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Goodbye, ‘Girly Drinks’: How Bartenders are De-Feminizing Cocktails for Men

Eater logo Eater 26/10/2015 Kat Odell

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Anyone can drink pink.

These days, fancy cocktails served in delicate glassware with fruit garnishes aren’t just for ladies. Across the country, bartenders are de-feminizing Cosmopolitans, Appletinis and margaritas to appeal to male imbibers by renaming these drinks and updating their flavor profile to create a more balanced beverage.

Men like sweet drinks as much as women do. Remember, Marshall Eriksen from the popular sitcom, How I Met Your Mother, who admits to liking " ... yummy pink drinks with chunks of real fruit that guys secretly can’t order because they’ll be made fun of"?

According to Anthony Liota, lead bartender at upscale New York upscale sports bar The Ainsworth, "Men are looking for something other than dark liquor in a glass." So, bartenders are responding by toning down the feminine attributes of some classic cocktails in hopes of attracting a wider audience. "The goal is to create a beverage that anyone can enjoy without feeling pressure while ordering it," says Davide Crusoe, beverage director at CHOPPS American Bar and Grill in Burlington, Massachusetts.

Many "girly" cocktails were originally created to please the palates of patrons who didn’t like the taste of the alcohol ...

Many "girly" cocktails were originally created to please the palates of patrons who didn’t like the taste of the alcohol, says Jeremy Allen, general manager of MiniBar in Hollywood, California. To hide the flavor of booze, bartenders in the past would use sweet ingredients like premixed, heavy syrups.

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The Regal Beagle from Mimibar in Hollywood, California.

But today, bartenders are much more adept at blending liquors with house-made syrups and bitters to create more balanced and sophisticated drinks. "We don’t have to hide anything anymore," says Steven Fowler, food and beverage director at Capella hotel in Washington, D.C. "We can let the base spirit do its job and create a well-balanced drink."

The Fuzzy Navel—a cocktail often associated with young females—was traditionally a cloyingly sweet drink made with peach schnapps and orange juice. To update the potation, Allen simplified the recipe and took down the sweetness level in a version he calls Fuzzy del Navel, built from fresh orange and lemon juice and apricot liqueur.

The Regal Beagle Twinkle Toes is one of MiniBar’s most popular libations, and one that looks like a classic feminine tipple thanks to its rosé hue and Champagne flute vessel. Yet, it’s most popular with men. The cocktail is spiked with sloe gin, grapefruit juice and sparkling rose and pokes fun at homophobic Mr. Furley from the popular 1970s sitcom Three’s Company. "We have a whole contingent of men who order it," Allen says. "It’s awesome to see a room full of dudes with pink sparkling drinks."

Many people forget that the Cosmopolitan was originally a martini and very much a man’s drink sipped during the three-martini lunch, until popular 1990s series Sex in the City transformed it into a trendy pink drink for ladies who lunch.

Embers Ski Lodge in Nashville, Tennessee, serves the largest selection of whiskeys in the city, but that doesn’t stop men from ordering a Cosmopolitan. Sometimes guys are apologetic when they don’t order a whiskey on the rocks, says General Manager Matt Buttel, who is a member of the Intergalactic Federation of Cosbronauts, a group of bartenders who enjoy mixing and drinking Cosmos. "They’re either funny about it and say, ‘give me the strongest Cosmo you have,’ or they’re very matter of fact about it. As a bartender, my job is to make them feel great about the drink they order," he adds.

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The Prince Hubertus cocktail from Embers Ski Lodge in Nashville, Tennessee.

Sometimes the key to making a cocktail more acceptable to men is to give it a bolder name. Booker and Dax in Manhattan offers a pink drink called the CosBro, made with milk-washed vodka, hibiscus, oleo saccharum, Cointreau, lime and Angostura. Their menu asks patrons, "Are you man enough, big and bad enough?"

The margarita is another drink that often appeals to more women than men. Embers has found a unique way to signal that their margarita—made with tequila, lime, orange, tamarind, tumeric, coconut and pink peppercorns—is special. The drink is named Prince Hubertus after a popular Mexican slalom skier who competed in the 2014 Winter Olympics, known for wearing a skin-tight snowsuit that resembled a Mariachi costume. "Ladies loved him and men wanted to be him," says Embers bartender Gary Hayward.

"It’s awesome to see a room full of dudes with pink sparkling drinks."

And then there's the Appletini. Two East Coast bars have made the drink more robust by adding an alcohol rinse to the glass. Not An Apple Martini, available at The Rye Bar in the Capella hotel in Washington, D.C., features an absinthe glass rinse. Although the drink is the same color as an Appletini, its flavor profile is completely different—based on vodka, simple syrup, lemon juice, and sparkling wine, and garnished with basil and apple.

Deuxave in Boston offers The Orchard, a smoky Scotch-rinsed, house-infused apple rum drink with a splash of vanilla simple syrup and bitters. The drink is served in a rocks glass, says co-bar manager Emily Warren, because most men aren’t too keen on drinking out of stemware unless they are enjoying a glass of wine.

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The Thorn from Eveleigh in Los Angeles, California.

Sometimes the glassware makes all the difference. "I’ve worked in bars before where big dudes or tough guys would order cocktails, trying to show off, without knowing what they were getting, and be embarrassed or insulted when they received a baby drink in a thimble-sized coupe," says MiniBar’s Allen.

Most men find anything that is served "up," or in a martini glass, a coupe, or a flute, to be too "girly" to order says Dave Danger, head bartender at Kimoto Rooftop Beer Garden in Downtown Brooklyn. "Men prefer to have something substantial in their hand."

Danger offers one of his most popular drinks, No Sleep Till, in a Nick and Nora glass. Made with Aperol, lychee liqueur, sparkling wine, lemon and mint, and named for the popular Beastie Boys song, the drink "evokes nostalgia in the thirty-something male crowd," Danger says. However, it’s not uncommon for guys to ask for it to be served in a rocks glass on the second round.

Men often request for cocktails to be served in a rocks glass, especially if they are on a date, says Garrett Mikell, bar manager at Eveleigh in Los Angeles. Mikell makes a fruity cocktail called The Thorn, featuring Reyka vodka, lemon juice, Aperol and passion fruit bitters that he serves in a coupe glass. Although Mikell always accommodates the customer’s glass request, he’s concerned that changing the glassware will affect the integrity of the drink because it warms up faster when you handle the glass instead of the stem and, if you put the drink on the rocks, it could dilute the taste too much.

But ultimately, bartenders agree that the key is to order and enjoy your drink with confidence. "Just being yourself," says MiniBar’s Allen, "is the possibly the manliest thing you can do."

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