Taste: Spirits: Sipping Savant: Drinking’s New Rules

In watering holes across the region, men and women are shaking things up

Back when I was a wide-eyed youngster in South Jersey — this is going way back to the loathsome 1980s — the gender lines in drinking were pretty clearly defined. The men drank scotch and Bud, while women kept the fridge well stocked with white wine and those dreadful Bartles & Jaymes wine coolers.
But today — 40 years after the onset of the Sexual Revolution — it appears that our drinking habits have finally caught up with the notion of equality. At countless restaurants and drinkeries in the area, I’ve noticed that it’s no longer just a “certain kind of woman” downing beer and whiskey. And a man ordering a chard in South Philly won’t (necessarily) get his ass kicked after walking out the door.
 “I’m no longer afraid to have the red drink in the martini glass,” says one 30-year-old male real estate attorney who boldly orders the frillier drinks at Nineteen and Zahav. “Today you don’t have to be quite so mindful of what other people think about your drinking habits.” Even the editor of this magazine — a guy’s guy whose BlackBerry is populated with sports stars and the city’s buttoned-up power brokers — is known to fancy the most chichi drinks on the menu (or the ones that have cranberry juice in them).
But this may have less to do with our thoughts about gender and more to do with the skillful hands behind the bar. “When I come up with specialty cocktails at Amada, I no longer think in terms of targeting a male or female taste,” says veteran bartender Stephen Seibert. It’s this effort — along with a trend toward more thoughtfully crafted cocktails made with high-quality ingredients — that seems to make it okay for a guy to drink pink. “In the last year or two, I’m seeing people less afraid to go with their palate rather than with what society says they should be drinking,” observes Seibert.
Similarly, women are no longer afraid to cross over into the world of whiskey and beer. Bartenders at Northeast Philadelphia’s Grey Lodge Pub and Mahogany on Walnut Street — both bars with venerable whiskey lineups — report a dramatic increase in consumption of the brown stuff by the fairer sex. Beer-drinking among women is way up, and not just in the insipid light-beer market. Women are reaching for double bocks and stouts in increasing numbers. Just ask any of the 80 or so ladies who recently crammed into the Standard Tap’s upstairs bar for a meeting of the In Pursuit of Ale (IPA) Women’s Club of Philadelphia. Finally, Gloria Steinem, your fearless advocacy has paid off.