The explosion of fancy-pants bars that specialize in creating a long list of exquisite, flavorsome cocktails with obscure ingredients has beyond doubt been a wondrous thing for patrons who totally understand their libations and enjoy them delightfully. At the same time, it has also made the act of ordering booze in a dark room full of people, who exactly know what ‘Manhattan Skyline’ is, more complicated and potentially intimidating than it once was. Well, it’s not just because bartenders expect you to know the accurate pronunciation of Cachaça (Ku-Shah-Suh), but also what sort of beverage you are signing yourself up to.
While a host or bartender sometimes can help you order a drink or you can order the very first thing listed on the menu, there comes a time in every drinker’s life when they need to crack the code to the highfalutin cocktail order unchaperoned. From choosing a spirit and liquor to picking an appropriate chaser and size, we genuinely know the feeling of one’s sweat-producing glands instantly going into the hyper mode as soon as they find themselves staring down at the cocktail menu. To save you from the fear of looking like an amateur, we’ve covered some popular cocktail standards in this go-to guide that will help you show off your impeccable ordering skills the next time you reach for the lounge bar menu.
Step 1: Know the Basics
First comes first, even before heading toward a particular lounge bar, make sure you are knowledgeable about the venue’s environment, what exactly you want to order, and also if that place serves various combos of cocktails or booze and ice. Be clear! Many real dive bars and pubs have started crafting their drink menu by glass type, so don’t forget to select your favorite one – tall, filled with ice, skinny, flute, etc. This approach will both give you an overall impression about what kind of beverage you are in the mood for as well as help you narrow down the choices.
Step 2: Choose your Spirit/Liquor
Although there is a wide range of distilled spirits used by bartenders to come up with unique and delectable concoctions, you need to remember only a handful of base liquors including vodka, vermouth, gin, rum, tequila, bourbon, and whiskey, which technically are the foundation of the majority of liqueurs and cocktails. Check out the below list for understanding the classic standards in the cocktail library:
- Martini – Vodka/Gin + Vermouth
- Bloody Mary – Vodka
- Mojito – White Rum
- Margarita – Tequila
- Mai Tai – Rum
- Caprioska – Vodka
- Manhattan – Sweet Vermouth + Whiskey + Bitters
- Cosmopolitan – Vodka
- Pina Colada – Rum
- Daiquiri – White Rum
- Whiskey Sour – Whiskey/Bourbon
So don’t waste your time to know each and every single ingredient utilized to prepare the brews, just clear your basics!
Step 3: Select your Flavor
Now that you’ve zeroed in on the spirit or liquor of your choice, it’s time to concentrate on flavor profile and quality. Tart, citrusy, fruity, spicy, licorice, bitter, and smoky are some simple yet effective terms to describe the beverage you have in your mind. Rely on your palates to clarify the bartender how exactly you would like them to blend your drink, but don’t overstate the obvious.
For instance, if you are craving something sour and sweet with a creamy texture, go for Pina Colada, which is a classic, delightful combination of white rum, coconut cream or milk, and some juice (of your choice). On a side note, if you prefer vodka over light rum, and the citrusy taste is your go-to flavor, then you must try Caprioska.
Step 4: Select an Appropriate Chaser & Size
The primary purpose of a concoction is to transform a bitter and subpar alcohol into something inventive and also make the taste of your spirit tolerable through careful blending with aromatics, acids, and essences. Whatever it is that you order in the lounge bar, don’t compromise on flavor and pick something that agrees with your taste buds. If a twist over an olive or passion fruit juice is what you need in your drink, go for it.
Step 5: Understand the Serving Time
Some spirits or liquors should be served before a meal (Apéritifs) while others after a filling dinner (Digestifs). An apéritif drink is meant to induce one’s palate and fuel the appetite, but having too many can also make you lose your hungriness. Campari, Cynar, Aperol, Vermouth, and aromatized wines are some common examples of apéritifs.
Conversely, digestifs including brandy, whiskey, fortified wines, sweet liqueurs, and dessert cocktails help in speeding up the digestion process. For example, both dry and sweet vermouths are not just used for mixing, but can also be enjoyed on their own with some ice as an aperitif.
Step 6: Know when you want to go boozy
Usually, spirit-forward concoctions are the easiest ones to suss out. The classics – the Negroni and the Manhattan – are not the exact drinks a raw palate should lean towards when hitting the lounge bar for the first time. Although these cocktails are created using only three or so ingredients, they have enough of strong kick to shock one’s system in the best possible way. So make sure to sip slowly.