It can take half a lifetime to decide on your go-to bar order. You know the one: the drink you’re fairly certain any competent bartender with a well-stocked supply could make. When you’re new to the bar scene this usually entails a vodka soda, or a shot of something that tastes like toothpaste. But the progression of life means that you start to hang out in better bars and should be able to expect more from the people who work there.
The idea of a go-to adult beverage is to keep it simple, however. Not that you have to order your it every time you’re in a bar; on the contrary, you should enjoy the wide variety of creative beverages in this, the new golden age of mixology. However, if you find a classic that you love, you can confidently order it as your first drink in bars that you’ve never been to before. Your first order communicates to your bartender something about yourself, your personality, and your tastes in the finer things. Do it right and your service will only improve. Do it wrong and you might be sucking on your ice cubes while the bartender flirts with someone two stools over.
Here’s a breakdown of five standard classics and what ordering each tells the bartender about you.
Whiskey, sugar, bitters, and maybe the zest of citrus – it’s simple. And it’s also a delicious cocktail when made correctly. Unfortunately, the whiskey Old Fashioned has become something of a cliche in bar circles. Here is the timeline: If you ordered an Old Fashioned during the 1990s and the bartender had some idea how to make it, you probably drank a terrible cocktail. It was one of the most desecrated drinks in the book. Then, suddenly, you could find a good Old Fashioned almost everywhere. But somehow it became the calling card of posers, hipsters, and stock market bros. So here’s the secret: An Old Fashioned is still delicious and you can still order one – just don’t order it as your first drink in a bar you’ve never been to before. Make friends with the bartender first, and then you can say, “You know what I’m really craving? Laugh and call me a hipster if you want, but I really want an Old Fashioned!”
The kind of person who is prepared to sip on a glass of whiskey, served without ice or garnish, has clearly been around and can handle the hard stuff. This drinker also has the self-control to spend more than $10 for a few ounces of liquid and (hopefully) not say, “Bottoms up!”. The kind of whiskey is important, of course, but the rules have changed in the past decade. For example, a single malt whiskey is not necessarily a sign of the highest quality; it just carries the highest price tag. Bourbon has seen a resurgence, and those who order rye whiskey come across as being tough but sophisticated.
What you can tell about someone who orders a Martini largely depends on whether they ask for gin, vodka, or both. The ideal way to order a Martini is to call your liquor. For example:“I’d like a Hendrick’s Martini, slightly dirty,” means that you want it made with that brand of gin and just a hint of olive juice thrown in. James Bond famously ordered his Martinis, “shaken, not stirred.” But if you’re trying to come across as someone who has been out of the house before, you should trust the bartender to make it however the hell they want to make it.
Wait, wait. This is not the sugary frozen slushy you can find at so many chain restaurant happy hours. Here we’re talking about the Margarita made with three ingredients – tequila, triple sec, and lime juice. There’s a time and a place for dive-bar Margaritas, but this isn’t one of them. You’ll know if it’s okay to order this drink if the bar has a prominent selection of tequila and not a frozen mixing machine in sight. Just ask for a Classic Margarita, and be prepared to answer the follow-up question about what kind of tequila you might want. (The answer, by the way, unless you want to come across as a blowhard, is: blanco tequila. )
This is not a frozen drink from a chain restaurant, either. The recipe for a classic Daiquiri is also comprised of only three ingredients – rum, lime juice, and simple syrup. Bartenders are known to shoot these during their shift; it’s called a Daq Shot. You are not going to behave like you think you’re already best friends with your new bartender, so you will not order a Daq Shot. Instead, order your Daiquiri and sip on it like a civilized person. Maybe later, if you become a regular, you can do Daq Shots with the bartender – but not before then!