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How to order a cocktail the way you want it?

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...
In that case they should ASK for clarification. Unfortunately, too many bartenders -- even good ones -- won't, they'll just make what most patrons seem to like. This is sadly true even at fairly high-end restaurants and bars.
I like a "standard" martini, dirty and "up" -- with a 5 or 6:1 ratio of gin to vermouth. Sadly bartenders seem to think that a Standard Martini is a cold glass of gin or vodka. They have no idea anymore that Martinis: a) should be gin, unless otherwise specified, b) should contain vermouth, and c) should contain at least 3 olives.
I've tried ordering "standard" martinis, a "dirty martini, medium dry" and various other ways. Still often ends up as a cold glass of gin. I even had a bartender at a particular well-known and well-regarded "Martini Bar" tell me she wasn't sure they HAD any vermouth.
Needless to say, I rarely order a Martini when I'm out anymore.
 
There's a difference between "can I have a Sazerac, light on the Peychauds" and ::shoves card at the bartender and saying "make this"
 
So.... Do you send the chef the recipe you want him to make, too?
You know, Chris, you asked the same question, in this thread, back in July. As I recall, you never got an answer.

When I want to know how something is prepared, I just ask in advance. If the answer is not to my liking, I don't order that item (food or drink). I would not presume to tell the staff how to do their job. That is the owner/manager's job. I don't mean this to be too uptight, it is OK to ask for more or less of something (say, vermouth in a martini) or a particular brand of gin, but is is not OK to micromanage the process.

So, I'll ask Chris' question again, too. "Do you send the chef the recipe you want him to make, too?"
 
There's a difference between "can I have a Sazerac, light on the Peychauds" and ::shoves card at the bartender and saying "make this"
That's very true. Telling a bartender to "make me a Sazerac, light on the Peychaud's" is surpassingly unlikely to result in him giving me a Sazerac that is light on the Peychaud's since very few bartenders have even heard of it, much less know the outlines of how to make it. Giving him the recipe is much more likely path to success, requiring only his ability to read, and possession of the necessary ingredients.
 
So.... Do you send the chef the recipe you want him to make, too?
No. But there's a big difference between the two situations. When I go to a restaurant I order from the menu - it is a reasonable assumption that the chef knows how to make his own dishes, if he doesn't then there's no salvaging the situation. When I order a Sazerac or gimlet or mint julep or vesper it is almost certainly "off menu", and it is not a reasonable assumption that the bartender knows how to make one. If I'm at a cocktail lounge that has Sazerac on the menu then I'll just order a Sazerac without the directions. If it turns out that it's not to my liking, then the next one I will order with alterations - "light on the Peychaud's" or "with Demerara sugar". But so far the few places I've found that knew how to make a Sazerac also knew how to make a decent one.
 
No. But there's a big difference between the two situations. When I go to a restaurant I order from the menu - it is a reasonable assumption that the chef knows how to make his own dishes, if he doesn't then there's no salvaging the situation. When I order a Sazerac or gimlet or mint julep or vesper it is almost certainly "off menu", and it is not a reasonable assumption that the bartender knows how to make one. If I'm at a cocktail lounge that has Sazerac on the menu then I'll just order a Sazerac without the directions. If it turns out that it's not to my liking, then the next one I will order with alterations - "light on the Peychaud's" or "with Demerara sugar". But so far the few places I've found that knew how to make a Sazerac also knew how to make a decent one.

My comments were directed at the gentleman who makes a practice of handing the bartender a laminated instruction sheet....
 
My comments were directed at the gentleman who makes a practice of handing the bartender a laminated instruction sheet....
The gentleman to whom you referred is me.

This exchange in a famous book seems germane to the discussion:

"A dry martini," [He] said. "One. In a deep champagne goblet."

"Oui, monsieur."

"Just a moment. Three measures of Gordon's, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well until it's ice-cold, then add a large thin slice of lemon peel. Got it?"

"Certainly, monsieur." The barman seemed pleased with the idea.
 
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I don't really want to get involved here, but that's a little different situation. If I'm not mistaken, Mr. Bond is giving the barkeep a novel recipe, not a vote of no confidence in the barkeep's ability to make a dry martini.

I hold the opinion that you should order to the bar's ability. I went to Applebees a while back and ordered an Old Fashioned. Our bartender a) Knew what it was and b) Was impressed that I wanted one. He gave me Man Points lol I was surprised though that he knew what it was. I mean, I was at Applebees.

If I ask for a drink and they don't know what it is, I'll choose something simpler.

