updated 10 Apr 2014, 17:12
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You are what you drink
by Tan Dawn Wei

Last Saturday, four guys and two women were having drinks at a cocktail bar with a secret entrance and a "food-inspired" drinks menu with concoctions such as Hainanese Chicken Rice, Peanut Butter And Jelly Sandwich and Thai Mango Salad.

The drinks - about $25 a pop - were hit and miss, and after a round-robin of sippings and watching people's faces either light up or scrunch up, the conversation turned to: What is a drink that someone of the opposite sex orders when out with you that is viscerally unacceptable?

"Cosmopolitan," the two women chimed in unison.

It was 10 years ago, but the HBO hit series Sex And The City has essentially sealed this delicious mix of vodka, triple sec, lime and cranberry juice as a gossip- girls drink - to be had only when girly chatter is on the table.

The tide might turn in about 50 years, but until then, unless a man wants to be labelled a flaming Carrie Bradshaw minus the Manolos, cosmopolitan might be better off as an adjective he would use to describe himself.

"Anything -tini, really," said one of the women.

James Bond could order a dry martini and women would instantly get drunk on love. But if you asked for an appletini or lychee martini and then tell the bartender, "shaken, not stirred", hoping for the same effect, it might sober them up instead.

And if you're out on a first date or with business associates, anything sexually suggestive or downright dirty is also generally not a good idea. Sex On The Beach, Screaming Orgasm, Slippery Nipple. Perv alert.

Other viscerally unacceptable concoctions got tossed up: 1) Anything in radioactive blue or green, 2) Bloody Mary, 3) any drink that requires setting on fire, 4) the most expensive cocktail on the menu simply because you offered to pay.

The four men around the table knew what they would never order: anything with an umbrella sticking out of the drink unless they are in Hawaii; mocktails like a Shirley Temple; anything with flowers in them, although one of them subsequently got served a drink peppered with rose petals when he cheekily asked for a "strong and feminine" bespoke cocktail at the next bar.

In short, girly drinks are out.

So it would seem, men do care about how they are perceived when it comes to their potion of choice.

"It's a marker like anything else. It gives away class, taste, aspirations," said one happy beer-swigger.

You are what you drink - and that goes beyond the obvious amount of calories a Pina Colada packs (526, like scoffing down two McDonald's hamburgers) or the degree of liver damage you're wrecking if you drink a bottle of Bourbon a week.

If you believe George Lam, moustachioed Hong Kong leading man of the 1980s, you're a real man if you drink Guinness Stout, because women will swarm over when you have a pint of that black, frothy beer in your hand, and your fear of the dark (a pun in his hit TV commercial) will miraculously disappear at first sip.

But even within the safe confines of wine, whiskey and beer, lots of judging happens.

Do you like your beer "lite"? Bitter? Do you just chug anything that comes in a can from 7-Eleven? Or are you into craft lager?

Women may think they have less of an image problem to deal with, but according to the men, Judge Dredd swings into action when she orders a Long Island Tea ("she wants to get smashed"), shots ("she's a party girl, and she wants to get smashed"), and Guinness ("I don't want to kiss someone who tastes like rotten cream").

To impress the boys, whiskey apparently earns you props. Extra points if you drink it neat.

But at the end of the day, whether a man chooses a strawberry daiquiri over 18-year-old single malt whiskey, and whether a woman can drink a man under the table, really shouldn't matter as much as how he or she behaves when the drinks are done.

So go ahead, order that Cosmopolitan if you want to. Be a man.

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