Yet for more than a thousand years, scholars have deliberately ignored the predictive capacity of the drink. Every night in bars and restaurants around Dallas, people unwittingly provide insight into their psyche simply by ordering a round. If only scholars would step out of their nice, safe, ivory towers and publish a guide. Who really cares about synapses or superegos or Cinderella complexes, anyway? This week's burning question--What does your drink say about you?--attempts, then, to fill an inexcusable gap in behavioral science. We present the preliminary findings of our research here.
Gender, environment, and color all influence a drink's meaning. "I would say a clear drink is a serious drinker, someone who's not fucking around," said Joe Lednick, while knocking back whiskey roughly the color of the Mississippi River. "A drink probably says more about who the person wants to be," says Ben Caudle, bartender at Martini Ranch. "Except for gin. That person really needs a drink." Spot a person with a clear drink (no, water doesn't count), and you're looking at someone proficient in the ways of alcohol, a serious drinker. But add just a delicate hint of color, and the drink says something entirely different. "For a man, the wimpiest drink is a white zinfandel," says Ian Greene, bartender at The Londoner. "That's just beyond redemption. But a woman can get away with it."
We allow women greater latitude than men when ordering in public. For example, Shelley, who refused to reveal her last name, points out that if a man "drinks something with an umbrella in it, he's either from Oak Lawn or extremely confident." Certain drinks that are taboo for men--white zin, fruit drinks--are a staple for women; yet traditionally male drinks, such as whiskey, simply enhance a woman's image. "If a woman orders a whiskey, well, you don't want to get into an argument with her," says Greene. Cecelia, who also refused to divulge her last name, confirmed the drinking double standard: "A guy should either match me or one-up me. I certainly don't want to be one-upping him." In other words, tread warily around a woman drinking shots of Blavod, the dreaded black vodka.
Beer drinkers apply the same logic, with a bit more snobbery. "If they order Miller Lite or Coors, I look at them differently," Fran Hopkins, waitperson at the Gingerman, admits. "If a guy is drinking what all his friends are drinking, then he's just a follower," Shelley adds.
Ah, the pitfalls of drinking. Attempt to fit in, and you risk being shunned. Stand out, and the risks--and rewards--double. It's a fine line, really. Ultimately, however, when someone orders a bland beer or a trendy drink (i.e. the cosmopolitan), it expresses a mere desire to blend into the crowd. On the other hand, informed drinkers of whatever distinction, beer, wine, or even boat drinks, earn immediate respect. As Crystal (no last name given) points out, "If a guy drinks a Guinness, I would think he's not from Texas. He drinks from knowledge, not to get drunk."
So in answer to this week's question, we present these preliminary guidelines. Keep in mind the variables of gender and venue:
Clear drinks: The drinker is hell-bent on killing a few brain cells and doesn't care if you come along for the ride or not.
Brown drinks: reflect an educated lush, unless the bottle says "Jim Beam."
Domestic beer: one of the crowd, a nobody.
Imported beer: an educated drinker, or a foreigner.
White zinfandel: see umbrella drinks
Umbrella drinks: suitable only for women. Otherwise, don't ask, don't tell.