When it comes to ordering a drink, it’s not that hard to get it right, but so many get it wrong. We’ve spoken to some of the finest barmen around to get their tips on how to order a cocktail without looking stupid.
KNOW YOUR BAR – do you treat it like a cocktail bar, or a pub?
Are there spirit bottles mounted upside down in a wall dispenser? Is the menu laminated in a stand on the table? Yes and yes? Well then, perhaps this is not the place to order a Sazerac. You’re more likely to get a dodgy drink and look like a tw*t ordering it. Know the time and the place to order a cocktail. If the skill level of the bartender is in question, ask for a gin and tonic, and if you’re convinced he’s got absolutely no idea, then have a pint/glass of wine.
GET THE BARTENDER’S ATTENTION
They’re real people with real feelings, if you want to get good service and impress your date then don’t wave your money around and don’t snap your fingers. Make eye contact, smile, say thank you… and tip (guaranteed service)!
PICK YOUR DRINK
The girl with the hot a*$ went home with your mate, trust me it’s that Appletini that’s killing your game. Change your signature drink to a classy cocktail and start making like you’re Michael Fassbender, or George Clooney if you’re a little more mature.
James Bond prefers his shaken, purists won’t acknowledge them unless they’re made with gin, and BarChick drinks hers filthy dirty. There are so many variations of this classic drink it’s easy to slip up and sound like a rookie when ordering, but we’ve got you sorted with our easy ordering steps below.
Step 1 – Gin or Vodka? And name your brand. Don’t mess up now by asking for Absolut, impress by choosing a lesser known boutique brand like Polish Vestal Vodka. Any real man knows his (and his lady’s) favourite brands.
Step 2 – Dry or Wet? Dry = very little vermouth. Vermouth heavy, wetter martinis are a current trend.
Step 3 – Up or on the Rocks? Most good bars will serve your Martini straight up in a sexy glass, but some prefer theirs over ice, each to their own.
Step 4 – Garnish, olive or a twist? This one’s down to your taste.
Step 5 – If you’re in a bar worth its weight in arm-garters, the bartender will stir your drink, so you shouldn’t have to ask. Connoisseurs believe that shaking with ice ‘bruises’ the gin and makes it taste bitter, plus it’s fun to watch them at it.
Sounds like – ‘I’ll have a Tanqueray Martini, wet, with a twist.’
The expert’s advice – Artesian’s head bartender Alex Kratena keeps it simple, ‘the best Martini in the world is the one made the way you like it, at the end of the day you have to pay for it!’
Common Variations – Dirty (olive brine), Gibson (pickled onions), Vesper (gin, vodka & Lillet – a French aperitif wine).
It doesn’t get much classier than a good Manhattan. A sexy, sweet-ish cocktail made with whiskey (usually bourbon, although the traditional recipe called for rye), sweet vermouth, and bitters. The most common preparation is 2:1 whiskey and vermouth with a couple of dashes of bitters and it should only be stirred, never shaken.
Step 1 – Call your base – usually bourbon or rye, and even better order a lesser known label like Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve.
Step 2 – Sweet, perfect or dry? Sweet vermouth or dry vermouth, ‘perfect’ in this case means equal parts sweet and dry vermouth, as opposed to a perfectly made drink. Dabbous’ head bartender Oskar Kinberg is a fan of Sweet Manhattans, and BarChick always orders hers with Antica formula.
Step 3 – Up or on the rocks, generally a Manhattan is served straight up in a Martini glass with a maraschino cherry.
Sounds like – ‘a Makers Mark Manhattan, perfect, up.’
Variation – Rob Roy = Manhattan made with scotch.
The most complex of all cocktails in terms of flavour chemistry, and a proven hangover cure. Most bars have their own heavily guarded recipe, but you’ll still need to guide them in the right direction for your tastes.
Step 1 – Confirm your spice level, some people can’t handle spice, and you don’t want to blow your cool with a drink you can’t handle… pussy.
Step 2 – Ice? Experts say that ice slows down the chemical reaction between the tomato juice and the other ingredients; BarChick swears it waters down the drink, it’s your call on this one.
Step 3 – Vodka? Don’t waste money on premium vodka, you won’t notice the difference with all the other flavours.
Sounds like – ‘I’ll take a Bloody Mary, extra spicy, no ice.’
The expert advice – Bartender Matt Roberts of Powder Keg Diplomacy likes experimenters, ‘it’s always nice when people are willing to go off-piste and leave their drink in your hands, take recommendations and try something new… especially with our tequila Mary spice mix which includes 3 different types of flavourful chillies, with avocado oil, coriander and a splash of mescal’.
No, we’re not talking about those slushy, girly cocktails made with cheap tequila and sour, artificial mixes. When made correctly a Margarita is the perfect balance of sweet and sour.
Step 1 – Call your tequila, always choose 100% agave tequila, anything else is just a mixture of tequila and corn sugars. Try the small batch Ocho 8, or one of Don Julio’s tequilas. NOTE Patron is terrible tequila, whatever the hip hop artists say, it’s embarrassing stuff.
Step 2 – Rocks or up? Purely preference, but purists will always take it on the rocks.
Step 3 – To salt or not to salt? We like bars that salt half the rim, best of both worlds.
When in doubt ask for a Tommy’s Margarita: simply tequila, agave nectar (low GI!) and fresh lime juice shaken and served over ice with no salt. It’s delicious and low cal too! Phew… you can have more.
Ugh, the mammoth list, the un-pronounceable French names, that awkward moment when the entire table waits for you to taste the wine. Here’s how to do it and keep your dignity…
Tip 1 – Plan ahead to impress – Chris Cooper, sommelier for Soho House group, suggests doing a little research before you go ’instead of wasting valuable date time navigating an enormous wine list, simply google the restaurant’s website and look for something within your price range on their online menu.’
Tip 2 – Order fast – the longer you stare at that list the more you’ll look like an amateur.
Tip 3 – Ask the expert – the sommelier knows every wine on the list. Point out a specific wine in your price range and ask if they recommend it. It’s also a smooth way of pointing out your budget without telling your date, and Chris says it gives the sommelier a chance to sell you something they’re excited about.
Tip 4 – Stick to the reliable options – if in doubt order a surefire winner. NZ Sauvignon Blancs and Argentinian Malbecs are usually food friendly and delicious.
Tip 1 – Take it easy – you’re not sitting for your master sommelier test, downplay the dramatics and gently swirl the wine, all that’s needed of you is a quick sniff and nod of approval. You’re only making your friends cringe by slurping and gargling the wine when you taste it.
Tip 2 – What to do with that cork – if you’re presented with a cork please don’t sniff it. If the wine was pricey check to see the details on the cork match the label, there are counterfeits out there, or check for any signs of damage to the cork that could impact the wine.
Tip 3 – Not impressed – sorry, technically you can’t send back a wine because you don’t like it, the purpose of the taste is to see if the wine is flawed if you do find a fault with the wine the sommelier should happily replace it with another bottle. Screw-cap wines can suffer from faults, but won’t ever be corked due to the absence of a cork… get it?