Bartenders Share 9 Drinks That They Hate Making

Bartenders see a lot of crazy things. From the drunk bachelorette party, to the secret late night set of a local jazz legend, to the most outrageous attempts to impress a date, there are times they love to serve up a fabulous drink to an appreciative customer, and times when they're asked to make something they'd really rather not. Mojitos and blended daiquiris are some of their least favorite things. And some drink ordering mistakes can make the bartender's job harder. Occasionally, a bartender's pet peeve has more to do with where they're working and what they have on hand than the drink itself. Next time you're out, take a second to consider the setting before placing your order.


We spoke with Julien Aurelien Whaley, bartender extraordinaire with more than 15 years experience currently bartending at El Granjero Cantina at the iconic Original Farmer's Market in Los Angeles. He's worked at trendy restaurants, like Mastro's in Beverly Hills, swanky cocktail lounges, dive bars, and as a bartender for privately catered events. In each of these situations, there's a different pet peeve to match the setting and clientele. We also spoke with Samantha Follows, veteran bartender at the legendary jazz club, The Baked Potato in Los Angeles. Follows spent many years slinging drinks at this notoriously loud, cramped, and packed establishment, and shared with us her pet peeve drink orders from the back bar of a favorite old school haunt.


Don't order the margarita at a dive bar

We are living in the era of the craft cocktail. Mixologists add a splash of a million specialty ingredients to craft the perfect sip, and the resulting drink will run you somewhere between $15 and $25 dollars. That can be a treat, but when you're not in the mood to empty your pockets, you may find yourself at a dive bar. Dive bars are unfussy, affordable, and often these local haunts have some great stories. What they don't always have, however, is fresh lime juice. Fresh anything, for that matter.


Fresh lime juice is a key ingredient in the perfect margarita, but dive bars typically use sweet and sour. Most commercial sweet and sours contain high fructose corn syrup and artificial flavors. Bartender Julien Whaley says he'll always try to steer customers away from drinks that use these types of artificial mixers when he can. "It's not because I can't do it, or it's not that it annoys me," he clarifies, "I feel bad for you drinking that stuff. Because a) it's gross, and b) it's bad for you." 

There are other drinks that a dive bar won't be equipped to make well. Maybe you're there to shoot pool, or shoot the breeze with a friend after work, but you're not there for the mixology. Skip the margarita next time you end up at your favorite local dive and opt for something classic and simple that can be made well with the ingredients on hand.


Save the Manhattan for the steakhouse or the cocktail lounge

Echoing that sentiment, Samantha Follows recounts feeling bummed when someone ordered a Manhattan at the old school jazz club where she worked for years. "I always felt a little badly about doing some drinks," she told us, "like a Manhattan, we never really had the right stuff. We never had a really yummy dark cherry ... ​​We didn't even have simple syrup. And I always would feel a little bad. Lots of times people didn't know the difference ... But if you knew, if that was your drink, it was always kind of like, oh, you're going to be disappointed in this." And the good bartenders out there don't like to disappoint their customers. Not only because it often leads to worse tips, but also because they take pride in what they do.


Follows recommends going for a standard well drink when you can see the bar isn't equipped to make craft cocktails. "This is your basic place," she says, "where you're going to order a Jack and Coke. You can't go wrong, you know? Or like a Long Island iced tea ... which is going to taste great no matter what, because it's got the Coke splash at the top." Jack and Coke. Rum and Coke. Whiskey ginger. Those won't fail you. Or order a couple of beers and call it a day. But skip the Manhattan. 

Skip the mojito when the bar is packed

Bartender Samantha Follows remembers the excitement of incorporating fresh limes into her repertoire at the Baked Potato, and stocking a big bag of fresh mint for the first time. Most bartenders look forward to working with fresh ingredients and making the customers a drink they'll be happy with. But once the club gets packed, it starts to be a bit of a hassle to muddle a mojito. According to Follows, some dive bars and clubs don't have enough room to perfectly prep and lay out the ingredients for these kinds of drinks. Whenever someone ordered the mojito, she'd have to rummage around in the fridge, pick off the mint leaves, race back to the bar to muddle them ... and by that point more dozen drink orders had stacked up.


