What sort of drink should I order at a bar, and what does it say about me?
January 2, 2005 6:44 PM   Subscribe

What sort of drink should I order at a bar, and what does it say about me? [+]

There appear to be many resources on how to mix drinks. However, as I was reading this thread I couldn't help but notice that there are a staggering array of drinks, all appropriate for different occasions, and, seemingly, people. There does not seem to be a resource for neophyte drinkers who don't know the vast majority of the drinks there. It appears that if I order anything that's lesser-known, I have to know its entire history and composition in case the bartender doesn't. I have other things to occupy my brain, so that will be difficult.

But the type of mixed drink really seems to be important (beer and wine are really their own subjects, but any info is welcome), not to mention the type of brand of spirit! Are there any resources for this sort of thing? For example, "gin and tonic is for warmer weather, and is seen as an 'old man's drink'" Thanks!
posted by RikiTikiTavi to Food & Drink (86 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
It all depends on what your tastes are, what the occasion is, what you're eating a long with it, and how drunk you want to get.

For a slow sitting at the bar watching the world go by day, I'd reccommend Maker's Mark bourbon on the rocks. For a rowdy night out, margaritas or mojitos (especially with mexican or cuban food). Single malt scotches like Macallan are great when you're feeling sophisticated and with a cigar. Bloody Marys are great at brunch or with seafood. Martinis, I don't particularly care for, but a classic martini does send a message of "maturity." Boilermakers (aka shots & be are seen as sort of blue-colllar but are great for getting lit in a hurry, Jack daniels is best in the shot).

Drinks like woo-woos and fuzzy navels and the like can be fun (and will sneak up on you) but will get you branded as a fratboy or an amateur.
posted by jonmc at 6:58 PM on January 2, 2005

Order something that you think tastes good, and doesn't give you a terrible hangover every time you drink it. Who cares what a drink says about you? I drink wine at home, and whiskey sours at bars. Does that make me some bizarre combination of Little Lord Fauntleroy and a lighthouse operator?

I sure hope so.

Anyway, drink what you like.
posted by interrobang at 6:58 PM on January 2, 2005

shots & beers, dammit.
posted by jonmc at 6:58 PM on January 2, 2005 [1 favorite]

But the type of mixed drink really seems to be important

No it's not.

But here's what you do if you're really that worried.

Invest in a wide and diverse range of booze.

Experiment happily in your own living room - freeform, or with a drink mixing book as a guide.

Discover what you like. Screw that "old man's drink" mentality, and what others might think of you. Just discover what's tasty. Sometimes I go into bars and proudly announce that I want a pale ale with a shot of lime. Sometimes I demand the most degrading drink of all - vodka and coke. Screw them. It's my money.

Once you know what you like, venture out into the wide world and order it. If it's too obscure for the bartender - well, most of them have a book hidden somewhere, and if you don't know how to make the drink yourself, save the embarrasment and ask for a straight vodka instead.

Surprisingly, drinking isn't that hard to do.
posted by Jimbob at 6:58 PM on January 2, 2005

I always order 7&7s (Seagram whiskey and soda) at bars, only because it was the first drink I learned when I was old enough to order drinks. It's worked out as an all-occasion drink. It seems to be somewhere in the middle -- not ordered enough to be considered trendy, not obscure enough to leave bartenders scratching their heads. I'm female, and for whatever reason, a woman drinking whiskey always seems to impress people, but, otherwise, 7&7s, in my opinion, are all-seasons, all-ages, all-genders.
posted by Zosia Blue at 6:58 PM on January 2, 2005

screw image. just try lots of different drinks, then use that info the match drinks to your mood. Who cares if your caipirinha is for summer, or your G&T is for an old man. If you like it, drink it.

Regarding brands, I suggest you find a well-stocked, not-too-busy bar and arrange a taste test. They'll be happy to help, and this also can make for an entertaining night out with friends.

Learning what liquor you like is an entertaining and worthwhile experience.
posted by mosch at 7:02 PM on January 2, 2005

Straight, good label, bourbon or scotch (or maybe a good dry/dirty martini) to start off with, then segue into lagers and cokes/tonic waters for the rest of the night. That's what I drink mostly. Good whiskey smells nice, and will get you high quickly, then you can enjoy the rest of your night without getting too trashed. Someone else can tell you what that says about a person, it's what I usually do anyway.

If you order something with too much sugar in it you're more likely to get a hangover, so I've moved to the straight stuff over the last few years.

