07/24/2014 09:31 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Straight Bourbon. Or Possibly Gay. Whatever.


I'm my father's son, and as such I appreciate a good bourbon. One that's well blended, has a slow heat that you slip into like a fresh shirt, and preferably one that has a vanilla flavor softer than crushed velvet. I take it over the rocks, though when mixed with a bit of sparkling wine, bitters, and orange peel it makes for a delightful cocktail to pair with a fatty piece of pork.

However, sometimes, when I order bourbon at the bar it draws shocked stares and bouts of disbelief as if I had just told my dining companions that my newest hobby involved silicone fists and rohypnol. At home I usually pour wine, or terribly pretty and over thought cocktails for guests so calling for a glass of something hard and strong seems somewhat out of character to them. To me this is strange since in my head I see myself as a bourbon slinging Gatsby. (In reality, I'm more a lemon drop sipping Ina Garten.)

Now I'm the first to admit that I'm not the manliest man; I detest watching televised sports outside the Olympics and can't barbecue worth a damn. Yet, come on people, give me some credit. I'm an Eagle Scout for Christ's sake. I don't like to get my hands dirty, but I can change the oil in my car, use a jigsaw, grout a tub, and have killed so many slugs in my garden with my bare hands I now fear a slimy uprising may be on the way. The fact that I make doughnuts from scratch and named my Corgi after my favorite cheese is incidental.

Bourbon is often seen as a man's drink. This, or a snifter of Cognac, is something to be enjoyed with the boys after a day of duck hunting in the overcast and swamp. Gays seem to be expected to drink something that comes in a martini glass and more than likely matches the color of the drinker's shirt. Stereotypically, it is assumed that gays can't drink hard liquor straight.*

Recently, I met a friend at a restaurant and we ordered our drinks and what happened got me thinking. The waiter brought my friend, a dead ringer of the Brawny Man, my scotch, and gave me his lemon drop.

My friend, barrel-chested and mustachioed, looked the part of a bourbon-sipping guy. His look has a swagger and he gives off a pheromone of masculinity so thick you could spread it on toast. Sexy, macho toast. He has a testosterone aura that one could only assume is fueled only by strong liquor and red meat. My slender 30-inch waist and slim jeans equaled a sugared rim. (Hey-oh!)

All this to the waiter, at least.

It may have been an accident, it might not have been. We could debate this all day, and it certainly is worth a bit of analysis on perception and stereotypes. But, seriously, can a boy in a cute t-shirt get some whiskey up in this place?

In the public consciousness bourbon, scotch, good sipping tequila and the like are often seen as such masculine drinks. The musky scent, reminiscent of sweat and labor. The burly color is anything but reserved. Electric liquor that stands out at your meal and takes charge. It's a drink to put hair on yer' chest. Ladies, stick to your wine spritzers.**

Even the way we serve types of alcohol seems to encourage this gender divide of the spirits. Dark liquors get served in stout whiskey glasses shaped for the calloused hand of a working man. A strong glass for a strong drink. It's very unlike the dainty martini glass. One female friend of mine argues that martini glasses were invented as a curse for women, "It forces you to gingerly walk with feminine steps to prevent spilling. Oh, and it's shaped like a vagina. There's a reason Chema Madoz used a martini glass for that photo."

Since some gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender people seem to at times blur the traditional lines when it comes to mannerisms of gender - some more than others - appreciating a hard drink becomes unlikely unless it's somewhat fruity (pun slightly intended). Yet, no one seems to fight it. I can't recall ever seeing someone order a scotch at the local gay bar.

The last time I asked for whiskey at a gay club in San Francisco the bartender's reaction was an unexpected, "Wow." He looked at me then began to dig so far back into the cabinet he risked falling into Narnia. Every so often he peeped back to see if I was still there and not a hallucination. He eventually came back up with a musty bottle, "I don't think we've ever even opened this." The man actually blew dust off it.

So it's not just me. We've sort of placed the stigma on ourselves, I guess, which is fine. Perhaps it is part of the LGBT culture. One with too much Midori and rhubarb bitters. Not that I don't love a smart cocktail. However, with a piece of dark chocolate or a balanced cheese plate I want brown liquor.

It might be all in my head. My gay bestie, so on fire you can see him from space, drinks gin and vodka straight. My straight roommate, a rough-n-tough bail bondsman, prefers appletinis over anything else. I love my bourbon and tequila. However, I doubt any one of us will turn down an expertly made chocolate martini.

Sure, I may love cocktails and have the occasional ballet tickets. But, sometimes, damn it, I like a single malt as much as the next guy.

Then again, maybe we should just pour another glass and just leave it all alone?

*Some caveats. One, tequila shots don't count. That's not about drinking for enjoyment so much as it is drinking bad booze to get mowed. Two, vodka mixed with cranberry or Red Bull doesn't count either unless you're under the age of 22 and you haven't learned how to drink liquor like an adult yet.

**I joke. Most of the women I know are hardcore beer mavens and regularly shame most of the men in our social circle both in drinking sophistication and beer knowledge.