I'm a bartender — and these are the drinks that we secretly judge you for ordering

Emma WitmanThe author, Emma Witman, said there are certain drinks bartenders will judge customers for ordering.
  • There are certain drinks bartenders like me will secretly judge you for ordering.
  • We’ll happily make you a mixed drink with top-shelf liquor, for example, but we’ll be rolling our eyes on the inside.
  • Here are 16 things you should think twice about before ordering at a bar.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Bars are filled with people trying to look cool.

Maybe you’re trying to impress your squad. Maybe you’re trying – and failing – to woo someone on a first date.

Or maybe you just want to appear cool in front of me, your bartender.

And why not? Bartenders are hip. We stand in front of people and do things that most people probably can’t do.

So it’s no surprise that folks sometimes try to impress us – or at least not disappoint us – when it’s their big moment in front of us: ordering a drink.

No matter what kind of drink you order, we’ll happily make it with a smile. But that said, there are some types of drinks we’ll secretly judge you for requesting.

Here are 16 orders that bartenders are sure to secretly judge you for.


You order a filthy martini with a top-shelf spirit

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With a few exceptions, such as when the cocktail is super spirit-forward, house cocktails are always made with the bottom shelf – or “well” – spirits. Because why waste a perfectly good top-shelf spirit?

If I gave you a blind tasting of two filthy martinis, one with Grey Goose, one with the well vodka, I highly doubt you would be able to tell which was which. At least not in a meaningful way.


Read more:
I’m a bartender who’s witnessed countless first dates – here are all the things you’re doing wrong

Some bartenders go so far as to judge any and all dirty martini orders – especially when a blue-cheese-stuffed olive is requested.

Personally, I’m unbothered. That is, until, you besmirch a perfectly good top-shelf gin or vodka that can stand on its own.


Actually, requesting an uppermost echelon spirit in any mixed drink is kind of silly

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The same principle applies with any mixed drink. Even if it’s a more refined cocktail, like an Old Fashioned.

I’ll do it. But it will hurt me inside to add even a dash of bitters and a bar spoon of sweetener to the $US25 Nikka Coffey Whiskey Old Fashioned you just ordered.


We judge when large groups all order the same thing

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Don’t be square. Live a little. Just because you’re wearing matching tees doesn’t mean your drink orders have to correspond too.


Read more:
The 9 most annoying things your group can do at a bar, according to a bartender


You ask for your martini shaken

United Artists

Please. Unless it’s a Vesper – calm down, James Bond.

Hint: There’s a reason martinis are stirred. And it has nothing to do with how manly you are, and everything to do with the type of ingredients involved.

Our decision to stir instead of shake is pretty cemented, and it’s based on how the ingredients dilute, interact, and ultimately appear in the glass.


You order an LIT when you’re somewhere fancy

Assess your environment. Look around.

Say, for example, if the lighting is decent, and your bartender is wearing a tie, vest, or blouse: Don’t order a Long Island Iced Tea. Or a Blue Motorcycle, an Irish Trash Can, or a Slippery Nipple.

These are cocktails designed basically to get you as drunk as possible as quickly as possible. And they taste … unremarkable.

Let a bartender at a refined joint get you drunk in at least a memorably tasty way.

But by all means, when you find yourself at a dive, go ahead and revel in the blasphemy of combining multiple spirits in one glass.


And when you’re at a dive bar, you order something obnoxiously high-end

Don’t ask the bartender what smoked salts the bar has available for a bespoke margarita when you’re at a dive bar.

On second thought, never ask us about our smoked salts (yes, people actually request this). It’s an inquiry that somehow manages to make you sound both silly and pretentious.


You order a rum and Diet Coke

Anna Webber/Shutterstock

You’re drinking cane-based booze. You might as well pile it on.



You order a complex drink whose substitutions make it a basic drink

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When people try to mask their more basic, but desired, drink choice with substitutions, it’s their insecurity that I judge, not their desire to have a vodka soda.

So please. Just ask for a vodka soda. Don’t ask for a gimlet, sub-gin-for-vodka, sub-lime-and-sweetener-for-soda.


You arbitrarily add egg white to your drink

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Whiskey sour. Amaretto sour. Ramos gin fizz. These are the drinks it is appropriate to request egg white with, if it’s not already assumed.

A gin and tonic is not.


You ask me to make you ‘whatever you want’

Bartenders hate this. Don’t do it. Be decisive.

Or at least be decisive when I ask a follow-up question.

“Refreshing or spirit-forward?” “Up or on the rocks?” “Bitter or smoky?”

When people insist on sticking with the “whatever you want” script when pressed to answer questions to find a perfect drink, you’re hurting me when you should be helping me help you.

Also, here’s a trade secret from me to you: We have a favourite drink to make. It’s called a neat pour of anything.


You order a well-known brand, but dismiss my suggestions for a better, lesser-known one

Craig Barritt/Getty Images for Johnny Walker

Part of our job is to know what’s well marketed versus what’s good.

So I’ll always throw side-eye to someone who dismisses a suggested spirit that would have probably both saved them money, and enhanced their drink.


You order ice in your wine

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I say this as a person who does this occasionally. But only on three-dollar wine night. And with a healthy dose of shame.


You request an obscure garnish

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Some people have weird neuroses about drink garnishes, while others treat the bartender like a Subway sandwich artist at the garnish station.

I fondly recall when a guest asked for “a single blueberry” in his drink, which for some reason, we had on hand.

Another common eye-roll is asking for multiple cherries. Fun fact: Those babies cost 33 cents a pop.


You request a menu drink, but ask to substitute vodka

Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for Grey Goose

Don’t do this. Don’t make me explain the vast taste difference between scotch and vodka and why that substitution won’t fly.

Then again, it’s fine. You do you. Live your best life. Order whatever you want.

Just know, we are judging you.

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