City Social's gender-bending cocktail is now one of the most popular on the menu

Melissa York
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Tim Laferla of City Social at Tower 42 (Source: Greg Sigston, City AM)

How much of a role does gender play in what you drink? Why are some drinks thought of as ‘masculine’ and others ‘feminine’? These big societal and cultural questions inspired the bar at City Social to play around with gender drinking stereotypes, which led to the creation of two of their best-selling cocktails.

Freedom of Peach and its counterpart Billy Big Coconuts have been on the menu since April. The former is a fruity floral cocktail with a bourbon base – typically seen as a ‘masculine’ spirit – and Billy Big Coconuts, a short drink served in a rocks glass, has a typically ‘feminine’ vodka base.

“Basically, the idea was to dispel the notion of these archaic stereotypes in the modern era,” says bar manager Tim Laferla. “With Billy Big Coconuts, we created a style of drink that is typically seen as masculine – the Old Fashioned – with vodka, but to give it a more ‘masculine’ feel, we built the flavour profile around some common top notes in men’s fragrance: sage and sandalwood essence.”

Originally from Perth, western Australia, Laferla met the City Social team while competing in the World Class Cocktail Competition finals in 2015 and later joined the bar team in Jason Atherton’s restaurant atop Tower 42 in the Square Mile.

Billy Big Coconuts is one of the establishment’s top four most popular cocktails, proving a hit with those who like the sophisticated, Mad Men-inspired idea of an Old Fashioned, but aren’t a fan of whisky. To get it right at home, invest in some Cocchi Americano (available to order from The Whisky Exchange), an aromatised wine like vermouth, with both bitter and aromatic botanicals.

“It adds a nice herbaceous edge to the drink to really pull out and compliment the sage, and also dry out the sweetness of the coconut and sage syrup.”

Making sure you get the syrup right is also vital if you want to reproduce this cocktail faithfully, says Laferla. “Make sure you cook the syrup with the lid on, or even preferably sealed in a bag and in a water bath. You can actually do this yourself very easily with a zip-lock bag. The reason is you don’t want to lose too much water, which will make the syrup too sweet and concentrated and make the drink reflective of that.”

Break the mould of gender norms this Christmas – there’s nothing old fashioned about this cocktail.

Billy Big Coconuts. Photo by Greg Sigston

Ingredients: 40ml Ketel One Vodka; 10ml Cocchi Americano; 25ml Coconut & Sage Syrup; 3x dashes Chocolate Bitters

Glassware: Old Fashioned

Method: Stir, Strain over Block Ice, spray with Sandalwood Essence

Garnish: Sage Sprig & Coconut Slice

Coconut & Sage Syrup: 250g Sugar; 250ml Water; 100g Desiccated Coconut; 1 tablespoon dried sage.

Method: Dissolve sugar in water over a medium heat. Lightly toast coconut until golden brown in a pan. Add toasted coconut and sage and maintain at a medium heat (approx 75 degrees) for 20 mins. Strain off coconut and sage. Allow to cool completely in refrigerator. Once chilled the coconut oils will solidify on the surface, strain through muslin/cheesecloth. Keeps for two weeks.

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