Actually, a lot of bartenders will tell you that they hate making mojitos and other labor intensive drinks that require a lot of muddling. These orders slow down their workflow. But Julien Whaley, bartender at El Granjero Cantina in Los Angeles, says he loves making drinks with fresh ingredients. It's a chance for him to surprise you, and showcase his skills. Sure, it might take a little more time, but the results will be infinitely better. When there aren't any on hand, however, it's a bummer to make a fruity cocktail with artificial syrups and other (even more) chemical ingredients.

A deconstructed margarita is a waste of everyone's time

Bartender Julien Whaley currently works at a spot that specializes in tequila and mezcal drinks. He's a seasoned mixologist with the skills to whip up a super tasty beverage, but he claims that about once a week someone will ask him to bring a deconstructed cocktail to the table for them to mix themselves. That's his number one pet peeve.


There are lots of variations on the classic margarita, and Whaley is happy to tweak the recipe to suit your needs. Maybe you like a skinny margarita, or maybe a spicy margarita is your thing. "If you don't want sugar in it or there's a certain ingredient that you don't want, that's totally fine," but when people ask for all the separate ingredients of a margarita so they can pour that drink themselves, "that's annoying for so many reasons." You may not know what really goes into making your favorite cocktail, and you're also showing that you don't trust the bartender to do their job.

Please don't ask for a piña colada at a music venue

The Baked Potato in Los Angeles is a super intimate music venue. That's the best thing about it — you might catch a music legend coming through and get a near-private performance. Any given person in that club is just a few feet away from the musicians performing. But that makes the work of bartenders and waitstaff there a delicate dance as they try not to interrupt the show. Bartender Samantha Follows recalls the times she was asked to make a frozen piña colada or blended margarita. More often than not, the band was onstage playing just a few feet away from her, and the sound of the old blender hacking away at some ice cubes was grating for everyone. Not to mention it takes more time to make a drink like this, and, as the only bartender on duty, that's valuable time she could be making several other drinks.


Julien Whaley, El Granjero Cantina, also expressed concern at being asked to whip out the blender. When working private events, bartenders are often understaffed and ill equipped to make those complicated blended beverages. If you know there's a big crowd and only one or two bartenders working the party, consider being considerate. Whaley says it's a big pet peeve to be asked to abandon the bar to go do something in the kitchen. So if there's no blender on the bar, just get your margarita on the rocks and save everyone some hassle.

Consider having your martini stirred, not shaken

That's right, the reverse James Bond may be in order when the venue is small and the band on stage has reached their gentle ballad of the night. Martinis and many other drinks are typically prepared by placing all the ingredients into a metal cocktail shaker full of ice, and shaking it vigorously so that the ingredients mix and the drink becomes ice cold. Whether you like your martini dirty or with a twist, there are several dos and don'ts of ordering a martini. But one of them might also be to consider asking for your next one "stirred" if you know it's a bad time to make a ton of noise. 


At the jazz club where she worked, bartender Samantha Follows hated to bust out the cocktail shaker when the music was good. And if she absolutely had to use one, she actually attempted to shake the drink (if she could) on the beat of the song that was being played. Shaking a martini off the beat sounds awful during a live performance, "and I always thought that was offensive," she says with a laugh. "Because sometimes it was really distracting. It's a very small club."

