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10 alternative drinks to beer

By Hugh Wilson
10 alternative drinks to beer
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Here at NZ Men, we think beer is great. On most occasions if somebody offered us any drink in the world, money no object, and the list included the most expensive champagne and the most exceptional single malt whisky, we'd probably choose a refreshing cold beer.

But sometimes even we can have too much beer. For a start, beer is filling. You can have a beer after a large meal if you want, but bloated and belching is never a good look on a man. Or a woman, as it happens. While some classy restaurants might know their stuff and serve you a decent beer, many of the snootier ones will barely have it on the menu. And in some hoity-toity bars you'll struggle to get a selection of bottled beer, let alone something on draught.

And then sometimes we just want a change. But that prompts one key question. For the dedicated beer drinker, what on earth is a decent alternative drink?

We know, there's a world of drinks out there. But not to put to fine a point on it, a lot of them are not all that, well, manly. You can't honestly expect an adult male to stand in a bar nursing a spritzer, for goodness sake? And as for those luminous vodka drinks that look and taste just like pop, you can forget it.

Instead, here are some real alternatives to beer: drinks that taste good and you won't be ashamed to ask for at a crowded bar. In this case, a little knowledge goes a long way.

It's not for everyone, but there's a world of choice out there when it comes to whisky. Not just Scotch either — these days, there's Welsh, English and even Japanese. Enjoy it on the rocks (with ice) or a splash of water to taste, and either single malt or a good blend is fine. Of course, if you're worried about finishing off your measure while everyone else is still enjoying the same round, turn it into a longer drink by adding ginger ale or cola.

This is often an easier drink to enjoy than Scotch whisky, tasting sweeter with more vanilla flavours. Go for a Kentucky bourbon like Jim Beam or Maker's Mark, or a Tennessee whiskey like Jack Daniel's. If you're overly familiar with these, try their 'single-barrel' variants — same brands, new twist. If you like cold drinks, pour bourbon over a couple of large ice cubes — larger ones take longer to melt, which stops the ice diluting the drink (and all the flavour) in your glass.

Dry Martini
If it's good enough for Bond, it's good enough for you, right? You can get away with a Dry Martini in sophisticated surroundings — the bar of a decent hotel, for instance, or in an exotic foreign location — because of the James Bond connotations. They make a refreshing change.

Cocktails can be very manly indeed, but there are rules. No straws. No crazy colours (stick with clear or brown for preference). No oh-so-amusing sex references in the name. Nothing too complicated. Minimal sugar (mojitos excepted). So what does that leave us with? The manly classics: a Bronx, a Boiler Maker, a Manhattan, a Kamikaze, an Old-Fashioned. Don't worry about what's in them — that's what the barman's for, after all.

Wine is a manly drink these days, but you have to match it correctly to food if you don't want the waiter to laugh at you behind your back. As a general rule, the old law that it's white wine with fish (and usually poultry) and red wine with meat is a decent place to start.

If you're drinking wine in a bar, go for red. Reds are more flavoursome, sophisticated and fuller bodied than whites (ballsy, in other words). Light, fruity whites are what the ladies in your party are probably drinking.

Ordering a tequila, either as a shot or in a margarita, marks you out as a fun loving kind of guy. Don't ruin it by asking for a tequila sunrise which will mark you out as a girl. For best results, opt for a white tequila (blanco), avoiding the cheap stuff, drink it neat with salt and lime in the traditional Mexican manner. Better still, the quality stuff is well worth enjoying as a cocktail base in place of vodka, or as a sipping drink enjoyed like a good Scotch whisky.

Gin/vodka and tonic
The main point to remember with manly drinking is that you shouldn't order drinks that are clearly trying to disguise the taste of the alcohol. If you don't enjoy the taste of alcohol, don't bother drinking it because you're only wasting your own cash. If you want a sweet drink, have an orange juice, but don't ruin two drinks in one go by throwing in a gin. Oh, and vodka with pineapple juice is a crime against both fruit and booze. If you want a longer drink, tonic is the best mixer for gin and vodka, the bitter aftertaste complementing the kick of the alcohol.

You won't drink it down at the pub, but on some occasions — weddings, New Year, office parties, that sort of thing — it's perfectly acceptable for a man to drink champagne. It's much overrated, of course, and has an annoying fizz that smacks of something a child would suck through a straw, but no man looks a gift horse in the mouth and the great thing about drinking champagne is that somebody else is usually paying.

We hesitate to recommend cider now that it's been reinvented as a trendy summer drink for urban sophisticates, but at least it puts a solid glass in your hand. Or a big bottle. A decent dry cider is the one to go for. Sweet cider is strictly for the ladies, so best avoided.

Of course, you might be eschewing beer for health reasons, because you're driving, or just fancy a night off the sauce. In which case, water is the unfussy, straight-talking, rehydrating, cheap-as-chips drink every man should aspire to. But not the fizzy bottled stuff that your girlfriend drinks when she's doing the driving. Ask for it straight from the tap

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User comments
Anything wet is an alternative to beer - even meths. But there's very little which is a viable alternative to beer. Whisk(e)y, wine, gin and champagne are all totally different and, if a place doesn't have a good pale ale or stout, I'd rather have a cup of tea or a glass of water than any of these.
A good dry cider is unobtainable in NZ. The so called dry ciders on sale are not as sweet as the sweet ones but stil too sweet. If anyone knows of a brand which is really dry, please enter a comment. It is a fallacy that you have to have white wine with fish. This idea was invented in 19th century England. THe French will drink red wine with fish. As for chicken, red wine is preferable.