Or...if you really want to look like a detroit rocker you can pound PBR all night long...
posted by prettyboyfloyd at 7:04 PM on January 2, 2005

You're putting too much thought into it. Just get something that you like. Are you tough, get something bitter and dark. If you're a neophyte drinker, get something sweet, like a margarita or something fruity. Hell, just tell the bartender your mood and ask him/her to make something.

If you tell the bartender to make something, you hardly ever specify the brand of alcohol anyway, so you don't have to worry about that. Just get what other people are getting, you have 60 years or whatever left to figure out what you want, you don't need all the information now.

I used to get ripped on for getting drunk easy, but I always thought of it as being a cheap drunk. Perception is what you make of it, who cares what other people think of your drink choices.
posted by Arch Stanton at 7:06 PM on January 2, 2005

If you're ordering something and you can't answer the bartender when he asks what's in it, that's a problem.

So don't overthink this. Stick to things with everything in the name. Rum and coke, gin and tonic, vodka tonic, cranberry and vodka (which is technically a "Capecodder" but that doesn't really work that well). Simple, easy, not "girlie" or trendy or anything but normal.
posted by smackfu at 7:07 PM on January 2, 2005

Brandy Alexanders,got John Lennon kicked out of bars.
posted by hortense at 7:09 PM on January 2, 2005

While I recommend experimenting and finding what you like independent of anybody's opinions, this offers a decent warning.
posted by kimota at 7:14 PM on January 2, 2005

If you want to be perceived as a straight hetero man, then don't order anything with a dumb name, don't order anything with juice, and if anyone ever asks you, "neat or on the rocks?" say "neat."

Even thought I like them, I was told that vodka tonics were the drinks of sorrority girls so avoid those too unless you're happy with that.
posted by pwb503 at 7:16 PM on January 2, 2005

To all the good advice given above, I can only add that assuming the bartender isn't busy and is in a relatively good mood, he or she will likely be glad to help you find something you like. If you're concerned about your "image," or if you're just feeling adventuresome, even the question "So what do people drink around here?" is a fair one.

And another good rule of thumb, if you don't feel like thinking too hard about what drink to order: Pick a fruit juice you like and add vodka. You can't really go wrong.

(Caveat: I am willing to drink anything that I think tastes good, regardless of color, ingredients or silly name, because I am secure in my masculinity. YMMV.)
posted by Faint of Butt at 7:21 PM on January 2, 2005

You seem to be worried about seeming cool, but honestly, the easiest path to uncoolness is worrying about being cool. Figure out what you like and order that. Who cares what people think??

(Though if you are a guy, I would stay away from the milky creamy syrupy drinks made with stuff like Baileys. Unless you are sitting in your club after dinner being served by a butler in a Waterford glass. Or you are the Dude. He can get away with a White Russian and pretty much no one else can.
posted by CunningLinguist at 7:22 PM on January 2, 2005

Gin and tonic is so NOT an "old man's drink".

OTOH, anything with a stupid name like "Hot Fuzzy Sex on the Beach" is going to taste like crap.

This is what I drink in bars, and I am so fucking cool that I may singlehandedly avert global warming:

Local microbrewed beers; red wine, especially shiraz; gin and tonic; gimlets; whiskey sours; single-malt whiskey, if they have a good one; brandy Alexanders; white Russians; martinis, but only real ones; margaritas (rocks, salt); mojitos; capirinhas; Cosmopolitans; Cape Codders.

Think about the taste you're looking for. Faint of Butt's vodka-and-juice recommendation is always good, and if you don't want to look like a piker, ask for Absolut (anything better than Absolut is going to be wasted in juice, imo). If you want Coke, then rum and Coke is it. If you want wine, have wine. If you want beer, have beer. If you want a glass of cranberry juice and soda with a lime wedge in it, have that.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:32 PM on January 2, 2005

Also, from my bartending days--NO FROZEN DRINKS. This will make the bartender hate you forever, and frozen drinks are for Spring Break only.

Complicated shots with layers of crappy-tasting liqueurs always make the people drinking them look like idiots, in my opinion.

Oh, and I forgot Long Island Iced Tea, which I do feel is vaguely infra dig but which I like nonetheless.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:34 PM on January 2, 2005

I personally like Long Island Tea's...I'm not sure what they would say about you though...other than you have money to blow on expensive drinks.
posted by Hands of Manos at 7:38 PM on January 2, 2005

Something you probably shouldn't drink in a glass, as it's a shot, but I have done it and enjoyed it anyway: Surfer on Acid:

* 1 1/4 oz. Malibu Rum
* 1 1/4 oz. Jägermeister
* Splash of Pineapple juice

Also, Long Island Iced Tea. Slowly. You can't go wrong with a good ole Cosmopolitan, and I'd try a Manhattan at least once.
posted by Medieval Maven at 7:38 PM on January 2, 2005

One exception to the no-juice-drinks is Myers Dark and Pineapple juice which will have you on your ass in no time.

