March 22nd, 2008
Ladies, lads, liquor
Some interesting items came over the transom this week that had to do with the supposedly specialized booze preferences of women. First, reader Adam M. pointed me toward a Reuters article about a new Russian vodka, Damskaya, or “ladies’ vodka.” The vodka is being “touted as a glamour product for upwardly mobile women in booming Russia,” and its ads “show the elegant, violet-tinted bottle wearing a pleated white skirt which is blown upwards to reveal the label.” Wow. What says “glamour” more than a purple vodka bottle wearing a skirt?
Next, the Ladies of LUPEC Boston told me about a post on the Thinking of Drinking blog called Gender Specific Cocktails? The blogger, Sonja Kassebaum, a Chicagoan who co-founded the North Shore Distillery, writes, “Do most women really only like the fruity, sweet (and/or light) cocktails? Even if that were true, is that because that’s really their preference, or is it because of how spirits have been marketed to them, and/or because of a lack of education & experience with other choices?”
I argue that it’s the latter. Women’s alleged preference for “girly drinks” has at least as much to do with marketing (hello, Damskaya!), education and peer influence as with actual taste. I mean, if the palate is really as gender-determined as drinks marketers imply, then the women who make up a large chunk of the audience for fine wine — a complex, generally non-sweet beverage — are genetic freaks. As are the growing number of female drinkers who, like me, appreciate vintage, “grown-up” cocktails layered with the flavors of whiskey, vermouth, gin, bitters and classic liqueurs.
Which brings me to an article by the Wall Street Journal’s Eric Felten that was published a couple of years ago, “He Drinks, She Drinks.” Anyone seeking a thoughtful analysis of gender stereotypes at the bar should read this. Felten writes:
“Girly drinks limit men and women both. Women get lulled into the habit of drinking cocktails that don’t taste like, well, drinks. And for men, it’s even worse: In their haste to avoid anything that smacks of the emasculating girly-drink taint, they deny themselves the great adventure of exploring cocktails in all their variety. They’re both missing out. The recent revival of interest in classic cocktails presents a long-overdue opportunity to break out of the tyranny of the girly, giving men the freedom to order mixed drinks without shame and women the chance to order drinks worthy of grown-ups.”
“The tyranny of the girly!” Yes, we are all under the well-manicured thumb of the collective Cosmo drinker. But classic cocktails will set us free! Gender stereotypes at the bar will be crushed! That is, as soon as articles like Felten’s start appearing in publications whose readerships aren’t dominated by men.