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How to order a cocktail the way you want it?

Well, if you flare your nostrils correctly, and speak with a mild degree of condescension, you can pass yourself off as a connoisseur. Unfortunately it is also expensive, you must specify exactly what to use, and you must choose the best.
 
Where I live most bars will generally do what your ask as long as you pay the difference if there is any, saying that in a chain bar I used to go to it was £7 for a vodka Martini, yet when I asked for gin because it wasn't on the menu she charged me for the ingredients it worked out cheaper so go figure.
 

letterk

Moderator Emeritus
Recently, I've been surprised at how bar tenders seem to be improving on their knowledge of some of the more classic drinks. It's usually a good sign if they ask what bourbon you'd like and suggest a Rye. I'm batting greater than 50-50 on good Manhattans lately, a few have been great.
 
If you're paying for it, then it should be how you want it, so I think it's perfectly acceptble to tell the bartender exactly how you want it.
 

The Nid Hog

Moderator Emeritus
I have a set of cards with recipes on them, printed out 10/page on the printer and cut up with some scissors. They're just the right size to fit in my wallet. I'll just hand it to the waitress when I place the order "I'd like an X made like this". The waitress may look at me funny but I've never had one get offended. Often the bartender will come out with it to make sure it's made ok. One of the restaurants we go to fairly often now has my recipes entered in their computer, it comes out on the bill with my name on it "Mike's Sidecar" or whatever.
This looks like one of my posts. You're kidding, right?

Actually there are a lot of possibilities here. What about doing the same for conversation topics for your companions. In fact, you could print them out on postcard-sized cards and mail them to everyone before the event. They could review them and home, then slip them in their pocket in case they need to refresh their memories later. And dating? A checklist sent to your date could save so much time. She could fill it out and return it to you at the beginning of the evening.

Gentlemen--my life has been changed.
 
This looks like one of my posts. You're kidding, right?

Actually there are a lot of possibilities here. What about doing the same for conversation topics for your companions. In fact, you could print them out on postcard-sized cards and mail them to everyone before the event. They could review them and home, then slip them in their pocket in case they need to refresh their memories later. And dating? A checklist sent to your date could save so much time. She could fill it out and return it to you at the beginning of the evening.

Gentlemen--my life has been changed.
Conversation topics are way too broad. You never know where conversations are going to go. Detailed scripts would be a much better approach.
 
Over here, you basically need to explain a lot of "classic" cocktails if you want one right. Unless, of course, you go to a good bar. I want to repeat a little story I've told before:

My friend and I go to a steak house, and he's just recently started to appreciate alcohol and cocktails. So I suggest a Martini to enjoy before the meal. Great idea, right! Hah, no. We order it, and after a while I start thinking "gee, this is taking an awful long time." After all, how long does it take to make one? Not long. Anyway, I decide to use this little free time to go check out the whisky selection in case I want something after the meal. Didn't find anything I wanted, but I spied the counter at the bar. There our two glasses were, with the mixing glass filled with the juice, just standing there waiting! The ice was still in it of course, so our martinis were getting watered out already. I also thought I saw something yellow, which disturbed me.

Anyway, I got back to my friend right quick, and our drinks arrive almost at the same time as our food. This is just wrong when you want a Martini as an appetiser. Not only that, but we've been served Martinis with lemon peel, which we certainly didn't ask for! I expected olives. Our drinks were watered down because of waiting in the mixing glass, and I actually felt bad for my friend when I saw his face after he tasted it. Drinks are rather expensive where I live, so it would be a total waste of money. A Martini will cost you between $13.5 and $18.5, I reckon. Anyways, I felt bad for my friend, and I was annoyed that we didn't get what we were about to pay for, so I sent the drinks back for the both of us.

Don't get me wrong, I love lemon peel, I use it in vodka martinis (don't hassle me about the name, please) all the time, but in proper Martinis, I expect olives. That, and the fact that we got the cocktails with the food, and watered down and that.. I'm sorry, I'm just not gonna pay for that.
 
Be honest with them right from the beginning and drop them a decent tip ($5 min) for the trouble. Most bartenders (good ones anyways) take pride in their drinks and meeting their customers expectations and don't mind the extra effort as long as you take care of them. The little extra you tip upfront will be well worth it... Better service, and better than drinking messed up drinks all night or sending them back over and over (which really displeases bar/waitstaff). Once you find a good Barkeep that knows how you like drink and knows your tastes, stick with him and become a regular.
 
I also must say, having tended bar myself, that I didn't care to be told how to make a drink by a customer. It's only fair to tell a bartender if you want the drink to include this or that, if that ingredient is out of the ordinary. But if you want a perfect Manhattan up, ask for that. If the bartender literally does not know what those words mean, either stop trying to order cocktails at that bar, or stop patronizing such an establishment. Don't reward mediocrity, if you can help it.

If you're so fussy about a particular standard-issue drink that you feel compelled to give orders about how to make it, then you probably should just make it yourself at home and save everyone the aggravation. I've seen massively irritating customers compensate for their persnicketiness by leaving really large tips, but I would honestly rather earn an ordinary, decent tip from someone who respected my professional abilities.

As for myself, when I go out to a bar, I almost always order something that I cannot or won't bother to make for myself at home. I'd feel pretty silly getting bent out of shape about a bar's margarita, since no one makes them better than I do at home. But since I don't have any plans to start infusing my own bitters, or concocting honey-thyme syrups, or investing in a big bottle of an accent liqueur like St. Germain, I'm happy to purchase drinks involving such things at good cocktail bars where they know their craft. And thank the heavens, there is one such bar in town. Most bars here (and probably anywhere) are not run by cocktail enthusiasts or liquor experts, and won't know a lot of stuff that we insufferable snobby boozehounds take for granted.
 