How a beverage is percieved also depends on what kind of bar you're in. Ordering a fine cognac at an upscale drinking salon may cause the tender's brow to arch in appreciation of your taste. At the corner joint it may cause him to ask "whadda you, some kinda wiseass?" and punch you out.

Something to keep in mind.
posted by jonmc at 7:42 PM on January 2, 2005

You can't go wrong with a Gin & Tonic, but if you're in a bar that appears well stocked, get a Mojito instead (mint, sugar, lime, rum, soda) and enjoy one of Hemingway's finer creations, and the only way I can tolerate rum. Apparently Hemingway didn't drink them much himself, preferring Papa Dobles instead (white rum, grapefruit juice and a few drops of maraschino) but he did start a loosely-knit society to help popularize the mojito.

"An intelligent man is sometimes forced to be drunk to spend time with his fools." - Hemingway
posted by furtive at 7:43 PM on January 2, 2005

...and I always used to feel kind of manly when I ordered vodka tonics :[...

Yeah, caipirinha's are very good. Fun to make them for your friends too.
posted by prettyboyfloyd at 7:46 PM on January 2, 2005

All I ever drink when I go out is white wine. One glass only, please; I'm a lightweight. And who cares? Not me. I don't like beer (in my mind, beer has always had "white trash" conotations). If I ever met anybody else that didn't like beer, I would fall in love with them.

So there you go. Don't drink beer. (a ridiculous answer for a somewhat ridiculuous question- drink what you like!)
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:49 PM on January 2, 2005 [1 favorite]

Don't drink beer.

posted by jonmc at 7:52 PM on January 2, 2005

People that know me know I have no shame.

I order Shirley Temples. And I love them. Sometimes I even get them for free. I guess they figure I'm a designated driver or crazy or something. What the hell, they taste good.
posted by shepd at 7:52 PM on January 2, 2005

You're a guy, shep. Thus it is a Roy Rogers.

Which must be incredibly confusing to kids today who have zero idea who either of these people are. Maybe they should be called Lindsey Lohans or something.
posted by jonmc at 7:55 PM on January 2, 2005


White trash.

(that's TOTALLY worse).
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:56 PM on January 2, 2005 [1 favorite]

*raises can of Schlitz*

and yet we live in the same 'hood?
posted by jonmc at 7:58 PM on January 2, 2005

If you are drinking vodka mixed with juice, tonic, or coke and you ask for a brand of vodka (as opposed to well--the cheap crap they keep under the bar), you are wasting your money. Other than that, I am solidly in the drink whatever you like camp. I do recommend vodka for clean drinking and little hangover.

On preview: Pink, if you think beer makes someone white trash, you have soooo much to learn. Jon is white trash, but that's entirely different—that's an affectation.
posted by dame at 8:00 PM on January 2, 2005

Yeah, it does often depend on the bar you're in. I once ordered a mojito in a corner-bar joint and the bartender laughed in my face. This was before I knew anything about liquor, and I felt really dumb. But that bartender was also a jerk, so YMMV.
posted by Zosia Blue at 8:04 PM on January 2, 2005

Jon is white trash, but that's entirely different—that's an affectation.

An exaggeration. But I am as painfully middle class as a human being can get, but I embrace my urban family roots. And my tastes oddly seem to lean in directions that other people consider trashy, but not me.

And there's a big difference between a 40 of malt liquor and a bottle of Peche Lambic or a fine lager or stout. Beer (or rather it's image) has come a long way. And cheap wine, like Frazia Brothers or Arbor Mist is seen as trashy is some quarters, too.
posted by jonmc at 8:07 PM on January 2, 2005

I would be weary of the mojito recommendation only for this reason: a good mojito is truly wonderful. A bad one, however, is like cough syrup. Make sure you're at a restaurant that should be serving them or a good bar (think upscale restaurant or hotel lobby) before ordering one. This isn't something to get at the place on the corner where they get a new bartender every week.

Nobody has really touched the wonderful and dangerous world of tequila, so I will. There are a lot of people that will tell you it's the drink of the devil. If you drink the cheap stuff, they're right. It's bad news. You'll have a hangover of epic proportions if you do something stupid and start doing shots of the cheap stuff.

