Matthew Kelly / Supercall

Entertaining
Ultra-Boozy, Ultra-Good Versions of “Girly” Drinks

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The concept of “girly” drinks is nothing new. In his book Bartenders Guide, the great Jerry Thomas touts what is essentially a proto Jello Shot as being particularly irresistible to the “softer sex.” And in the 1800s, drinks like The Ladies’ Blush and The Ladies’ Great Favorite were blatantly marketed to women. So when the Lemon Drop, the Sex on the Beach and the Cosmopolitan started catching on in the 1980s and ‘90s, and earned the reputation of being “girly” drinks, they were just the latest additions to a historic line of approachable, admittedly fruity cocktails that people decided to slap a gender on.

These days, “girly” doesn’t just mean fruity and easy-drinking, though; it also labels a drink as being low quality. But these drinks, in their original construction, were certainly not low quality—nor were they necessarily low ABV. Just look at the Cosmopolitan: Made well, it’s a delightfully balanced sour with a serious vodka backbone. But once it earned a reputation of being a “girly” drink, it instantly lost credibility. And that’s when the sugary, neon-hued, low-ABV imposter entered the picture, taking the place of a once decent cocktail.

Today, there are a few bartenders standing up for “girly” drinks. They’re rescuing them from the sugary depths, giving them a boozy kick and sending them back into the world. For Matt LoFink of New Orleans’s Cure, working from common cocktails like so-called “girly” drinks is a way to get customers to try something they might have skipped over. His Maybe, Baby is, essentially, a Lemon Drop mixed with a Flip. “I come from Philly, where Lemon Drops are king,” he says. “I wanted to showcase a mixture of drinks that are popular today and drinks from the 1800s.” Tell an older customer or one who isn’t familiar with cocktail nerdery that you’re giving them a Flip, and they might balk. But tell them they’re getting a Lemon Drop variation and they’ll nod in excitement. “It’s like a translation,” LoFink says. “Drinks are tools to talk to our guests.”

At Villanelle in New York City, James Shields admits that sometimes, everyone makes gendered assumptions. “You go to drop a beer with the gentleman at a table and the woman he is with is like, ‘oh, that’s for me, man,’” he says. But he’s working to break those types of stereotypes when it comes to his cocktail menu. Take the Mad Girl’s Love Song, for example. It’s a seriously kicked up version of a Mai Tai, the former tiki king that has since been transformed by hibachi chains into pure, liquid sugar garnished with a cutesy cherry. “We like to take something that is a great concept in theory—but has negative connotations—and make it taste how it’s supposed to taste,” he says. Made with ultra-high-proof spirits and housemade modifiers, this Mai Tai variation is a far cry from the bright yellow cocktail you had the last time you were catching shrimp in your mouth.

Some bartenders, like Meir Mualam of The Green Room 42 in NYC, have come up with a beautifully simple way to make “girly” drinks more respectable: Add more booze. His Man-mosa/Woman-mosa is a Mimosa spiked with a shot of vodka. For Mualam, the appeal of something that could be called a “girly” drink is universal. “They’re fun, they’re light—they’re more fun than a Manhattan,” he says. “I feel very confident drinking girly drinks.” We all should. Here, five kicked up, boozed up, craft-cocktailed takes on traditional “girly” drinks.

Matthew Kelly / Supercall
How do you transform a delicate, bubbly Mimosa into a hard-drinking cocktail? Just add vodka. After days of trying to figure out a way to make a new, stronger Mimosa that appealed to both ladies and gentlemen, bartender Meir Mualam of NYC’s The Green Room 42 and Green Fig found that the best solution was also the easiest. Essentially a Mimosa-Screwdriver hybrid, the cocktail, which is advertised on the menu as both the Man-mosa and the Woman-mosa (because, as the menu states, “it’s 2017”), is made simply with orange juice, Prosecco and vodka. Warning: This drink is not playing around. It might taste a lot like a classic Mimosa, but it’s deceptively boozier. “The alcohol goes to your head faster, thanks to the bubbles,” Mualam says.

The Essentials

orange juice
Vodka
Prosecco
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“Everybody likes a Sex on the Beach,” says Sam Friedman, assistant general manager of The Automatic in Cambridge, MA. “But it's an old school cocktail that has been historically overly sweet, so we figured, why not have a little fun but use high-quality ingredients to create an actually well balanced drink?” The bar transforms the spring break staple with quality vodka and peach liqueur, orange bitters (“a house favorite when it comes to adding just a little extra touch to our drinks,” Friedman says) and fresh juices—including house-made cranberry juice. “It adds a lot of depth while accentuating the tropical notes of oranges, peaches and pineapples,” Friedman says. “Let’s just say this one goes down a little too easy—we’ve gotten into trouble a few times now.”

The Essentials

Vodka
Peach Liqueur
pineapple juice
Matthew Kelly / Supercall
This cocktail appeals to cocktail nerds and newbies alike. “I wanted to create a cocktail that was nerdy on paper, but user-friendly,” says Matt LoFink of Cure in New Orleans. A Lemon Drop-inspired Flip, the Maybe, Baby combines vodka (everyone’s favorite neutral spirit) with simple syrup, a whole egg and Acqua di Cedro, a totally geeky, totally awesome grappa made with lemon peels. “It’s not something you see often,” LoFink says. “It has a really wonderful lemoncello vibe to it.” A round, super-smooth potato vodka provides a silky base for the cocktail, while a whole egg gives it texture and a bright yellow hue. “It’s fluffy and semi-sweet,” LoFink says. “It comes out tasting like chocolate cake.”

The Essentials

Acqua de Cedro
Vodka
whole egg
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The first bar program Waites Laseter ran in New Orleans was at a ramen restaurant, where the strongest spirit behind the bar was sake. “How do I make sake into something interesting?” he asked himself. The first iteration of this Sake Martini-esque cocktail was the result. Since then, it has followed him to Root, where he now makes it with creamy unfiltered nigori sake that he infuses with blood oranges, sweet-savory rosemary syrup, dry curaçao and a little vodka—to kick the ABV up a bit. Laseter torches the rosemary garnish tableside, filling the air with the aroma of rosemary and raised phones, as people Snapchat the fiery show.

The Essentials

nigori sake
Vodka
Rosemary syrup
Matthew Kelly / Supercall
“The basis for this drink is a very classic cocktail—it’s a rendition of a Mai Tai,” says James Shields of NYC’s Villanelle. “But we wanted to make something that wasn’t just a really good Mai Tai, but something we could hang our hat on.” Made with homemade orgeat and falernum, the elegant take on the Benihana standby gets a stiff kick in the glass from overproof rum, potent Batavia Arrack and a float of dark, black spiced rum. Appropriately, the edgy take on a cocktail often considered to be a “girly” drink is named after a poem written by a very un-girly female icon, Sylvia Plath.

The Essentials

Rum
Orgeat
Falernum

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