- Insider asked current and former bartenders about their thoughts on some popular cocktail orders.
- Mojitos are a great choice, but they can be frustrating for bartenders to make in bulk.
- Oftentimes bartenders are happy to make a whiskey ginger or vodka soda, since they’re easy to prepare and difficult to mess up.
- Bartenders praised margaritas for being fun and versatile drinks.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Ordering a drink at a bar can be daunting, especially when there are so many options to choose from.
That said, bartenders have a lot of thoughts on common cocktail orders – and it may not be surprising that some are more welcome than others.
Here’s what bartenders really think about common cocktail orders, plus a few of their suggestions for ordering them.
Long Island iced teas are a polarising drink order.
Long Island iced teas are mixed-liquor drinks that are typically made with vodka, rum, gin, tequila, triple sec, cola, and lemon.
Some bartenders think you should skip the Long Island iced tea – but others think it just takes the right bartender to make a great version of the cocktail.
“First of all, let me see some ID. And why are you over 20 and still ordering this god-awful drink?” New York City bartender Santana Burriss joked, adding he’ll “happily give the guest what they want” even if he’s not a huge fan of this order.
On the other hand, Cody Goldstein, who runs Muddling Memories, a hospitality group and consulting service that creates immersive bar experiences, said people who order Long Island iced teas often get a pretty good deal.
He said someone who orders this drink is “a value shopper who knows how to get the best bang for [their] buck.”
Ultimately, he said, the key to this drink is a good bartender who knows how to make a well-balanced cocktail.
If you’re looking to order something similar to but not quite as strong as this drink, Goldstein said, try a Hurricane, which is typically made with rum and citrus juice.
An Old Fashioned is a wise order if you want to ease your way into the world of dark liquors — but don’t expect these to taste the same at every bar.
Old Fashioneds are a classic bourbon-heavy cocktail typically made with Angostura bitters, a sugar cube, and an orange peel.
According to Long Island-based bartender Heather Monaghan, Old Fashioneds are making a comeback, especially in New York.
“What I, and more who drink this cocktail, love so much about this classic is that it is designed to enhance the spirit,” she told Insider. “It is a perfect introduction to the world of dark liquors. It [is] the perfect cocktail to sip on to warm you up.”
For many bartenders, this is a classic drink order – but it’s often one that comes with many variations. Those who order it should be prepared to get something slightly different from place to place.
“This is a classic pre-Prohibition cocktail and, if ordered, you will potentially get over 20 different variations of this cocktail depending on the bartender’s skill level or well-experienced bartender’s point of view of this cocktail,” Burriss added.
He said although this cocktail is simple to make, it relies on the “proper technique” of stirring and diluting.
If you’re looking to switch up this drink, he said, he recommends swapping bourbon for a rye whiskey or other spirits like tequila, mezcal, or even rum.
A martini is a solid drink choice, especially if your order is specific.
Made extra famous by James Bond, martinis have become a go-to order for many. Traditionally, martinis are made with dry vermouth and gin and stirred (not shaken as the international spy prefers it).
Pablo Gonzalez, a bartender based in Portland, Oregon, said that “there’s something to be said for someone who orders a martini – they know what they want.”
Burriss said he enjoys making martinis – even if the customer is vague about how they want it served. After all, there are several different ways to make this drink, including with vodka, dirty (with a splash of brine or olive juice), or even on the rocks.
But, he said, instead of leaving your martini order open-ended, ask yourself a few questions – “Vodka or gin? Stirred or shaken” Up or on the rocks? Olive or twist?” This will help the bartender make sure the final drink suits your tastes.
Gin and tonics are a great go-to drink to order.
According to Burriss, this two-ingredient cocktail is extremely popular and easy to make.
“There are so many delicious gins to choose from and, if you’re lucky, the bar you go to may carefully select a really good tonic to keep in stock,” he added. “The botanical flavours from the gin mixed with a tonic make for a well-structured cocktail.”
The best way to make your order even better is to ensure you know what kind of gin you want instead of opting for whatever well the bar has – sometimes the well is just the lowest-tier liquor available, which doesn’t always lead to the most delicious drink.
