While on vacation in the Cayman Islands in July, I was browsing the aisles filled with local Tortuga rums at a liquor store in Georgetown when my attention was grabbed by one bottle which stood out from all the rest. It was bubblegum pink and called "GIRL," with a tagline that read "For Girls Only." A girl myself, I was intrigued. I picked up the bottle and scrutinized it, learning that it was a low-alcohol (25-percent ABV) mixture of lychee and raspberry liqueurs and Cognac. Of course it was.
I decided to forgo making a beachside "Girly" (GIRL, pineapple juice, and cranberry juice) or Bubblegirl (GIRL and Champagne), two of their signature cocktails, but made a point to look for GIRL in local liquor stores when I returned home to New York City. I didn't find it, but what I did chance upon was Skinnygirl Margarita, a diet-worthy bottle of pre-made margaritas enhanced with agave, created by Bethenny Frankel, the star of reality television shows The Real Housewives of New York and Bethenny Getting Married.
As someone who works in the food and spirits world, I was struck by these two brands of female-friendly alcohol. Unquestionably, beverages like Stolichnaya Razberi or green apple-flavored Smirnoff Ice were created to attract a more diverse (i.e. female and younger) vodka-drinking audience, but when did alcohol become so focused on blatant gender-specific marketing?
Skinnygirl's marketing materials state that Ms. Frankel decided to create a bottled margarita when she learned that most restaurant versions contain over 500 calories. Although this may be the case at bars that dilute their margaritas with corn syrup-spiked sour mix, a properly-trained bartender will use tequila, Cointreau or triple sec, and lime juice to create a drink that yields only about 140 calories. Ms. Frankel's margarita contains 100 calories per serving, not much less than the classic version. So why not drink better margaritas at better bars instead of opting for a margarita substitute? Or better yet, if you're really trying to lose weight, why not temporarily cut out drinking margaritas? (As a side note, I also find the recipe for the Skinnygirl Margarita on Ms. Frankel's site to be rather perplexing. How is this drink any different from a regular margarita, only with a little less orange liqueur? Can you really trademark that?)
I am aware that many women don't like the taste of hard liquor, and many women want to lose weight. But not all women. And certainly not me. In truth, my issues with GIRL and Skinnygirl aren't related to how they taste (though I have my doubts about them) but rather how they employ pointed, demeaning gender assumptions for marketing purposes. If we're going to have gender-based marketing in the food and beverage sector, let's try and be a little more transparent. You're not selling feminine hygiene products; you're selling booze. We don't need the perpetuation of stereotypes by packaging alcohol in bright pink bottles emblazoned with "GIRL" or bottles depicting a "skinnygirl": a large-breasted, tiny-waisted cartoon female, cocktail shaker in hand. Instead, give me some respect, and then maybe I'll buy your product.
And on that note, I'm going to have a Scotch, straight-up. Because I'm a woman and I know what I want. I don't need anyone telling me otherwise.