If you're getting a margarita, don't sweat it. Whatever they use as the house tequila is probably going to be ok. If you're drinking it straight, shell out the dollars for something good like Patron Silver, Cabo Wabo, or Heradura and drink it on the rocks. It'll go down smooth like a nice vodka.
posted by glyphlet at 8:11 PM on January 2, 2005

Also, from my bartending days--NO FROZEN DRINKS. This will make the bartender hate you forever, and frozen drinks are for Spring Break only.

Or, if you must, order frozen drinks at least two at a time. Remember that when making mixed or frozen drinks, it's just as easy to make five as it is to make one, since you put all the ingredients in the same shaker or blender. A round of frozen strawberry daiquiris for everyone at the table may annoy the bartender, but not nearly as much as a strawberry daiquiri for her, a banana daiquiri for him, a frozen margarita for her... you get the picture. This rule can be bent in bars or clubs with a tropical/tiki theme, since they're just asking for it.

You're a guy, shep. Thus it is a Roy Rogers.

A Shirley Temple is lemon-lime soda with grenadine, and a Roy Rogers is cola with grenadine. I don't know if you were being facetious, but they're two different drinks.
posted by Faint of Butt at 8:11 PM on January 2, 2005

I like chocolate milk and virgin screwdrivers at home, ginger ale when I'm out on the town. Water is also good.

/hungover on life
posted by sdrawkcab at 8:12 PM on January 2, 2005

Really FOB? Well shut my mouth. I could've sworn they were the same.
posted by jonmc at 8:13 PM on January 2, 2005

I disagree with just about everyone's assessment that image in unimportant.

The drink is unimportant, of course. You're being overcharged for poison, so drink whatever you feel like.

But, if you are a man, UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES WHATSOEVER should you ever drink alcohol out of a straw.

That's the only piece of advice I've got on drinking. Selection-wise, I looove a nicely aged Port.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 8:13 PM on January 2, 2005

But, if you are a man, UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES WHATSOEVER should you ever drink alcohol out of a straw.

But, here in New York, drinking beer in a paper bag through a straw is an indispensible method of evading "open container" laws.
posted by jonmc at 8:14 PM on January 2, 2005

I disagree with just about everyone's assessment that image in unimportant.

Well, I think the image projected by drinking whatever you like (even out of a straw) is way hotter than being self-conscious.
posted by dame at 8:20 PM on January 2, 2005

I read an article broaching this subject in this weekend's local paper. The vast majority of women at several surveyed bars seem to susist solely on Cosmopolitans, and men tend heavily towards gin or vodka tonics.
posted by robbie01 at 8:23 PM on January 2, 2005

Response by poster: These are such great responses, I appreciate them so much. Some clarifications/additions/responses:

I'm not fastidiously image-conscious, I'd just like to know about what I am drinking or might drink. Like it or not, there does seem to be various implications of drinks (if nothing else, "it's too sophisticated for the corner joint" or "you'll get laughed out of the highbrow setting." When you don't have much experience, you don't know what those drinks might be.

If nothing else, there are situations where you can let your hair down and there are situations where it actually might make a difference what you pick--at least I'd like to know what someone else might be thinking even if I'm going to drink it anyway.

As to "drink what you like", that's all fine and good if you have a vast library of drinks you like in your head. I didn't care much for alcohol until in my mid 20's, after an Irish friend introduced me to Guinness. I tried it just to shut him up, and suprised myself when I liked it. My palate is more used to alcoholic drinks at this point, and not initially liking something isn't an excuse to give up on the drink--I'll give it a chance.

I'm not out drinking a hell of a lot, so when I'm asked I don't have a ready answer and end up racking my brain for some half-remembered drink, which is probably a funny image if you aren't the one doing it.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 8:25 PM on January 2, 2005

Well, I think the image projected by drinking whatever you like (even out of a straw) is way hotter than being self-conscious.

Absolutely. But there's something to be said for going with the flow of whatever place you happen to be in. Ordinarily, I'm a Brooklyn Lager or Maker's Mark guy at a bar, but when I hit this joint, it's time for Mint Juleps and Manhattans.
posted by jonmc at 8:26 PM on January 2, 2005

Response by poster: sdrawkcab: Oh, I drink tons of water myself, thanks--especially with alcohol. To hell with anyone who thinks that's "cheating" or some such thing. I'd never heard of a virgin screwdriver; looks like it's either OJ and Sprite or just plain OJ. I promise to laugh at the joke next time. :)
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 8:29 PM on January 2, 2005

My husband hates hates hates hates hates hates beer, PinkSuperHero, but he's taken. It's tragic, really, because I know an incredible amount about beer, which most guys think is super-hot in a woman. (I also have a lot of cool lingerie which sits in the drawer, because my husband couldn't care less about that, either.)

