Jeffrey Morgenthaler is Food Republic’s contributing cocktail editor and the author of the column Easy Drinking. He currently manages the bars Clyde Common and Pépé Le Moko in Portland, Oregon, and is the author of The Bar Book: Elements of Cocktail Technique.
A couple of years ago, I had my first date with the woman who is now my girlfriend. Mind you, she’s not a bar or restaurant person, like me. She has what I call a real job, works from 9 to 5, and isn’t as connected to the up-to-the-minute food and drink information that you and I are. So we’ll say that her experiences with food and drink are more, well, traditional than yours and mine.
Anyway, at the perfect French bistro where we spent our first night getting to know each other, I ordered a bottle of crisp rosé to go along with our rabbit. It was early summer, and the pairing was definitely necessary. But as our server walked off with our order, my date was looking at me askance. Mind you, she didn’t vocalize it, but I could definitely tell there was some concern about the guy sitting across from her who had just ordered a bottle of pink wine.
It didn’t help that after dinner we walked to a friend’s bar, only to be asked by the bartender, “Hey Jeff! Do you want to try our new strawberry daiquiri?” (Plantation rum, fresh lime, house-made strawberry syrup.) And, hell yes, I wanted to try it. It was fucking delicious.
Now, look, I’m a large mammal. So I guess it’s understandable that this lovely, traditional woman would be a little confused by my pink drink selections on our first date, when I’m supposedly required to be acting my “manliest” in order to impress her. But it got me thinking, how are men really supposed to drink?
There’s certainly no shortage of lists on the topic, as writers like me are churning this shit out on a regular basis, stuff like “10 Drinks to Impress Your Date With” or “9 Whiskies Every Man Needs to Try in His Lifetime.” And as a man who enjoys food and drink for the way it tastes, and not based on what color it is, I can’t help but think there should be a new list of rules for men who drink, in bars or at home.
Stop talking about “manly” drinks. If you’re genuinely worried about whether or not your drink order is masculine enough, you’re definitely not a real man in the first place. Real men don’t need validation from a bartender, from their friends, or from the other guests in a bar. Real men are educated about the beverage choices they make, just as they are about the clothes they wear and the books they read. A real man knows that the tannins from skin contact in the rosé winemaking process make it an ideal pairing for food. A little boy makes jokes about the color pink while he points at his little pee-pee and laughs.
Men need to reject this idea that stemmed glassware is somehow emasculating. Ask any bartender and they’ll tell you about the numerous times a night men refuse to drink out of a wine or cocktail glass. The rationale ranges from “that’s a woman’s glass” to “I’ll just spill it everywhere.” Let me tell you something: Stemmed glassware is something adults use. If you don’t know how to use it, then you aren’t an adult — period. You’re not a man, and you’re not a woman; you’re a child. Go home and practice — you should have already figured this out in college.
Are you afraid of vodka? Think it’s not badass enough to prove your manhood? Do you cringe at those thin frosted bottles you used to show up to every party with ten years ago? Have you given any consideration to the idea that you just aren’t drinking it properly? A story involving two dear bartender friends illustrates this beautifully to me. According to Erick Castro, he was waxing poetic to Joaquin Simo one night at the bar about how he never drinks vodka. Joaquin’s answer was the best I’ve ever heard: “Then you’re not eating enough caviar, son.” Case closed.
There needs to be a rule about men who fetishize whiskey. If any category of spirit has been somehow assigned a gender, it’s whiskey. Which is surprising to me, because most of the women who sit at my bar are ordering whiskey, and they have been for years. Yet I still see these guys every night, lording their superior knowledge over other men and women in a feeble attempt to assert their position as the alpha male in the bar with their whiskey knowledge, likely gleaned from a listicle that afternoon. The sad thing is — and this is coming from someone who knows a hell of a lot about whiskey — they’re wrong about 90 percent of the crap spewing from their mouth. Just remember this about the next Whiskey Alpha you encounter: They’re painfully insecure about something. You can probably guess what it is.
Nothing says “I’m a big old alcoholic who can’t wait five minutes in between drinks” like ordering a double. And it’s not only the bartender who is cringing when you order one; it’s everyone around you. Despite what you think of your drinking prowess, big guy, the rest of us realize that you’re about to become a liability very shortly. Save the doubles for the airport.
But my favorite rule for drinking is about champagne. You’re not familiar with the champagne rule? No, not the one about making the cork whisper like a nun in church. And no, not the one about holding the punt with your thumb, or about real men sabering the bottle (it’s a fun party trick, but walking around with a dull fake sword doesn’t make you any more of a man) — it’s this: Champagne may be consumed at any time of day, anywhere, by anyone. It doesn’t matter if it’s 10 in the morning on a Tuesday or midnight on a Friday. A real man will always offer his date a glass of sparkling wine and enjoy one himself. And that, my friends, is one rule for manly drinking we can all get behind.