If you don't like espresso, you don't want an espresso martini

Often made with Kahlua, a sugary coffee liquor, espresso martinis are a trendy vodka cocktail that offers a caffeine kick. Not a bad option when you want a pick-me-up to start your night out, or something boozy in lieu of a cappuccino or dessert at the end of your meal, espresso martinis are absolutely the wrong thing to order if you don't like coffee. At a cocktail bar, the bartender will sometimes prepare one with a shot of real espresso. Other versions of the drink boast cold brew coffee as an ingredient. If you find yourself in such an establishment, count yourself lucky — if you like espresso, that is. Bartender Julien Whaley says some customers wince when they taste the real coffee flavor. If you just want sugar, skip this one at the premium craft cocktail bar. 


In other words, don't order that cocktail just because it's trending right now, if you know you won't like it. Often, a certain drink will be having a moment. It could be the drink of the month, the week, or even that weekend, explains Whaley, but doubtless someone will order one just because it's cool and leave it un-drunk on the table. He says, "it's disheartening seeing a drink that you've made go out and it not get drunk." By all means, try something new, but if you know you don't like half the ingredients, you can probably conclude you won't like the resulting cocktail.

Surprise Me isn't a drink the bartender wants to make

Bartender Samantha Follows agrees that a lot of people don't seem to really know what they're ordering. They'll ask for something they don't like without realizing it. Maybe it's something they've heard of before and never tasted, or maybe it's what their friend is having. That's fine if they're willing to try something new, but it can be frustrating for everyone when drinks have to be thrown out and remade. 


Some craft cocktail bars will have specials on the menu or offer the option to request a surprise based on the spirit of your choice. But Follows says her least favorite order on a busy night was, "Surprise me!" That leaves way too much up in the air for a busy bartender with a limited supply of fresh ingredients. "​​It's like, do you like sweet drinks? Do you like bitter drinks? Do you like whiskey?" she says. If it's not a specialty cocktail bar with a mixologist on duty, at least give a little direction if you want to be surprised. If you're considering asking the bartender for the best drink they make, first ask yourself if there's something you know you do or don't want. Maybe you love tequila. Or maybe you hate gin. Either way, the bartender needs to know before they can whip up a treat you'll actually want to drink. 


Try something different

When it comes to wine, a lot of people really don't know what they're drinking. They'll parrot buzz words they've heard others use and be surprised when the don't like the glass of wine the bartender brings. Equally, many stick to their comfort zone when it comes to ordering beer and wine. A pet peeve of bartender Julien Whaley's is when people come to a bar that offers a selection of craft beers and unique wines, and they choose to order a boring old brew you could get anywhere. Many beers are made by the same major parent companies, like Anheuser Busch. Why not support a smaller craft brewery when you can, try something new, and let yourself be surprised.


Likewise, there are so many special tequila and mezcal craft distilleries whose product is definitely worth tasting. Why pay the markup for Patrón when you can support a smaller operation and have a new experience. You'll likely have to fall back on these staples at some point anyway, so treat yourself when you're at a spot that offers unique beverages. "Go for the name brands you don't know," Whaley says. "Try something new, and try something artisanal. I promise you, nine times out of 10, it's gonna surprise you in the right way."

Let the bartender do their job

At a busy restaurant or bar, the bartenders have a lot of drinks to make. They're serving everyone sitting at the bar and usually filling the drink orders of all the tables as well. Often making multiple drinks at once, they basically never stop moving. So, being asked to do someone else's job too can really slow down the operation on a busy night. At the restaurant where he currently works, El Granjero Cantina bartender Julien Whaley is tasked with whipping up delicious cocktails for the whole restaurant. He'll sometimes bring them out to the table, but when customers ask him to do other things, it stops him from getting back to his post and turning out the next batch of tasty drinks for another table.


If the restaurant where you're dining is packed, think twice before asking the bartender for extra favors, like asking for ice water (unless you're actually seated at the bar). When you're at a table, hold on for your waiter to return — they'll be happy to get you that glass of ice water with sliced lemon. Or, if not happy, at least that's what they're being paid to do. It's always a good idea to be considerate of the people serving you, and to think about the environment your in when you place your orders. That way everyone gets what they need.