You know, I'm not a fan of binaries. But the way I see it, there are two types of alcohol drinkers in this world: the Ron Swansons and the Leslie Knopes.
For those of you who don't watch "Parks and Rec" (and I'm so sorry for your loss), Ron Swansons are people who like a scotch old enough to order its own scotch. They like a beer so dark you could pave a road with it and have enough left over in the bottom of the glass to scry ten years into the future. They like an Old-Fashioned that tastes like it was crafted in the hide of a muskrat. They like spending a lot of time thinking of similes to describe what they're drinking in ways very similar to the way I just did.
And then you have the Leslie Knopes. These people enjoy when drinks have five different kinds of liquor in them and you can taste exactly none of them. They probably know all the words to the tricky rap portion of the Spice Girl's "Wannabe," up to and including the zig-a-zig-ah. They get a kick out of punny cocktail names that cleverly utilize landmarks from the city they are drinking in.
Now, don't get me wrong: you can be a Ron Swanson and still do a damn fine karaoke rendition of your favorite nineties girl bands, and I know plenty of Leslie Knopes who can shotgun a Guinness like it insulted their mother. But deep down, you can't run from your true nature. You know which one you are.
And generally, it shouldn't matter. But for some reason, many of the Ron Swansons of the world seem to associate their drinking choices with some sort of high moral code. They seem to think that because they prefer whiskey, neat, they should elicit more respect than someone who orders a glass of white wine with two cubes of ice. They've probably raised an ironic eyebrow when their drinking companion orders a gin and juice because she heard it in a certain Top-40 song that we won't name here.
How do I know all this? Because I am a Ron Swanson, and I used to do that shit too. Sometimes, I still do.
Take the last time I went to Sacramento to visit my parents. My mom had been getting everything ready for my grandmother's 95th birthday party, so naturally she tugged me into the kitchen for a cocktail approximately 90 seconds after I walked in the door from my flight.
"Anna and I tried out a new recipe," she said, digging around in the liquor cabinet. "It's one part lime juice, one part Crystal Light, and a bunch of this," she finished, holding up citrus-flavored vodka triumphantly. "And it's really good."
"Don't you guys have, like, actually good scotch?" I asked. "And yet, you're drinking like someone under the age of 21."
"It's good," she said, handing me a glass. It tasted like a Disney Original Movie in liquid form.
"Is there even any alcohol in here?" I said, laughing. "This is basically just juice."
This was incorrect, I discovered shortly thereafter, when I had to go and have a lie down. My mother, naturally, was unfazed on all counts, and had two more.
And she was right: it was delicious. But I bet if she'd ordered its nearest equivalent at a local dive bar, some nearby jerkwad (like her daughter) would have rolled their eyes and grinned a little. Because for some reason, we take the time to ascribe different levels of morality to the kind of poison we're bathing our livers in.
Just check out the Internet's reaction to this Cinnabon-flavored vodka that was making the rounds last week. Frankly, it did not sound like something I would enjoy. But with the amount of vitriol and snootiness its existence has elicited, you'd think it was named DEAD PUPPY SCHNAPPS or BANANA SPIDER DAQUIRI. Certainly enough to shame anyone who was vaguely interested in trying it into drinking something they wouldn't enjoy half as much.
I hate to say this (OK, no I don't), but at the core of this, there's a teensy bit of misogyny creeping through. Think about the people you automatically picture enjoying ten-dollar fruity beverages. Nearly every drink that people have a tendency to sneer at -- cranberry-vodkas, appletinis, anything with the words "sex" or "fuzzy" in and around the title -- has an association with women, particularly young women, who "don't know how to drink" because they prefer not to taste the fact that they're peeling the patina off their insides.
You know as well as I do that these cocktails -- along with flavored vodka -- tend to be paired with the phrase "girly drink", which itself carries a connotation of being somehow unfit or unwilling to drink fermented barley and stare grimly out at a darkening skyline.
Meanwhile, whiskey, scotch and their ilk are associated with "toughness." In my experience, bros love to tell women who enjoy drinking whiskey that they're "not like other girls," because being blessed/cursed with six taste buds is something that really deserves a so-called compliment like that. I guarantee that no matter how snobby or divey the bar, nobody will ever shame a Ron Swanson for ordering a whiskey on the rocks -- even if it's the cheapest swill available -- because that's how successful, upper-middle-class, virile, manly men drink. And successful, upper-middle-class, virile, manly men are, as usual, beyond public criticism.
Newsflash, guys: It's just alcohol. No matter whether it's been sitting in a barrel for fifty years or dyed pink to supposedly appeal to teenage girls, it carries no inherent morality or lack thereof. (What you do after using it, on the other hand, definitely carries an inherent morality.) Liking Cinnabon vodka doesn't make you less intelligent, compelling, or capable of downing five shots without quietly throwing up into your purse on public transit.
Some people like to bathe their brains in bourbon, some people like to bathe their brains in a cocktail named after a Cher song. At the end of the day, you're all going to get tanked one way or another.
Kate is drinking whatever she damn well pleases: @katchatters