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I'll Drink Whatever I Want
Published on August 14, 2011 by Sara Foss

Last week The Awl posted a list titled "Drinks That You Should Be Ashamed to Order in Public," and although I caution against taking this list too seriously (it's obviously meant to be funny), I would say that I disagree with a lot of it. As Matthew Yglesias wrote, "Nobody should be ashamed to order drinks they enjoy in public. Many people could perhaps benefit from trying some new things, but the idea that people should be feeling shame over their tastes strikes me as wrongheaded." Yes, exactly. Although I'm not sure people need to order body shots and Jagerbombs in public.

I am mostly a beer drinker, but Yglesias rightly notes "a prejudice against 'girlie' (i.e. sweet) cocktails. One of the greatest tricks the devil ever pulled was to persuade the world that there’s something inherently superior about the bitter flavors that men (on average) tend to prefer. This is some real science according to real scientist Marcia Pelchat. Preferences along the sweet/bitter spectrum are a biological construct, one where women tend to be positioned more in favor of sweetness and men more in favor of bitterness. Which is all fine. But a lot of people then go around and socially privilege the bitter flavor, which is not fine."

From time to time, I've been known to enjoy a good 'girlie' drink. On a trip to New Orleans in college, my friends and I made sure to enjoy a tasty sweet cocktail every afternoon, and during the summer I've often marveled at the thirst-quenching powers of Mike's Hard Lemonade. I'll also defend the screwdriver, which has its time and place. It was one of the first cocktails I ever really drank, and I'll always have fond memories of that night during my freshman year when my friends Ed, Melissa and I obtained a bottle of vodka and mixed it with orange juice from the vending machine in our dorm. But I've been known to drink screwdrivers when I have a cold, because they contain orange juice and go down pretty smoothly. I wouldn't say they're good for you, but they're better than a lot of things. Also, there's nothing wrong with pinot grigio, white russians or hard cider. Especially hard cider.

As Erik Loomis writes on Lawyers, Guns & Money, "What is so wrong with hard cider? Now, most of the hard cider I’ve had is not particularly enjoyable to me. But this is an American heritage drink. This was the low-alcohol drink of choice in early America (as opposed to rum for the hard stuff). Americans grew hundreds of kinds of apples. And they weren’t going in mom’s pie. Most of them were being processed into cider.

I would guess that we will see a renaissance in cider distillers over the next decade. It seems like the next frontier in craft alcohol, both because it is underrepresented in the market and because of its historical importance in America. I know there is a little bit of this already happening.

And even if you order a Woodchuck, who cares? I didn’t know that was a drink to make fun of."

Read "The Botany of Desire" by Michael Pollan for more information on how Johnny Appleseed sold apple seeds to settlers as they moved west, which allowed them to make some of the country's first homegrown alcohol.

Overall, the list of drinks you should never order in public is a fairly mild example of an annoying subgenre I'll call What People Should and Shouldn't Do. I tend not to believe in hard and fast rules about what people should and shouldn't do, and so I tend to get irritated when someone tells me that I shouldn't drink a hot toddy in public. I mean, what if it's December and it's cold and a bar has some kind of winter special on hot toddies? And maybe, as a rule of thumb, you shouldn't get into the habit of drinking vodka redbull. But someday there could be a perfectly good occasion for doing just that.

If you're interested, I've been drinking a lot of Sam Adams Summer Ale lately. Not a very bold or adventurous choice, but who cares?

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