I'm preparing for a cocktail party slash games night slash possible orgy, as you do, thumbing through cocktail recipes and appetizers to find things that don't sound incredibly awful to actually put in your mouth.
Why am I having this struggle? Well of course, I can't just have a party. No, I have to have a 70s themed party, complete with lobster pate from a can, melba toast, smoked cheese and chex mix. I've worked hard to have vegan and gluten free options, things that the 70s, era of fondue, is not really known for- hence why I'm throwing a smaller shindig in advance preparation for my birthday party (yes, it's in January, shhh, I want to get these recipes right!) Tomorrow's guests have the dubious honour of being my test subjects.
Going through Fanny Hill's Cookbook has steeled me somewhat for the misogyny of the era, though it's also made me aware how completely perverse having a queer key party is. Yet one of the things that keeps striking me is how gendered the cocktails are. "Girly" or "manly", they're declared as appropriate or not for a given person to order according to a binary, stereotypical idea of behaviour and desire. A Cosmopolitan recipe demands that men "turn in their balls" if they order such a drink, yet a Sidecar is considered manly prep for building shit in the backyard (safety third, kids!) A Manhattan, despite having a piece of fruit in it, is still deemed acceptably masculine.
Figuring out the flavour profile of a "girly" cocktail proved difficult too. I figured that creamy, sweet cocktails would be feminine, but the White Russian apparently falls on the "manly" side of the bar. Maybe fruity drinks? Yet while a Pina Colada is weighed in as girly, a Tequila Sunrise is seen as firmly masculine. Thumbing through my Fanny Hill's Cookbook, probably the most misogynist books I have ever read (literally, a line from a recipe: "Scrape meat from her loving carcass with your blade, always working towards her plump white breasts"), I found a lot of cocktails that were incredibly sweet, creamy, floral, all sorts of things I would've assumed made them feminine.
I became quite confused.
What inspired me to write on this was looking up the story behind the Pink Lady, a cocktail that was born before Prohibition and became wildly popular (in part because the grenadine helped hide the flavour of bootleg gin). People of all genders enjoyed the lightly fruity, slightly creamy cocktail... until the 30s, when Esquire suggested it suited the tastes of ladies. Suddenly, male cocktail critics shunned the Pink Lady, deeming the colour and the stemware enough of a reason to avoid.
Now, bartenders hear "not something too girly" and know it means no pink, no stemware, and probably heavy on the liquor flavour. It's disappointing, of course, as there's loads of good cocktails that fail those criteria, but if anxious men want to miss out on them, of well. I mean, I challenge any such guy to drink some Cynar and tell me it wouldn't benefit from a lot of mixers, but ultimately if they'd rather stick to Old Fashioneds, whatever.
But why are we so afraid of the feminine in everything, even the booze we consume? What's wrong with femininity? Am I really supposed to hate my own femmeness even when I go to the bar? Gee, I'm so sorry, let me just order whiskey, straight. Why do we ridicule people who buy cocktails we deem girly as not being... I don't know, serious enough drinkers?
It's nothing new, just another area of our daily consciousness where anything considered "liked by women" is treated like its slug slime and anything that might be "liked by manly men" is treated like a godsend. All of our advertising focuses on how women are just never quite good enough, while men just need to augment their already awesome selves. Women are admired and rewarded for doing "masculine" things, as long as it doesn't come with any real power or influence. All of this of course based on arbitrary decisions on what "men" do and what "women" do. Never mind anyone who doesn't toe the line, of course, of binaries. Femmes who strap on cocks and fix cars and manicure their nails and do their lovers makeup just ruin the whole fucking thing.
Meanwhile, I'll be whipping up Pink Ladies and Sidecars and Muff Divers and 19th Holes for my guests tomorrow, a sexy assortment of queers and deviants, dressed like a proper 70s housewife, eating multicoloured Jello and playing Dirty Words. Exploring the 70s is a weird, strange realm... though, I'm finding, sadly not as far from where we are now as maybe we'd all like. Think about that next time you sidle up to the bar.