We need to stop gender stereotyping drinks

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The history of drinks is the history of humanity. As our ancestors were making the arduous climb out of the primordial swamp, there was probably some spark of thought, deep within their nascent souls, that they could really, really use a pint right now.

It’s so much the history of humanity, in fact, that there is actually a scientific theory called ‘the drunken monkey’ hypothesis. You can read more about it in this excellent National Geographic article but, in a nutshell it’s that, around 200,000 years ago, primates developed a taste for the rotting, fermenting fruit lying beneath the trees. Rotting fruit was the delicacy of ancient times because it was easier to digest, had a strong smell that made it easier to find and had useful antiseptic properties that helped to ward off bad bugs. (Insert your own five a day joke here…)

That mushy, mildly alcoholic fruit also had the added benefit of inducing a gentle glow of satisfaction – another reason why the apes came out of the trees and towards the fruity, satisfying light. The ape’s genes even mutated so that they could digest ethanol up to 40 times faster, presumably to spare them from a vicious fruit-salad hangover.

Fast forward to around 10,000 BC and humans are starting to get their head around the important things in life. They’ve not discovered reading yet, or democracy, or Uber, but they’ve learned the magic formula: yeast + fermentable sugars = alcohol + carbon dioxide. There are even – as yet unproven – suggestions from an archaeological site in Turkey that our entire tradition of both agriculture and living in settlements stems not from the drive to better feed ourselves, but to better create and protect supplies of beer.

Sometimes humanity gets it very, very wrong

Firm evidence for the deliberate creation of alcohol comes just a few millennia later – from China in 7,000 BC – and from there it’s a merry historical dance through Sumerian beer, the discovery of distillation through the pursuit of alchemy, the ‘accident’ of Champagne bubbles created through double fermentation, medicinal alcohols, botanical infusions, whisky in space, wine from the bottom of the sea, colour-changing gin, non-alcoholic spirits, and much, much more. No matter how many times the still has exploded in humanity’s face, it has always picked itself up, patted down the flames, and proceeded to make better and more interesting booze.

Alongside all these scientific developments is the human story. The men and women – and both have been heavily involved throughout history – making livelihoods and reputations through making booze. The communities literally shaped by drinks, not to mention enriched by the businesses and tourism.

And on top of that there’s perhaps the most important thing: the social aspect. The gathering, the feasting, the alcohol-generated-dopamine-fuelled moments of inspiration when you feel like you are both inexorably moving towards the same dramatic climax, be that the greatest-ever business idea or, well…

We drink to celebrate, to commiserate, to create, to bond, to feel absolutely in the moment and alive. Whoever you are, the act of drinking – any drink – and enjoying the experience connects you through time, to everyone who’s been and gone and everyone who’s yet to come, in a way that few other acts ever will.

Which is why, when you think about it, it’s a little ridiculous for anyone to tell you what you can or can’t drink based on who you are. Humanity as a whole created drinks, and humanity as a whole should enjoy them. Our sex, our gender, our sexual orientation, what sports we watch – everything should be irrelevant save personal taste, budget and health considerations. Yet this happens, a lot. It’s infuriating, it’s patronising and it’s stopping people being who they want to be. Which is why, to mark International Women’s Day and its message of Balance for Better, we’ve made a video to remind everyone to be themselves at the bar.

We are all just monkeys that stumbled onto something great. We’re all fallible, we’re all wonderful, and we should all drink what we damn well please. We hope you enjoy our video and that you’re drinking whatever you want, whoever you are.

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