Cocktail Chatter: Gay bars vs. great cocktails

By Camper English

Though I spend what many would consider an inordinate amount of time in bars, less and less of this time is spent in gay bars. My issue is not with the gays, of course, nor even with gay bars per se. Between dance bars, biker bars, piano bars, cruise bars, rock-and-roll bars, bear bars, drag bars, sports bars and neighborhood bars, I think you can usually find the gay bar that suits your mood at any time of the week. What you can't find, however, is a decent cocktail. 
You can find a decent mixed drink in a gay bar - don't get me wrong - but complicated cocktails are another story. The simple mixed drinks like vodka cranberry, vodka tonic, vodka soda, and the like when they're served in gay bars tend to be stronger in alcohol content, less expensive, and served faster by better looking bartenders than in straight bars. This part I like very much. 

The part I don't like so much is that usually the only cocktails beyond a Martini and (sometimes) Manhattan that gay bar bartenders seem to be able to make is the Cosmopolitan and the Apple Martini. Those drinks were fine for a time but after six or seven hundred of them one's tongue may want to wander toward something different or new or at least something invented within the last decade. 
We are in a new golden era of cocktails made with fresh ingredients, homemade bitters, spicy syrups and floral liqueurs, yet the drinks being served in gay bars became popular when "Sex and the City" was still a television series rather than a series of movies. The only good news is that the cocktails are so dated that soon they'll be retro. 
To be fair, the vast majority of bars in America aren't making the couture cocktails of my dreams with hand-carved ice cubes, rare Indonesian rum and fresh-picked kumquats either. But I still hold out hope that my gay sisters and brothers will hop on the haute cocktail bandwagon sooner rather than later. We're supposed to be a trendy people. 
Another trend is the prevalence of competitive cooking reality shows, and those are just chock full of gays. Who knew there were so many queer chefs? I suppose it's the same with gay mixologists. They do exist, and there are more than a few of them, but they just don't work in gay bars where their talent would be wasted. 
Perhaps that's my fault and yours too, leaving the gay bar talent untested. Maybe if we asked the bartenders (nicely) for more complicated and delicious cocktails they would learn to make them for us. We'll have to do this at times when the bar isn't very busy so the bartenders have the time to indulge us, but maybe if we start bringing in relatively simple, new cocktail recipes they'll learn to make these drinks for us. 
At worst we'll be rebuffed and this plan will fail, but at best we'll slowly improve the qualities of cocktails in gay bars, one bartender at a time. 

Camper English is a cocktails and spirits writer and publisher of

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