Wait, back on topic. I never drink the well vodka, because if it is really bad it tastes like paint thinner and ruins the Cape Codder. But it's stupid to get Grey Goose or SKYY or Chopin and juice. Smirnoff or Absolut, on the other hand, should only be $1 more.

RikiTikiTavi, if you like Guinness, let me introduce you to the Black Velvet.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:41 PM on January 2, 2005

But there's something to be said for going with the flow of whatever place you happen to be in.

An excellent suggestion, jonmc. Often the nature of the bar itself will suggest your drinks for the evening. Here are a few possibilities:

Corner bar: Domestic beer (Yeungling, Sam Adams), rum & Coke, gin & tonic
Upscale: Mojitos, martinis
Cowboy/Country & Western: Cheap domestic beer (Budweiser, Coors), Jack Daniel's
Southwestern: Mexican beer (Corona, Dos Equis), tequila, margaritas
Japanese: Japanese beer (Asahi, Sapporo), sake
Irish pub: Irish beer (Guinness, Harp), Bailey's
Korean bar: Soju
Gay bar: Cape Cods, anything with vodka in
Goth club: Red wine, Oatmeal Cookies, Pink Pussies
Brunch: Bloody Maries, mimosas

I never drink the well vodka, because if it is really bad it tastes like paint thinner and ruins the Cape Codder.

Agreed. In your travels you may come across vodka that was made in Kentucky. Allow me to give you some advice about Kentucky vodka: Never, ever drink Kentucky vodka. I have settled on Smirnoff as my preferred compromise between quality and price, and find it perfect for mixing.
posted by Faint of Butt at 8:47 PM on January 2, 2005 [2 favorites]

One other thing I wanted to add... make sure you actually like tonic before you order a drink with it. It's not something that most people drink in their everyday life, and some people really hate it. Also, it is not the same thing as selzer or club soda. It is good to know that.
posted by smackfu at 8:51 PM on January 2, 2005

Can't go wrong with a double vodka and soda, with a splash of cranberry and a lime. Everywhere has them, they're quick to make, and easy on both the palate and the waistline.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 8:53 PM on January 2, 2005

And cheap wine, like Frazia Brothers or Arbor Mist is seen as trashy is some quarters, too.

If you're in a place that will sell you wine out of a box for consumption on the premises and you're worried about what people there will think of you, you have seriously messed up priorities.
posted by George_Spiggott at 8:54 PM on January 2, 2005

Response by poster: smackfu: Thanks for the advice. I have had gin and tonics, and am familiar with the tonic taste (assuming that they weren't made with poor ingredients, of course. I'm not always in the best bars.) About the least palatable drink to me I've had is bourbon/whiskey, of which I've just read on the difference but tastes similar to me at this point. It is certainly a sipping drink.

In fact, I did have some bourbon around for cooking, so I just poured myself one on the rocks to refamiliarize myself with the taste. It may be an acquired taste, I'm afraid. Is it really served in an 8-10 oz glass? Even after ice, that seems like an awful lot of alcohol.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 9:00 PM on January 2, 2005

I forgot something from my list.

Tropical: Anything enormous and pink with fruit.
posted by Faint of Butt at 9:04 PM on January 2, 2005

Since you mention whisky (the Scots spelling, everything else is "whiskey") bear in mind that single malts and blends are not even remotely similar in taste. Ordering a "Scotch" will always get you a blend. (Personally they're not to my taste: even the best-regarded blends taste like toxic waste to me.) Single malts can only be ordered by their particular proper name; it makes no sense to order "a single malt" since they each have their own character -- the bartender will look at you funny and ask which one. Try one or two (gently at first), but only in a fairly upmarket urban bar. Dalwhinnie, Highland Park and Lagavulin are all very good.
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:16 PM on January 2, 2005

i've been ordering strictly rum and coke whenever i'm at a bar, just because it's a non-confusing, no-questions-needed-about-it's-preparation drink that would embarass my uncultured self.

is gin and tonic something i can just walk up, order with a quick statement at any bar, leave a quick tip and payment for, and swagger away with?
posted by lotsofno at 9:18 PM on January 2, 2005

lotsofno -- for sure. I'm not a big fan of G&Ts, but a friend I go out with often only orders that and she does exactly what you described.
posted by Zosia Blue at 9:19 PM on January 2, 2005

This is a great question and a great thread.
posted by orange clock at 9:29 PM on January 2, 2005

Here's what I do: first choose beer, mixed drink, or the good stuff. Call me insecure about my sexuality if you must, but no wine at bars for men. Save it for home or dinner. My choice depends on where I am, how many drinks I plan to have, how much I care about smelling like booze, and whom I'm with.