Some bartenders like when adventurous orderers request the “dealer’s choice.” Just be sure to let them know some flavours you enjoy.
Burriss said he enjoys the creative freedom he gets when patrons order the “dealer’s choice” at a bar.
“‘Dealer’s choice’ is when the guest gives me free rein on making them a cocktail completely from my point of view,” he told Insider. “I simply assess the customer’s palate and dig in my bag of tricks.”
When ordering a random drink, though, be sure to tell the bartender a few flavours, cocktails, or liquors you enjoy. This will give them a better chance of crafting a drink you’ll actually like.
Bartenders who spoke to Insider seem to agree that mojitos are a great choice, though they’re somewhat annoying to make.
Traditionally made with white rum, mint, soda water, fresh lime juice, and sugar, these cocktails pack a punch.
Lindsay Wallace, a former New York-based bartender, said this tropical drink is particularly annoying to prepare in bulk – especially because the mint leaves have to be muddled fresh. If they’re pre-crushed, they can congeal.
“I get it, mojitos are delicious, but five in a row can turn the mood of a busy bar … ,” Wallace said. “You’ve got great taste – you’ve just gotta learn to read the room.”
Gonzalez agreed, noting that those who order mojitos have great taste, but it can be frustrating if they order more than one.
“Tasty cocktail? Absolutely. But do you really need five of them? Maybe,” he added. “Is your bartender mildly upset? Probably.”
Goldstein added that ordering a mojito during a busy time can also make you a bartender’s “worst enemy.”
If the bar is busy and you’re craving a minty drink, consider ordering an equally refreshing mint julep, which swaps the rum for bourbon and cuts the soda water and lime juice entirely.
Whiskey gingers are usually a safe order at any bar.
Made with just two ingredients, whiskey and ginger ale, this cocktail is a great go-to order, according to Goldstein.
“This is a safe bet at any bar as you almost never can mess this up,” Goldstein told Insider. “The ginger ale will most likely be flat out of the gun, but that’s OK because it’s [still] the sugar you really wanted.”
For avid whiskey-ginger fans looking to up their usual order, Goldstein said he suggests trying a Horse’s Neck, which combines ginger ale, brandy, and Angostura bitters.
A New York sour is a refined and elegant cocktail order.
You’ve perhaps heard of a whiskey sour, but how about a New York sour?
Made with bourbon whiskey, lemon juice, simple syrup, and red wine, this drink is a refined cocktail to order at a bar.
Goldstein said the kind of person who orders this refined drink has likely “been drinking cocktails for a while and can appreciate the complex relationship between whiskey and wine.”
A Bloody Mary is a brunch staple, and if you like it you may enjoy other savoury cocktails.
Bloody Marys are a go-to brunch drink made with vodka, Worcestershire sauce, tomato juice, lemon juice, Tabasco, salt, and pepper. It’s typically served with celery on top.
Monaghan said Bloody Marys are popular during brunch hours, especially on Sundays.
Although she said each restaurant might prepare a different Bloody mix, her go-to is made with tomato juice, horseradish, black pepper, celery bitters, citrus salt, Tabasco, and Sriracha.
Goldstein said anyone who enjoys this savoury cocktail should try ordering a Michelada, which is made with lime juice, Worcestershire sauce, teriyaki sauce, hot sauce, soy sauce, tomato juice, and beer.
Ordering a Sazerac outside of New Orleans won’t be the same.
A cocktail with roots in New Orleans, a Sazerac is made with absinthe, a sugar cube, rye whiskey (or sometimes cognac), and Peychaud’s Bitters. Some recipes might call for the addition of Angostura bitters and fresh lemon peel.
Goldstein said that, in his experience, people who order this cocktail have likely just gotten back from New Orleans – but, unless you order this drink while in the famous city, you may be disappointed with your Sazerac.
“This [is a] delicious cocktail,” he told Insider. “The sad part is, it just won’t be the same outside the charm of the French Quarter.”
