Cocktails & Spirits

Assessing a bar before ordering


Live your best food life.

Sign up to discover your next favorite restaurant, recipe, or cookbook in the largest community of knowledgeable food enthusiasts.
Sign Up For Free
Cocktails & Spirits 59

Assessing a bar before ordering

Jacquilynne | Jun 4, 2013 10:15 AM

This happened awhile back, but I was reminded of it today.

I was in a restaurant -- small chain steakhouse -- and ordered a Manhattan. The waitress first asked me if it was a Martini, and then said she didn't know if they had sweet vermouth when I told her what was in it. (They did, I could see it behind the bar.) I had to laugh when I was later looking through their beverage menu and the Manhattan was the very first item on the cocktail page.

I'm not a cocktail expert, but I feel like the chances of getting a good drink out of someone who doesn't know what sweet vermouth is is probably fairly limited. I decided not to have a Manhattan, but the whole encounter was awkward, and I'd like to avoid those kinds of conversations.

Is there a handy trick or rule of thumb for assessing whether to try a cocktail or stick to wine/beer/ice water? I mean, if it's the kind of place that offers 9 kinds of Martinis and 3 flavors of Mojitos on a plastic tent card on the table, I'm pretty sure it's not worth it unless I'm interested in a tequila slurpee. And if it's the place where the cocktail card lists 4 house drinks with spirits from a local distiller and house-made bitters, I'm pretty sure it's going to be worth a try. But what about all the places that are in between -- are there context clues you use to "read" a bar / restaurant and determine the likelihood that they'll pour a decent drink?

Want to stay up to date with this post?

Recommended From Chowhound