I keep it simple. I ask for rye and ginger ale with a twist.
Well that sounds good, but even in Texas you might be given a Canadian Whiskey instead of an honest to god Straight Rye. People who think "rye" is shorthand for anything from Canada can be quite argumentative, instead of just giving you a whiskey that actually has "rye" in its name.
 
Well that sounds good, but even in Texas you might be given a Canadian Whiskey instead of an honest to god Straight Rye. People who think "rye" is shorthand for anything from Canada can be quite argumentative, instead of just giving you a whiskey that actually has "rye" in its name.
Or, even worse, those who believe that "rye" is simply code for "cheap whiskey." I've even run across bartending instructors who make that claim. :nono:
 
Learn to love your whiskey neat. Or suss out your establishment accordingly--you wouldn't expect haute cuisine at Applebee's, would you? Though to be fair, the hardest thing about making a Manhattan is finding good cocktail cherries.

Alternatively, carry a little instruction card but leave a big tip.
 
Partial quote:

I also must say, having tended bar myself, that I didn't care to be told how to make a drink by a customer. It's only fair to tell a bartender if you want the drink to include this or that, if that ingredient is out of the ordinary. But if you want a perfect Manhattan up, ask for that. If the bartender literally does not know what those words mean, either stop trying to order cocktails at that bar, or stop patronizing such an establishment. Don't reward mediocrity, if you can help it.

If you're so fussy about a particular standard-issue drink that you feel compelled to give orders about how to make it, then you probably should just make it yourself at home and save everyone the aggravation.

As for myself, when I go out to a bar, I almost always order something that I cannot or won't bother to make for myself at home. I'd feel pretty silly getting bent out of shape about a bar's margarita, since no one makes them better than I do at home.
I rarely go to bars, but my favorite bar is at The Pine Inn (Il Fornaio) in Carmel, California. I don't tell Jeff how to make drinks. He is the professional. He shows me how to do it properly.

(After years of research, I do think I make the best Margaritas, so I don't order them out, I make my own at home.)
 

ackvil

Moderator
We have a number of good bars in my area. However, one private club has some of the best bartenders around. If I order a perfect Rob Roy, Manhattan, or Martini they will ask what brand of liquor I favor on that evening (I like to switch around - except for my Martini which is always Bombay Sapphire) and whether it is straight up or on the rocks. One particular bartender asks if you want the Martini shaken or stirred!
 
There aren't many decent bartenders locally. We have a "Martini" bar, but I've never had a drink there that didn't suck. A couple of the higher end restaurants have decent bar tenders, but at one (actually my favorite place for food), I was once asked what was in a Manhattan. I decided to just have a beer instead.
 
I also must say, having tended bar myself, that I didn't care to be told how to make a drink by a customer. It's only fair to tell a bartender if you want the drink to include this or that, if that ingredient is out of the ordinary. But if you want a perfect Manhattan up, ask for that. If the bartender literally does not know what those words mean, either stop trying to order cocktails at that bar, or stop patronizing such an establishment. Don't reward mediocrity, if you can help it.

If you're so fussy about a particular standard-issue drink that you feel compelled to give orders about how to make it, then you probably should just make it yourself at home and save everyone the aggravation. I've seen massively irritating customers compensate for their persnicketiness by leaving really large tips, but I would honestly rather earn an ordinary, decent tip from someone who respected my professional abilities.

As for myself, when I go out to a bar, I almost always order something that I cannot or won't bother to make for myself at home. I'd feel pretty silly getting bent out of shape about a bar's margarita, since no one makes them better than I do at home. But since I don't have any plans to start infusing my own bitters, or concocting honey-thyme syrups, or investing in a big bottle of an accent liqueur like St. Germain, I'm happy to purchase drinks involving such things at good cocktail bars where they know their craft. And thank the heavens, there is one such bar in town. Most bars here (and probably anywhere) are not run by cocktail enthusiasts or liquor experts, and won't know a lot of stuff that we insufferable snobby boozehounds take for granted.
This attitude really p*sses me of.

If I prefer 3 drops of peychaud's in my sazerac instead of 7, or if I prefer english sidecars to french sidecars, or if I don't want my absinthe set on fire, I would expect a good bartender to accept those as reasonable requests.

I'm the one paying for it. I'm the one that will be drinking it. He can make the drink just the way he wants it, on his own time, and on his own nickel.

If you're a good bartender and capable of making a decent cocktail (hot slippery nipple on the beach doesn't count) then I'll be glad to give your version a try. I'm not so persnickety that I always insist on getting it my own way. But if I don't like it then I can stop patronizing that establishment, or I can let the bartender know how I want it made. One of these results in a loss of income for that bartender's employer, one of these does not. Which do you think the owner would prefer? Why do you think he cares about the bartender's feelings in the matter?

While "stop patronizing that establishment" is my first line of defense against poor cocktails, it isn't always applicable. There are some very good restaurants and pubs that don't have the foggiest idea how to make a sidecar or sazerac without being told - it's not a matter of making my own particular favorite sazerac or sidecar, they don't know how to make them at all. I'm not going to tell the wife that we're going to the one restaurant in 10 miles that can make me a decent sazerac. I'm gonna take her to the restaurant she wants to go to, and if they don't know how to make whatever cocktail I want that evening, then I'll courteously hand them one of my little recipe cards. And if a restaurant or pub that we really like is prone to putting seltzer in their whisky sours then I'll give them a whisky sour recipe card to use for mine, without a second's twinge over the poor bartender's hurt little feelings, because if he can't make a decent whisky sour for chrissakes then he needs to hear it from somebody.
 
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