ve tried. People have always told me, “You’re just not drinking the right beer!” But I’ve tried beers everywhere from the Czech Republic to the Bohemian Beer Garden in Queens, New York, and I always end up crinkling my face at the bitter, sour taste and handing my beer over to the person (usually a guy) who insisted this one I would really like. I considered the matter settled entirely this past November when my brother-in-law ordered for me at a beer hall. He knew I preferred fruity cocktails, so he requested a beer that was supposed to taste like raspberries. It made me want to gag.
That is why I would rather pay $9 … or $12 … or heaven forfend, $15 … for one tasty cocktail. At least I know I’ll drink the whole beverage and love it.
Unfortunately, cocktail drinkers don’t get quite the same respect as beer drinkers (who these days often home brewers as well) or even hard liquor drinkers. Cocktails are seen as “girly” and frivolous, no doubt exacerbated by “Sex and the City” and the ubiquity of pink Cosmopolitan. Last month, blogger Christen McCurdy wrote over at Bitch Magazine about how bars have been historically male spaces and femininity in drinking culture is still a relatively new thing. Women were banned from drinking establishments and single women were suspected especially for prostitution; for a long period of time, drinking was not a thing that a proper “lady” would do. Ladies drinking cocktails are, in a sense, uber-feminine in a masculine space, a place where they might get more respect bellying up to the bar and ordering a Scotch. Which is silly, as McCurdy points out in another post, because Manly Man Ernest Hemingway himself enjoyed mojitos (my favorite!) and daiquiris. Booze is all a matter of personal taste, regardless of what’s between our legs.
And actually? There are some real advantages to being a cocktail drinker. I do tend to think the average cocktail bar has less sticky tables, quieter music, and more comfy seating than the average pub or beer hall. Because I can only afford one or two drinks when I go out, I don’t ever binge drink, which means I’m not putting myself at risk for a whole host of bad crap. My apartment never reeks like hops from home brewing, which ranks only slightly below “dirty diaper” on the list of the nastiest smells on Earth. And knowing how to make my own mojitos — a slightly tricky, time-consuming process — is a pretty neat skill to whip out at parties.
Everyone has their tastes and I can certainly understand what some people really do love beer. But beer’s not for everyone, just like milk or red meat’s not for everyone. I people kept the wide spectrum of alcohol drinkers in mind when planning nights out at the bar. You can find a bottle of beer almost anywhere. Not so for my paper umbrellas and coconut.