Late on a weeknight, Monyka and David are having cocktails at Baltimore's Red Maple. The waiter arrives and sets two drinks on the table - a pale pink cosmopolitan and a glass of single-malt scotch.
Monyka reaches for the scotch and David picks up the cosmo.
Unusual beverage choices for both genders? Not anymore.
Sexual equality has hit the bar: More women are into hard liquor while men increasingly are unafraid to swig froufrou cocktails that, traditionally, have been deemed "girl's drinks." And, in the new romantic comedy Down With Love, the comely Renee Zellweger looks set to further this fad when she grabs a sturdy-looking brown drink and croons, "Well I'm an old-fashioned - you are the cherry."
Call it "cross-drinking," a trend that beverage-industry observers have seen slowly percolating across the country in recent years.
"Whiskey has attracted more women recently than in the past," says Dale DeGroff, a national beverage consultant who recently wrote The Craft of the Cocktail.
And the men? "They'll come up to the bar and they'll say, `I want something strong' but then they'll order a peach schnapps and orange juice or a vodka and cranberry juice," says Genghis Whetzel, a Red Maple bartender. "Five, 10 years ago, if they wanted something strong, they'd get a straight shot of Jim Beam or something."
"And if you forget to put the garnish on it, more men are going to complain now," adds Whetzel, who has been tending bar for nine years. "Like, `Hey, where's my cherry?' "
The trend had its early beginnings in the 1990s, with the gradual revival of the late-'50s cocktail culture. Cocktail parties became newly fashionable, there was the meteoric rise of the cosmopolitan and soon, bars from coast to coast began concocting intriguing drinks that would lure barflies away from staid beer and wine.
For men, DeGroff says, there suddenly was the license to imbibe a colored drink with the advent of the cosmopolitan. The drink - made of Absolut Citron vodka, Cointreau, Rose's Lime Juice and cranberry juice - became ubiquitous in the late 1990s after Carrie Bradshaw and friends made it their cocktail of choice on HBO's Sex and the City.
"It was a serious drink with a lot of alcohol in it," says DeGroff, former head bartender at New York's famed Rainbow Room. "Suddenly, it was OK for a guy to have a pink drink in his hand because it was a strong drink. It's not a `woman's drink' by any measure."
After the cosmo, bars began experimenting with cocktails, spawning the rise of the novelty martini - a drink that now makes appearances in bars everywhere in a variety of hues and flavors, from white chocolate creations to passion fruit pick-me-ups.
"The flavored martini is basically a cocktail in a martini glass," DeGroff says. "All those things which seemed kind of froufrou, they're now called martinis, so that raises their stock a little bit in everybody's eyes. Calling something a `pink lady' is a little harder to sell than calling it a `lychee mar- tini.' "
David Andrews, who met his friend Monyka Berrocosa-Marbach for drinks at Red Maple, said he used to be more of a "beer and wine" guy. His foray into cross-drinking began once Baltimore bars began cooking up their own specialty drinks.
"Going out is a little different now," said Andrews, 34, a technical writer who lives in Baltimore. "So many places have interesting drinks. It's a treat to try something different."
As for Berrocosa-Marbach, she inherited her love for single-malt scotch from her father. But, lately, she's noticed more women joining her in cottoning to whiskey and bourbon since liquor companies began courting this demographic.
"Up until five or 10 years ago, these beverages were classically marketed to men," says Berrocosa-Marbach, a Baltimore-based food and wine consultant. "The woman would only figure into the equation as the eye candy in the ad."
DeGroff points to prominent print and New York Subway liquor ads in recent years featuring young, professional women sitting at bars with scotches. Just last month, Dewar's unveiled a series of scotch cocktails aimed at making the whiskey less daunting to women. The drink recipes were printed on table displays and distributed to bars across America.
Cross-drinking has been occurring for reasons other than advertising, however.
Kate Cavanaugh, a 25-year-old industrial hygienist, says she and several female friends loathe cosmos and other sweet cocktails.
"Those drinks remind us of the sorority people in college that we didn't like very much," says Cavanaugh, who lives in Columbia. "They're the girlie girls who don't go out of the house without makeup on and have to have perfect hair before they leave the house."