If I go mixed drink, I always stick with the same type of booze, and usually the same drink. I tend to latch on to a drink for a few months or more at a time. Most recently, it's been redbull and vodka or jager. I know it probably doesn't reflect well, but for a guy who's expecting a long night and tends to get sleepy with lots of booze, it's perfect -- a very balanced buzz that keeps my energy levels where I like them. I'd recommend avoiding complicated drinks, as the more complicated, the less likely you'll get it to your liking and the more you come off as fastidious. And I second Sidhedevil's advice about mid-line liquors in cocktails. Past favorites for me besides the standard stuff: kamikazes or vodka gimlets, kalua and coke, white russians (don't like mixing dairy and booze but in honor of the dude...).

If it's the good stuff, then single malt scotch (I like Macallan & Glenmorangie for all-around good and common at bars), or a quality tequila (I like Casa Noble's crystal). Always neat.
posted by drpynchon at 9:31 PM on January 2, 2005

People that know me know I have no shame.

Don't believe him. At the mefi gathering he made *me* go to the bar and order his Shirley Temple. He has shame aplenty.

If you're worried about what bartenders will think of you, the most important rule, as described to me by the bartender who taught the professional drinking class they offer on Royal Caribbean cruises, is "know what the hell you want and order it properly." So if you're ordering a mixed drink, know what the options are and specify them up front - rocks, twist, dirty, shaken, brand of liquor you want (you can ask what their call brands are if you want to know what your options are), etc. Don't make the bartender drag that information out of you like a waiter trying to figure out what kind of dressing you want and whether you want chives on your baked potato.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:46 PM on January 2, 2005

Hey jacquilynne, nice to meet you again! I sure am thirsting for another Shirley Temple again... :-D

Let me say thanks anyways (again). :)
posted by shepd at 9:48 PM on January 2, 2005

This question might be of assistance.
posted by milovoo at 9:50 PM on January 2, 2005

Mezcal. And Shiner Bock if you can get it. (South of Pennsylvania in the U.S.) Cosmos are pretty good too, even though I feel like I should be a female character on "Sex and the City." Glenfiddich for when you're feeling tony.
posted by Snyder at 10:06 PM on January 2, 2005

Response by poster: Milovoo, thanks. Note that that thread won't show up on a search for "cocktail", but only "cocktails". I'll make a note of Google's pickyness.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 10:17 PM on January 2, 2005

Black Russians.

posted by pompomtom at 10:28 PM on January 2, 2005

Springbank. Springbank. Springbank. Also, Springbank.

I just had some on NYE and it is my new alcohol-boyfriend. I love the Springbank.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:33 PM on January 2, 2005

One thing that I haven't seen mentioned here is the geographic region for which the question's being asked. For instance, in Portland, a good microbrew is socially acceptable at any time. The same would not be true of a club in Los Angeles or New York. In Portland, men can drink wine while out at a more quiet bar and not have their sexuality questioned. (Sports bar might be pushing it, though.) I think a lot depends on what region of the country you're in.
posted by SpecialK at 10:39 PM on January 2, 2005

Response by poster: Good point SpecialK, and noted. By far the majority of my drinking is while I'm traveling on business, which takes me plenty of places. I'm not particularly *worried* about appearances as I am curious about what the denotations are. And, of course, curious as to what's out there that I haven't tried. So, normally I'm at some airport/hotel bar, which seems to be rather low on the scale. Not that I'm a bar connoisseur, but there are things that even I can figure out. I'm glad my first x.mefi post garnered such a great response--I guess I should go get a drink and celebrate or something....
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 10:51 PM on January 2, 2005

I drink rarely and in moderation, and it's only in the last few years I've gotten away from fouf drinks, so take what I say with a few grains of coarse salt (Girl Drink Drunk is one of my all-time favorites kimota, yay). My choices are contingent on the quality of the bar (I really hate the taste of concentrate juices, so I order juice drinks only in good bars, and if the house wine is two-dollar ass, forget it, etc.), the bar volume (the louder you have to shout the name of your drink, the simpler it should be), whether the bar has a traditional must-try kind of drink (can you even order anything in McSorely's besides ale?) and my mood. The older I get, the more I find that it's the kind of bar and the level of its din that really determines the drink I order. I also order in a seasonal way, with a general rule of light or white drinks for hot weather, dark drinks for cold. so with all that in mind, here's my usual menu:

