Aussie men love their beer. It’s second only to Bradman. (And now that it can be bought with a Talking Boony, it may even have sneaked into first place.) When it comes to drinking, bundy and Coke are probably second and third place on the dais, but beer is the undisputed champ.
We love it so much that our language is full of references to it. “I owe you a beer”, “go for a quick beer”… it’s a proxy for being sociable. From Hawkey to Singo, it’s always been the great leveller – in conformist Australia, membership of the group is defined in largely in terms of how quickly you can get a schooner glass from full to upside-down on your head.
Which is why I’ve always felt quite ashamed of the fact that I don’t like beer. Now, before you chuck the newspaper away in disgust at my softness, I’m not a teetotaller. (Phew, nearly lost you there.) And sure, on a hot day, I can sometimes enjoy the refreshing nature of a really cold ale. If I ignore the taste. But given a choice between yeasty, bloating beer, and just about anything short of a Bacardi Breezer, I’ll steer well away from our amber national heritage. In fact, I don’t even like wine much. I am a spirits drinker.
When I put it like that, it sounds kind of hardcore. Yeah, I like the hard stuff. Forget your weak, watery beer – mine’s the top shelf. But unfortunately, that’s not quite how it works out. Because while I’d probably get away with a scotch on the rocks or downing vodka shots, my drink preferences are much more embarrassing.
At the pub, when someone buys a round, I usually humiliate myself by asking for a vodka and orange, or perhaps a gin and tonic. Which is inevitably met by a roll of the eyes, as if my mate will be embarrassing himself just by ordering it. And even more rude of me, they’re always more at least a dollar expensive than beers, which means I’m asking others to shell out more money on account of my weakness.
Then, when I drink it, everyone looks sneeringly at the dainty little glass in my hand, with its dainty ice – or worse still, a baby straw and a little slice of orange. It’s desperately uncool. And my attempts to build up its street cred by pointing out that it’s Fatboy Slim’s favourite drink somehow seem to backfire.
My stance really pushes mateship to the limits. After all, the ANZACs didn’t storm Gallipoli beach so we could drink lolly water.
But it gets worse. Ever since I visited Kuletos on King St, Newtown during happy hour as an impressionable 19-year-old, I’ve loved cocktails. Both citrusy or milky, and the more elaborate the better. I’m not really at home in the swanky, beautiful-people-filled surrounds of places like Longrain or The Loft, but the sheer deliciousness of the drinks keeps me coming back. Particularly those drinks with exotic Latin names, like mojitos. I even know my caipirinha from my caprioska.
But what I don’t know is how to avoid being ostracised. Because real men don’t drink delicious concoctions of rum, fresh lime and mint. (Even though they’re much more alcoholic than boring old VB.) And so I remain a social outcast whenever I go to the pub.
I will reverse the anti-cocktail stigma if it kills me. Which it will, probably – coming soon to a pub near you. Specifically, cocktail drinkers need our own Talking Boony to bring the joy cocktails to the masses. And that’s why I’ve performed some radical surgery to my Boony. Next time I go down to the local to watch a one-dayer washed down with a delicious vodka-based concoction, I’m going to take a long a more metrosexual little friend to provide commentary. A Simpering Thorpey, who makes comments such as “Michael Clarke would look great in Armani,” and recommends Glenn McGrath take to the field with a pearl necklace. Take that, beer drinkers.