Margaritas are a classic party cocktail, and some bartenders say this drink signifies someone’s trying to have a good time.
Margaritas are a classic cocktail that can be made several different ways – and with tons of flavour variations.
The typical margarita is made with tequila, lime juice, and triple sec or Cointreau. It’s also typically served in a glass with a salted rim.
Gonzalez said that this cocktail can “go down a little too easy sometimes.” Goldstein agreed, adding that people who order these drinks usually seem ready to party, especially since he’s found it’s rare for someone to order just one margarita.
That aside, Monaghan said she appreciates the versatility of the margarita as a cocktail.
“There are so many ways to make it even more vibrant than it already is,” she said. “While some bars may use sour mix from the gun or from the bottle, there is nothing quite like a margarita with fresh lime and agave.”
“Whichever way you drink them, margaritas are always guaranteed to get the party started, and that is why they are a crowd favourite,” Monaghan added.
These bartenders agree that vodka sodas are simple and hard to get wrong.
Vodka sodas are a classic bar go-to that only require two ingredients to make. Because of this, bartenders generally on’t mind making them – and they’re an incredibly hard drink to mess up.
“This cocktail has hands-down become the most ordered drink at most bars. It suits almost all types of people, but specifically the health-conscious crowd,” Monaghan told Insider. “Low in calorie and always refreshing, vodka sodas are perfect almost any time of the day.”
She said she usually suggests patrons ask for a splash of fresh lime juice or a cucumber slice, which can add a refreshing, low-calorie note to the simple cocktail.
For some bartenders, daiquiris are an underrated drink.
Daiquiris, which have become popularised as a frozen, dessert-type drink, are typically made with rum, simple syrup, and lime juice.
A classic daiquiri usually isn’t blended with ice, and it usually contains just those three ingredients.
“I absolutely love a classic daiquiri,” Gonzalez told Insider. “Not blended or topped with whipped cream, but a nice simple drink.”
Bartenders have mixed feelings about Negronis.
Negronis are a classic cocktail of equal parts gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth that are often served over ice and garnished with a fresh orange peel.
Although the Negroni is a traditional cocktail, some bartenders have mixed feelings about it.
Goldstein said those who order this drink typically just don’t want something “fruit-forward or juicy” – or they heard about Negronis and want to “find out what the hype is about.”
For Monaghan, the Negroni is understandably an Italian classic that is gaining popularity around the globe – but it isn’t for everyone.
“This drink is certainly an acquired taste,” she said, adding that she’ll sometimes introduce patrons to mezcal Negronis, which replace the gin component of the drink with mezcal.
“The combination of the smokiness of the mezcal meshes so well with the bitterness of the Campari, especially finished off with a lemon or an orange peel,” said Monaghan. “I have found that this particular version of a Negroni is mostly popular amongst my peers in the industry.”
Sangria is a flavorful alternative to a standard mimosa at brunch.
A fruit- and wine-forward beverage, sangria is, according to some bartenders, an easy drink to sip throughout the day – but it can be incredibly intricate to make, depending on the bar.
“Sangria can be insanely complex and there are so many different, fun ways to make it,” Monaghan said. “Much like its cousin the mimosa, sangria is a very popular Sunday brunch [drink] and is a go-to for any day drinking activity.”
There are a few variations of the cosmopolitan, and it’s a classic for a reason.
Made famous by “Sex and the City,” cosmopolitans are bright-pink drinks with vodka and cranberry juice as its main ingredients.
“It is the go-to cocktail for girl’s night or, in a lot of other cases, date night, too,” Monaghan told Insider. “Classy, elegant, and sexy, this pink drink served in a martini glass is one of my personal go-tos.”
According to Monaghan, there are typically two different ways to make this cocktail.
The first lacks fresh citrus and Cointreau and is typically just made with vodka, lime juice concentrate, triple sec, and cranberry juice. “My bartender friends and I joke that this is a ‘dirty cosmo’ because it would be considered lower shelf,” she added.
The second way of making a cosmo features vodka, fresh lime juice, cranberry juice, and Cointreau, though Monaghan said both versions are great.
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