Winter: white or black russians, coffee with kahlua, manhattans, red wines (Australian or California shiraz)

Spring: gin and tonic with lime, unless I'm feeling like a gin hater, in which case, a screwdriver (vodka and orange juice), margaritas on ice with salt

Summer: Cape cods (vodka and cranberry), cosmopolitans, mimosas (champagne and orange juice), light beer with lemonade (which sounds absolutely foul, except it's not), Tecate

Fall: Good beer (if you're drinking Guinness you have nothing to be ashamed of), red wine

I dislike whiskeys, but I like to see other people thoughtfully sip them. In a good bar, I occasionally order a taster's glass of something that I think I'll like or just to check if I still hate what I think I hate, and that's a good way to expand your palate.

On preview: airport bars, ewww, depressing. Too much light, too much CNN -- why waste a good drink on trying to improve the unimprovable? Stick with simple drinks.
posted by melissa may at 11:13 PM on January 2, 2005

Another lightweight. I like bourbon straight up because I hate it and can nurse one all night. Drinkers tend to get depressed and surly if you tell them you won't join them and I don't want to be anti-social. So when drinking is called for, bourbon's my poison. Wood preservative with a hint of furniture polish. I can't believe anyone actually likes it.
posted by TimeFactor at 11:58 PM on January 2, 2005

A Shirley Temple is lemon-lime soda with grenadine

In my experience, a Shirley Temple has been ginger ale with grenadine.
posted by redfoxtail at 4:39 AM on January 3, 2005

This is such an interesting thread! Even though I said earlier that you should drink what you want and damn the appearances, as being confident is cooler than worrying about what people think, I have to admit some of the answers here have revealed some of my prejudices. I think a lot of it has to do with age, but if I were on a date, say, I would laugh at a man who thinks drinking wine is effeminate, or who ordered anything with Jaegermeister. (There are dive bars where I wouldn't think of ordering wine, but that's different.)

Personally, I love Irish whiskeys and single malt scotches in the winter and vodka sodas in the summer. I think martinis are the "coolest" drink, but can't drink them because I can't abide gin (and because I'm a snob who thinks a vodka martini is blasphemy). I love mojitos, but only in Latin restaurants. And my all time favorite is a whiskey sour (no fruit) because it tastes good and has a pleasant aura of old fashionedness.
posted by CunningLinguist at 5:46 AM on January 3, 2005

I'm a snob who thinks a vodka martini is blasphemy

posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:28 AM on January 3, 2005

Good beer, single malts, caipirinhas (yum) in a Brazilian joint. I used to love gin and tonics until I overdid it one night and woke up reeking of gin -- a long hot shower did nothing to dispel the cloud of ginreek, and I had to go to work that way and lie down for a while in the break room before I could even pretend to work. That kind of put the kibosh on g&ts for a while.
posted by languagehat at 7:40 AM on January 3, 2005

The article is for subscribers only, but Nerve once ran an article asking female bartenders what assumptions they made about guys based on their drink orders. The main point, if I remember, was that Maker's Mark neat was hot (mainly because that's what all the bartenders drank). Anything overly complicated or overly fussy was not.

This is relevant only if image is *really* important. Or if you drink Maker's Mark neat anyway and like to feel superior. Which, sometimes, I do.
posted by occhiblu at 7:57 AM on January 3, 2005

I'm a beer drinker, nay, beer-snob, so only go for Rum and Cokes when the beer selection of a bar is below average.

Despite that, beer choice for me tends to be about the right drink for the right environment. So it could be a Pabster or a Utopias or whatever, provided it fits the mood.

I've been pondering dipping my toes into single malts, but have little idea of whence to start.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:19 AM on January 3, 2005

Bourbon, neat. Maker's or Knob Creek.

In a real working-class place, a shot and a beer (Jack Daniels and cheap domestic draft.) And another round. And do this for us one more time, please. Etc.

(When I was living down South and working for a high-tech company, I once took a crew of visiting Japanese businessmen out honky-tonking, introduced them to the shot-and-a-beer-and-Hank-Williams-on-the-jukebox thing, and thought I'd never get them out of the place.)
posted by enrevanche at 8:20 AM on January 3, 2005

Milk in a dirty glass...
posted by fixedgear at 8:56 AM on January 3, 2005

Well, I've just deleted a small essay, and now I will try to re-address your real question as concisely as possible, and stick to the most typical traditions.

