How to Order a Drink From the Bar Like a Pro
Even though I’m in my late twenty’s, I just started drinking. I didn’t know much about alcohol but I wanted to try it but it’s also really intimidating going up to a bar and ordering a drink. We’re so unfamiliar with how alcohol tastes and how they’re mixed so like why even go to a fancy bar where you can order something more typical that what you heard on a movie.
TBH I relied a lot on friends to help and by friends I mean Erin, from @drinking.in.sa, she’s been a bar-attender as she likes to say for the last 4 years to basically guide me through the process. So today we’re sitting down to create a guide to help you order from a bar like a pro.
Head in a Bar With Confidence
Go on a slow night until you’re more comfortable. Erin recommends hitting up a local bar early during the week, “preferably during a happy hour or before 9 pm when the bar crowd is still light,” she says, “the bar staff will, hopefully, be free during this time and will have more time to talk about cocktails with you!” If you go during the weekend you’re more likely to encounter a busy bar where you do have to order your drink fast to make way for the next person.
Be ready with questions. Even though the bartenders might have more time to chat with you during the week- it doesn’t mean they’ll be able to spend all their time with you. Come with a few questions ready to go. If you’re getting a cocktail a good question that Erin suggests starting is:
“What is *insert cocktail ingredient here*? While it sounds super simple it’s completely valid to ask about something you’re not sure of and don’t know about. She comments, “so often I go out with friends and avoid ordering what could be a great cocktail because they don’t know what one of the ingredients are. The staff, in most cases, will be happy to educate you.”
Say you’re a wine drinker- which in and of itself is a complicated topic. Here’s another good starting point- “Can you tell me anything about this wine?” Again we’re met with a simple beginning question because “it’s a good way to learn more about the wines they have and could lead to a deeper conversation and the server/bartender figuring out what you want.” Another thing to ask if you’re a novice wine drinker, “do you have any sweet wines?” I blame Drake for this because he raps about Moscato.
In my opinion, the last one is the most intimidating. Ordering a beer- especially at a microbrewery has been a source of anxiety for me but Erin’s got a point. Her number one question to go and ask is, “‘what beer is most like *insert favorite beer here* ?’ It gives those at the brewery a good starting point on what to recommend that they make.” Think about it. If you spent half your college career drinking Natural Light or Lonestar but wanna grow up a bit- here’s how. Also, I’ve noticed most breweries would be more than happy to not only talk about their product but also give you a sample.
Learning the Lingo
There is so much terminology when heading into a bar that that might be the number one thing intimidating you. Here’s a couple of terms you should know before you walk in through the door. You can also head here to learn more.
Rocks- swerved on ice.
Up- served up, typically in a coupe glass
Neat- Typically a spirit, served in a rocks glass without ice.
Shaken- A drink that typically contains any type of fruit juice
Stirred- A drink that has only amaro/liqueurs/spirits
House wine- is typically the wine that the bar/restaurant opens regularly and keeps heavily stocked- not necessarily the cheapest wine on the menu, and typically a pretty decent drink.
Well liquor- is a base spirit that is in a bar’s well. This will typically consist of whiskey, rum, tequila, vodka, gin, etc.
“Calling” or a “You Call It” means you call your spirit and then what you want to mix it with- coke, sprite, soda, etc.
Maybe you’re like ‘ok Gabby + Erin, I’m pretty comfortable ordering drinks, but I still wanna try something new,” we got you!
Have a Few Drinks in Your Pocket
If you’re a fan of a Gin & Tonic try a Tom Collins- very similar but made with gin, lemon, and simple syrup or lemonade.
If you’re a fan of an Old Fashioned try a Manhattan or a Boulvardier. Both have a whiskey base but the Manhattan is closer to an Old Fashioned, using a fortified wine called sweet vermouth instead of simple/sugar. The Boulvardier is whiskey Negroni, with Campari being in the mix, it’s for the adventure seeker.
If you’re a fan of the Moscow Mule try a Pimm’s Cup! They are both refreshing, sometimes a Pimm’s Cup will be made with a base spirit but the main ingredient is Pimm’s! Still topped off with ginger beer so it’s a way to be adventurous and still play it semi-safe.
If you want a strong drink without it sounding too strong, again why you doubting us?
Margaritas if made the right way should be made with tequila, triple sec and lime- it might not sound that strong but some places use a triple sec that has the same proof as the tequila- it’ll hit you pretty hard.
French 75s. French 75s are a combination of brandy/gin/vodka (depending on where you go) and are then topped with bubbles.
Should you stick to the menu or order off menu? We suggest is to stick to the menu 9 times outta 10. But if you’re ordering something not on the menu then stick to a classic. “Don’t go into a bar that you've never been to before and say “I know this one drink called the blah blah blah that I had at this other bar and it had pineapple- it was great, can you make that?” Erin says. What you can do is give them a starting point and ask if they have something with similar tastes to *insert drink flavors here*.
Just the Tip
One more thing: if you’re heading to a bar and don’t understand the tipping rules. It’s still 18-20% but So- standard tip is 18% and 20% if you really like someones service. But during happy hour rules kinda change. Erin suggests to “stick with the $2 per cocktail and the $1 per beer/wine/well ordered during happy hour and will switch to the 18-20% normal tipping outside of happy hour.
Hopefully this helps you get some more confidence to order a drink at a bar. If you’re looking for more drink specials, new bars and industry news give her a follow on her insta @drinking.in.sa & reach out for any more booze-related questions that you may have! This is also a new series on the blog. We’ll be hearing from a lot of different locals to learn more about the world all around.
Erin has been a spirited drinker & bar-attender for the past 4 years. She had a passion for cocktails & photography and has been showcasing drinks around San Antonio for 3 years on her Instagram @drinking.in.sa give her a follow & reach out for any more booze-related questions that you may have! As always be sure to follow my San Antonio foodie instagram @sanantoniolovelist to keep up with the latest. This blog was sponsored by Art of Green but these opinions are my own.