The issue of 'girly' drinks

The topic of so-called "girly drinks" may very well be the third rail of spirits commentary. But let's be perfectly honest: The cocktail bar is a place where gender stereotypes remain stark and divided. And I get the impression that liquor companies like to keep it that way.

How else to explain the continued rise of brightly colored drinks targeted at women? How to explain the use of "Girls Night Out" in so many marketing campaigns? You used to be able to blame it all on "Sex and the City." But now? Get over it, ladies. There haven't been new episodes of that show since 2004; it can't possibly still be setting the trend. (But it may yet again; the recent news that a movie is in the works must have bartenders everywhere dusting off their Cosmo recipes.)

The popular pre-mixed category is especially crowded with low-proof, hybrid, pink liqueurs such as X-Rated Fusion (a blend of vodka, blood oranges, mango and passion fruit whose slogan beseeches one to "Drink Pink"); Lichido ("an exotic blend of premium vodka and carefully aged French cognac with the natural essences of litchis, tropical guavas and white peach juice"), and Alize Rose (a mix of passion fruit juice, roses, strawberry, a hint of litchi and vodka that urges drinkers to "be romantic").

Until a couple of weeks ago, I had absolutely no idea what any of these tasted like. I mean, I was vaguely aware of their presence, the glow radiating from their colorful bottles, but I'd never been tempted to pick one up. (Horribly insensitive, I know. I'm blaming it on my parents because they didn't let me play with dolls.)

Then someone gave me a bottle of X-Rated Fusion, and I decided to get a little girly. I gathered several other bottles of pre-mixed, ready-to-drink cocktails, including Lichido, Smirnoff's Grand Cosmopolitan and Vodka Mojito, the orange-hued Alize Wild Passion (mango, pink grapefruit and cognac), and the blue-hued Envy (vodka, cognac and "natural" fruit juices). My bar looked like a candy store. It also smelled like a candy store and tasted like a candy store. I wish I could tell you I enjoyed these. But, sadly, every one is just too sweet for me. Cloyingly so. Perhaps I, as a man, should admit my own shortcomings and move on.

While I was still trying to wrap my mind around these hybrid liqueurs, I happened to meet for drinks with Charlotte Voisey, a London native once voted bartender of the year in the United Kingdom. Voisey now works in New York City as the so-called "brand champion" of Hendrick's Gin and has created classic cocktails at spots such as London's Dorchester Hotel and Manhattan's Gramercy Park Hotel. Suffice it to say that she &

like plenty of other women, of course &

is not particularly fond of girly drinks.

We were supposed to be talking about what the public relations firm had called Voisey's "female perspective on mixology," but instead we drank real martinis and Negronis and discussed just about everything else &

from Dorothy Parker to the Reykjavik and Barcelona bar scenes to the epidemic of over-air-conditioned interior spaces in the United States.

When I finally &

gingerly &

raised the issue of girly drinks, Voisey was appalled at the very thought. Afterward, however, she wrote me an e-mail that began, "Now that I have stopped being horrified at the subject of girlie drinks I will try and offer an opinion."

While noting that pre-mixed cocktail products are "a shame" and that "there are other ways of making a drink pretty, feminine or suitable for the 'not ready for straight liquor yet' palate," Voisey noted that "females are generally more prone to experiment and try new and unusual things, including mixed drinks." Voisey is absolutely correct, of course.

Her comment made me remember an old friend of mine, Andrea, who was always trying new and unusual things and introducing them to me. In fact, I credit her with introducing me &

at a Beastie Boys concert in the late 1980s, no less &

to a liqueur that I always keep in my home bar: Midori, the infamous electric green, melon-flavored spirit.

Yes, so now you know; now the whole world knows. On occasion, when I am getting in touch with my, um, "feminine" side, I turn to Midori.

Midori, which claims to have launched in 1978 "with a monster party at Studio 54" &

has fallen off the map a little since the 1980s. But its recent marketing has included promoting Girls Night Out events. A few weeks ago, Midori even released a "Green With Envy Survey" which revealed "Deep Insight on Women and Envy." (Did you know that 43 percent of women wish they could meet men who are "fun and have a great sense of humor"?)

That's why this week I offer the Kyoto Cocktail, made with Midori, gin, a little dry vermouth and a squeeze of lemon juice. Although this pretty, emerald-green drink may resemble a watermelon Jolly Rancher, please beware. It delivers a decidedly egalitarian kick.

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