I feel like cocktailery (I put forth that this be made a word... The activity of making cocktails) is an artform. Each bartender is going to have their own preference as to what the drink should taste like. They should all be in the same arena as each other, but they will have their own nuances. I feel like giving out cards is like commissioning an artist to do a piece for you and then instructing their every brushstroke. It takes the element of art out of it. You tell the artist what you're seeing in your head and they work off of that while being creative and adding their own touch. You tell the barkeep what you're seeing in your head (the name of the drink is sufficient to describe what you want usually, unless you want this or that added or subtracted.) and they run with that and give you something they think you'll like. If you want your own art, make it yourself and forget the artist.

Also, I mean no disrespect here. :)
 
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I don't really want to get involved here, but that's a little different situation. If I'm not mistaken, Mr. Bond is giving the barkeep a novel recipe, not a vote of no confidence in the barkeep's ability to make a dry martini.

I hold the opinion that you should order to the bar's ability. I went to Applebees a while back and ordered an Old Fashioned. Our bartender a) Knew what it was and b) Was impressed that I wanted one. He gave me Man Points lol I was surprised though that he knew what it was. I mean, I was at Applebees.

If I ask for a drink and they don't know what it is, I'll choose something simpler.

I feel like cocktailery (I put forth that this be made a word... The activity of making cocktails) is an artform. Each bartender is going to have their own preference as to what the drink should taste like. They should all be in the same arena as each other, but they will have their own nuances. I feel like giving out cards is like commissioning an artist to do a piece for you and then instructing their every brushstroke....If you want your own art, make it yourself and forget the artist.
I feel the same about getting or not getting involved, but it is taking a lot of restraint for me to keep the flames down in the face of such pomposity.

"Mr. Bond" is a fictional character. He was ordering a fictional drink, not a martini (no matter what he chose to call it).

An Old Fashioned is a simple and traditional cocktail. I would expect anyone behind a bar to know how to make one. There are many variations, so his/her recipe may be different from my favorite. That, in itself, will not make him/her wrong.

I can grill a great steak at home, but I still like to order them out, sometimes.

"cocktailery" = mixology

David
 
"Mr. Bond" is a fictional character. He was ordering a fictional drink, not a martini (no matter what he chose to call it).
A sazerac, sidecar, vesper, or gimlet may as well be a fictional drink if the bartender doesn't know how to make it. Bartenders don't know how to make them because nobody orders them anymore. It's either vodka martinis, manhattans, slippery nipples or sex on the beach or some other gimmicky drink, and sometimes an old coot orders something exotic like an old fashioned or whisky sour (which will be made with a mix).

I have yet to have a bartender get offended by my little recipes (or they hid it as they should). I've had bartenders mention to me on later visits that they were curious about my cocktail and had made one for themselves after closing (using the recipe card I left with them) and enjoyed it. I think they were happy to get a request that was out of the ordinary. And in at least one pub I later saw sidecar on the menu (didn't last, I was probably the only guy drinking them), and several places now at least have the recipe in the computer.

Maybe it's because I live in a cocktail wasteland (West Houston). I've had very good luck in New Orleans, except for the one bar that thought the proper way to serve Absinthe was set it on fire. The sad thing was they had real absinthe fountains but no idea what they were or how to use them. The old bartender working the midday shift at Pat O'Briens restored my faith in man, he knew every cocktail I ordered and suggested several others and they were all wonderful. He's the one that introduced me to Sidecars. (Sadly the younger hipper bartenders working the evening shift were a waste of time). There is one pub I know of in Houston inside the loop near Rice that is apparently a real cocktail bar, they have something like 100 classic cocktail on their menu, but they're 45 mins away and the wife is a teetotaler, so its not really practical for me.

An Old Fashioned is a simple and traditional cocktail. I would expect anyone behind a bar to know how to make one. There are many variations, so his/her recipe may be different from my favorite. That, in itself, will not make him/her wrong.
I don't have a recipe card for old fashioned's, though I've been tempted - I've had some pretty undrinkable old fashioned's. The usual sin seems to be using seltzer to top up the glass, so a simple "hold the seltzer" sometimes helps.
 
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I find the idea of a bar having a menu to be an interesting concept. I have been to restaurants that included bar menus in their food menus, but only recently (about a year ago) saw a bar menu in a bar. I have always thought that a decent bar should be able to make about every drink, except for the most esoteric, without needing a menu to limit the selection. The times they are a-changin'.
 
Mixology! That's the word I was looking for! ...But I'm still going to use cocktailery. Give it about 20 years. It'll come around. ;) It's gonna be like 'Google'!

