One of the strangest drink prejudices I've come across behind the bar is the perception that cocktails are a feminine drink. The fact is, this impression couldn't be further from the truth – as for the greater part of the last 200 years cocktails have been the choice tipple of the man's man. Edward VII, Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Ernest Hemingway, Dean Martin and Jack Kerouac were all partial to a mixed drink. We also seem quick to forget the fact that it was considered unseemly (if not completely forbidden) for women to even enter a bar until mid-20th century and even then not unaccompanied.
Yes the bar room was, until recent history, a bastion of manliness, chauvinism, bawdiness, wagering, thigh slapping, pugilism and cocktail quaffing. Even in Australia, where you would think such urban affectations would be frowned upon, we had a thriving cocktail scene. The Australian gold rushes of the second half of the 19th century brought men from around the globe to this country's gold fields – and when they struck it rich they could be found drinking juleps and sherry cobblers at Melbourne's Café De Paris or Sydney's The Café on George Street. Ice was even imported (before the days of electric refrigeration) from Massachusetts and stored in custom built insulated ice warehouses to fuel the Australian male's demand for fancy mixed drinks.
"Why do blokes fail to see the 'man' in Manhattan?"
So what's changed? Why do blokes fail to see the 'man' in Manhattan? Well disco did some damage and the '80s too – potent potables became laced with juice and neon liqueurs as nightclubs filled up with young revellers. Others might even blame Sex and the City's Carrie Bradshaw quaffing cosmopolitans at every opportunity, but the seeds of dissent and cultural change were actually sown much early than you might think. It was the 1960s where cocktails lost their way and young men abandoned their drinking heritage. It might seem hard to picture the era that gave birth to Mad Men as spawning the demise of the male cocktail quaffer but the '60s saw cultural revolution in many guises and whiskey-based drinks like the Old Fashioned and Manhattan were seen as too establishmentarian for hip young drinkers. So we had a generation that simply forgot how to drink cocktails like a man so this lore for the most part wasn't passed on to Generation X.
Cocktails have certainly seen a resurgence in quality and taste since the late 1990s as bartenders have studiously applied themselves to rediscovering the bartending trade. Both sexes are now happily rejoining the cocktail imbibing fold. There is a slower uptake from gentlemen for sure, but here a couple of manly drinks that may sway those still on the fence.
Dirty Old Pal
This tasty tipple is a twist on a classic bourbon-based recipe called the Old Pal from the 1920s. Created by Kenneth Graham and Jacob Smyth in 2011 at Sydney's Neutral Bay Bar & Dining this macho beverage combines the smoky and medicinal qualities of an Islay single malt Scotch with the bitter sweet flavours of Campari.
30ml Islay single malt Scotch whisky (Ardbeg or Laphroaig work best)
30ml sweet vermouth
Combine in a shaker or mixing glass and fill with ice. Stir and strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a piece of lemon peel.
Yep, this one comes in a fancy stemmed glass too. It was the drink to be seen ordering in gentleman's clubs in New York in the '80s (1880s that is). Try yours with a straight rye whiskey – instead of corn-based Bourbon whiskey. Like rye bread, rye whiskey offers a spicy flavour profile.
60ml Straight rye whiskey (go for something punchy like Rittenhouse or Wild Turkey)
30ml sweet vermouth
A few dashes of Angostura bitters
Combine in a shaker or mixing glass and fill with ice. Stir and strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a piece of orange peel and a cherry. Or both.
What are your favourite manly tipples?