I'm my father's son, and as such I appreciate a good Bourbon. One that's well blended, has a slow heat that slips into you, and preferably one that's velvet with vanilla flavor. I take it over the rocks, though when mixed with a bit of sparkling wine, bitters, and orange peel it makes for a delightful cocktail to pair with a fatty piece of slow cooked pork.
Yet whenever I order bourbon at the bar it causes my friends to cast shocked stares as if I had just told them my newest hobby involved silicone fists and rohypnol. I normally pour wine or Amaretto sours for guests, so having a glass of something hard seems somewhat out of character to them, which is strange since in my head I'm Gatsby and my jaunty parties are all about bright lights and bourbon.
Now I'm the first to admit that I'm not the manliest man; I detest watching televised sports outside the Olympics and can't barbecue worth a damn. Yet, come on people, give me some credit. I'm an Eagle Scout for Christ's sake. I don't like to get my hands dirty, but I can change the oil in my car, use a jigsaw, grout a tub, and have killed so many slugs in my garden with my bare hands I now fear a slowly growing slimy uprising may be on the way. The fact that I can make an awesome cupcake, know how to foxtrot, and have two cats is incidental.
Bourbon is often seen as a man's drink. This, or a snifter of Cognac, is something to be enjoyed with the boys or after a day of duck hunting in the overcast and swamp. However, being gay, I'm expected to drink something that comes in a martini glass and more than likely matches the color of my shirt. Stereotypically it is assumed that gays can't drink hard liquor straight.
It's not like me to get on a subject like this on the blog, if I ever even have (most of the Internet thinks I'm married to Elise Bauer for God sakes) but recently I met a friend at a restaurant and we ordered our drinks and what happened got me thinking. The waiter brought my friend, a dead ringer of the Brawny Man with flannel shirt and all, my scotch, and gave me his lemon drop.
My friend, barrel chested and mustachioed, looked the part of a bourbon sipping. His look had a swagger and he gave off a pheromone of masculinity that one could only assume was fueled by strong liquor with a heated kick. My slender 30 inch waist and slim jeans equaled a sugared rim. All this to the waiter, at least. It may have been an accident, it might not have been. But seriously, can a boy in a cute t-shirt get some whiskey up in this place?
In the public consciousness bourbon, scotch, good sipping tequila and the like are such masculine drinks. The musky scent, reminiscent of sweat and labor. The burly color is anything but reserved. Electric liquor that stands out at your meal and takes charge. It's a drink to put hair on yer' chest. Ladies, stick to your wine spritzers.
Even the way we serve types of alcohol seems to encourage this gender divide of the spirits. Dark liquors get served in stout whiskey glasses shaped for the calloused hand of a working man. A strong glass for a strong drink. It's very unlike the dainty martini glass; one female friend of mine argues that martini glasses were invented as a curse for women, "It forces you to gingerly walk with feminine steps to prevent spilling. (Oh, and it's shaped like a vagina.)"
Since gay men seem to at times blur the lines when it comes to mannerisms of gender - some more than others - appreciating a hard drink becomes unlikely unless it's somewhat fruity (pun slightly intended). We get grouped in with the women who get the bartender blow off (pun not intended). Yet no one seems to fight it. I can't recall ever seeing someone order a scotch at the local gay bar.
The last time I asked for whiskey at a club in San Francisco the bartender's reaction was unexpected, "Wow." He looked at me then began to dig through the cabinet practically crawling into it, every so often peeping back to see if I was still there and not a hallucination. He came back up with a musty bottle, "I don't think we've ever even opened this." The man actually blew dust off it.
So it's not just me. We've sort of placed the stigma on ourselves. Which is fine. Part of the culture, I guess. One with too much Midori and maraschino cherries. Not that I don't love a good cocktail, my current favorite being gin and creme de violette muddled with some blackberries - it's a rather eclectic drink, the cocktail equivalent of Jackson Pollock's "Number 1, 1950." With a good slice of chocolate or a balanced cheese plate I want something stronger on the rocks.
It might be all in my head. My roommate appreciates red wine and vodka straight (though I heckle that that's not manly, that's WASP-ish). My friend Kate and her husband Ken appreciate good scotch as much as anyone. My friend Shawn, so on fire you can see him from space, adores dark, hoppy beers. I love my bourbon and tequila. Yet I doubt any one of us will turn down an expertly made chocolate martini.
Sure, I may love cocktails and have the occasional ballet tickets. But, sometimes, damn it, I like a single malt as much as the next guy.
Any comments, ideas, experiences or theories on the matter are more than welcome. I would love to hear what people have to say about this.