And I'm glad you're having such success with your cards, mparker762. I will not be using them. But I'm glad it's working for you.
 
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Here in NYC's cocktail scene- the young hip bartenders are the ones you want. They're eager to learn, have learned a lot and care for what they do

I wouldn't pull the cards at Death and Co, Employees Only, etc
 
I don't have a recipe card for old fashioned's, though I've been tempted - I've had some pretty undrinkable old fashioned's. The usual sin seems to be using seltzer to top up the glass, so a simple "hold the seltzer" sometimes helps.
Another innovative approach. Do you also ask the bartender to "hold the olive?" Neither olives nor seltzer belong in an Old Fashioned. Why stop there? Ask the bartender to hold everything that does not belong in the drink.

Wait a minute. I have an idea. Why not just have a card that can be given to the bartender that specifies exactly which ingredients and in what proportions and order constitute the proper way to prepare your libation? That way you won't look like an ignorant clown telling a competent professional to leave out something that he/she would not have included in the first place.

Problem solved.
 
Another innovative approach. Do you also ask the bartender to "hold the olive?" Neither olives nor seltzer belong in an Old Fashioned. Why stop there? Ask the bartender to hold everything that does not belong in the drink.
If I ever run across a bartender that puts olives in his old fashioneds you can be sure that when I order mine, I will request "no olives". When I discovered that one of the bartenders at a local pub used seltzer liberally in his "personal variation" of an old-fashioned I started asking him to leave it out. Since he got the other ingredients correct, there was no need for a recipe card.


Wait a minute. I have an idea. Why not just have a card that can be given to the bartender that specifies exactly which ingredients and in what proportions and order constitute the proper way to prepare your libation? That way you won't look like an ignorant clown telling a competent professional to leave out something that he/she would not have included in the first place.
I think you missed the part in my post where I indicated that the bartender in question did indeed put seltzer in his old fashioneds - that was not a hypothetical. I'm sure it was just his "personal variation, neither right nor wrong" no doubt. But not one to my taste, so I asked him to hold the seltzer next time.

I really don't understand the furor over this. If I order a cocktail and the bartender asks me how to make it, why not tell him? After the fourth or fifth time this happened, I made up some recipe cards for my wallet. When I order a sidecar and they ask what that is, I can hand them the recipe card. Problem solved. If I order an old fashioned and it comes with seltzer, I ask for one without it. Problem solved.

I know I'm not the only one with a superfluity of incompetent bartenders - there was a thread about it awhile back, which is where I got the idea about the recipe cards:

http://badgerandblade.com/vb/showth...ur-obscure-drinks-every-bartender-should-know

I'm curious why you seem so snarky about my post. Are you a bartender by chance?
 
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The menus aren't a bad idea actually, especially if they indicate what's in the drink. It's a good way to try new and interesting cocktails of which you may have otherwise been unaware. That old bartender in N.O., for example, noticed that I liked margaritas and whisky sours, and suggested I try a sidecar. Had it been a busy time of day he wouldn't have been able to provide that level of personalized service, but given a reasonably descriptive menu I might well have noted the family resemblance and made the choice myself.
 
I really don't understand the furor over this. If I order a cocktail and the bartender asks me how to make it, why not tell him? After the fourth or fifth time this happened, I made up some recipe cards for my wallet. When I order a sidecar and they ask what that is, I can hand them the recipe card. Problem solved. If I order an old fashioned and it comes with seltzer, I ask for one without it. Problem solved.
Have I misunderstood? I thought you gave the card to the bartender along with your order. You did say in post #14, "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"."

Now you say that it is only after the bartender failed to make a satisfactory drink, or made it known that he/she had no idea how to make the drink and was not willing to check the recipe book or card file that most bars keep, that you resorted to the recipe card strategy.

I know I'm not the only one with a superfluity of incompetent bartenders - there was a thread about it awhile back, which is where I got the idea about the recipe cards:

http://badgerandblade.com/vb/showth...ur-obscure-drinks-every-bartender-should-know

I'm curious why you seem so snarky about my post. Are you a bartender by chance?
I read all the posts in the thread you mentioned. I guess I don't get out enough. I did not realize the level of mixology incompetence that seems be everywhere. Naturally, some bartenders make certain drinks better than others. Sometimes I have been surprised at how well a certain drink is made, eg. the best Bloody Mary (Moonstone Beach Bar and Grill, Cambria) or Mai Tai (Pine Inn, Carmel).

While you may regard my attitude as snarky, I regard telling a professional how to do his/her job unnecessarily condescending. And, no, I am not a bartender. I leave that job to the professionals.
 
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