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How to order a cocktail the way you want it?

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.
It varies by bar, drink, and time. I tried ordering Sazeracs for awhile but after a half-dozen blank stares or worse "Vodka or Gin?" I gave up altogether. Once I poached the card idea from this forum I just give them the Sazerac recipe card with the order; saves time, avoids confusion, and that way the bartender doesn't have to admit ignorance. Same with a sidecar, vesper or gimlet. For a whisky sour, old fashioned, or manhattan I'll go ahead and attempt the order; sometimes they know what it is, sometimes they don't and ask me at which point they get the recipe card. If they fail to make a satisfactory cocktail without the recipe (seltzer/olive in an old fashioned, vermouth-free martini) then I'll ask for alterations. There's only a half-dozen "classic" cocktails that seem to be widely known around here (old fashioned, whisky sour, gin&tonic, manhattan, bloody mary), anything else and you'll have to help them.

I should probably also give an example of one of my recipe cards.

Sidecar
1 cognac/brandy
1 cointreau/grand marnier/triple sec
1 lemon juice
shaken, in an old-fashioned glass

This solves a number of problems besides the fundamental knowledge problem: There's no yelling out directions to the waitress over the noise, no worries that she might mishear something or forget part of it on the way back to the bar, and the bartender knows the acceptable substitutions without having to send the waitress back and forth.
 
You know, I have a friend who ran a cocktail bar in Mexico and a wine/bourbon store in Brooklyn. She used to get so fed up going to Manhattan with friends and ordering cocktails at outrageous prices only to have them be made incorrectly. You'd think the places would have some sort of online database for making cocktails....
 
You know, I have a friend who ran a cocktail bar in Mexico and a wine/bourbon store in Brooklyn. She used to get so fed up going to Manhattan with friends and ordering cocktails at outrageous prices only to have them be made incorrectly. You'd think the places would have some sort of online database for making cocktails....
Actually, yeah. Why don't they? If I were a burgeoning bartender (which sounds attractive to me), I would absolutely have SOMETHING on hand to look recipes up. Whether it be a little binder I made of classic and popular cocktails or an internet database. I'm not above that. Not at all. I'd be embarrassed not if I didn't know how to make a drink, but if I refused to look it up and made a poor drink. Unacceptable.

Also: Cocktailery. Learn it. Breathe it. Love it. By Georgio Armani...whoa whoa whoa, sorry. I got into my fragrance commercial voice. I couldn't stop myself. Cocktailery.
 
Actually, yeah. Why don't they? If I were a burgeoning bartender (which sounds attractive to me), I would absolutely have SOMETHING on hand to look recipes up. Whether it be a little binder I made of classic and popular cocktails or an internet database. I'm not above that. Not at all. I'd be embarrassed not if I didn't know how to make a drink, but if I refused to look it up and made a poor drink. Unacceptable.

Also: Cocktailery. Learn it. Breathe it. Love it. By Georgio Armani...whoa whoa whoa, sorry. I got into my fragrance commercial voice. I couldn't stop myself. Cocktailery.
No need to reinvent the wheel. There are dozens, even hundreds of drink recipe books. There are on line sources, too. Also, nothing wrong with an index card box full of recipes, either, in case your internet connection goes down. Many bartenders have and use reference books (and other sources).
 
No need to reinvent the wheel. There are dozens, even hundreds of drink recipe books. There are on line sources, too. Also, nothing wrong with an index card box full of recipes, either, in case your internet connection goes down. Many bartenders have and use reference books (and other sources).
No I know full well they exist, my dad has one in fact. I know the vastness of drink recipe sources. With all the complaints of getting poor drinks though, I wonder why a bartender (who apparently doesn't know his/her 'classics') wouldn't use one more often. Ideally, with all the resources a bartender can have at his fingertips, every drink made ever should be decent at least.

I haven't had a bad mixed drink yet maybe I'm just picky, I just see a lot of complaining going on.
 
My guess is they don't have time, they've got a dozen orders stacked up and it's easier to play dumb and hope I order a beer or whisky on the rocks. It also wouldn't surprise me if they've got the "standards" pre-mixed in a gallon jug under the bar.
 
Yeah, I thought about that. It would take more time to look a recipe up. Well either way, a good bartender should be able to make drinks properly.
 
Okay, I was at Applebees last night and it wasn't busy, so I ordered a Manhattan (if it were busy, I'd have ordered something more mainstream). The bartender told me she had made them before, but hadn't in a while. I knew it was rye, vermouth, bitters, and whatever, but I didn't know exactly. So she looked it up on her phone, but her phone wasn't working, so my friend looked it up on his. And she made it! I appreciated it a lot.

It was a delicious drink, though I think Manhattans call for a twist of orange, not orange muddled in the drink. Oh well. I'm glad she looked it up! :)
 
I keep it simple get a tall glass fill it halfway with ice pour half the glass full of bourbon the other half with coke. If they can't make it that way I'll make them do it over and do it right or I'll get their supervisor involved and I'll leave. I won't put up with a crappy bartender.
 
A pleasant attitude and helpful manner go a long way towards assisting a bartender make a drink to your liking....most bars are geared toward the local crowd; we all know things are not done the same anywhere that you go. I always felt the better bartenders are always open to suggestion and take no offense to individual taste. I qualify that with that I came up as a bartender when the customer was considered to be boss...I tended bar for 25 years, as a man, until I essentially aged out of the trade.
 
I keep it simple get a tall glass fill it halfway with ice pour half the glass full of bourbon the other half with coke. If they can't make it that way I'll make them do it over and do it right or I'll get their supervisor involved and I'll leave. I won't put up with a crappy bartender.
You sound like a real peach.
 

August West

Moderator Emeritus
I have low expectations when I order drinks from a place I am frequenting for the first time. However, as I develop a relationship with a barkeep they learn how I prefer my drinks mixed and I tip them accordingly. Barkeeps are not mind readers.
 
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