Western Traditional (globally speaking):

Drinking in the morning (to early afternoon)
: bloody mary; screwdriver; champagne (esp. mimosa)

Drinking in the afternoon-to early evening
: beer, wine, martini, gimlet, gin/vodka-tonic

Drinking at night
: whiskey (esp. Scotch whisky or Irish whiskey), bourbon, and by typical standards, just about everything - so, way too much to go into.

Drinking after-dinner: cognac, brandy, etc. (stuff like Amaretto, for example)

As for mixed drinks, it's maybe more typical to order "white" drinks in warmer climates or seasons (gin, rum, tequila, vodka) and darker drinks (Scotch whisky, Irish whiskey, bourbon) in colder countries/seasons.

If the occasion is festive, champagne is always a good choice.

What your drink says about you is also just too much to address, but if you want to order something really safe, and the place is somewhat upscale, a single malt Scotch whisky, either straight up (neat), or on the rocks, with a water back, will never be strange. In more pub-like places, beer is probably the best choice.

Personally, I've been an educated drink-eccentric who has loved breaking most of the rules, creatively... But this is a story for another thread.
posted by taz at 9:03 AM on January 3, 2005 [1 favorite]

Very nice and affirming to say 'drink what you want, and damn the torpedoes'; but your choice of drink does reflect on you when observed by those who know drinks.

Think of it as you do clothing. Certainly you're free to wear what you want and who gives a shit what anybody else thinks; but in practice, most of us choose our garments from a range of clothing that is acceptable in our culture; is calculated to signal certain values (which might include conformity, inconoclasm, urbanity, and others); and that we like. Think of your drink choices the same way. Drink what you like, but be aware of, and have control over, the image projected by your choice. Because drinking does carry social messages, and does act as a transmitter of the way you see yourself, your choices aren't entirely meaningless.
posted by Miko at 10:33 AM on January 3, 2005

I drink microbrews almost exclusively partly because I love beer, and partly because in my small city of Asheville, there are five microbrewerys and a plethora of other good beers available. Except in my favorite dive, where I drink PBR or Yuengling. I rarely order mixed drinks in bars and agree with what everyone else has already said about matching the drink to the bar in question (in airports and on planes, I drink bloodies, have no idea why) but if you want a mixed drink, I think the simpler, the better. Bourbon & soda, vodka & tonic - it's straightforward.

However, FWIW, my mother did tell me when I was about 16 and starting to go to bars (don't ask) that a lady never orders a drink with a funny name, and that you are less likely to be sold into white slavery if you order a beer in a bottle and insist that it is opened at your table. So you had better keep that in mind too; god knows I always do!
posted by mygothlaundry at 11:41 AM on January 3, 2005

Here's the "impressions" I get about people from their drinks:

Women drinking white wine in bars look prissy to me, unless they're over 60. Women drinking complicated umbrella drinks look like sorority presidents, unless they're with a big group of other women obviously out for a silly good time. A group of middleaged women drinking Mudslides or something like that makes me want to run in the other direction as fast as I can.

Men drinking white wine in bars look gay to me, unless it's actually a wine bar and they're having some kind of complicated vintage Sancerre. Men drinking complicated umbrella drinks or anything with a silly name look gay to me, unless they're under 30 and with a woman they're obviously trying to get into bed (note: this strategy does not succeed, and she will instead go home with the guy who orders Maker's Mark or a microbrew).

Other than that, nothing people drink really stands out to me. Except for frozen drinks (only to be drunk poolside or at Spring Break). And I do think it looks weird when straight men order Cosmopolitans.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:32 PM on January 3, 2005

Oh, and women over 30 shouldn't drink beer from the bottle unless they're wearing jeans. There is something really really unpleasant looking about an adult businesswoman in a skirt suit drinking beer from the bottle.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:33 PM on January 3, 2005

Sometimes I demand the most degrading drink of all - vodka and coke. Screw them. It's my money.

I can't stop laughing.
posted by Witty at 12:59 PM on January 3, 2005

I've been pondering dipping my toes into single malts, but have little idea of whence to start.

I'd suggest Glenlivet, which has an excellent ratio of value to price -- people sometimes think too little of it because it was the first single malt generally available in America and when they graduated to other (not always better) whiskys they looked down on their humble beginnings, but it never stopped being a damn good drink. Also, it doesn't have the strong peat/smoke flavors of the Islay malts I favor (Lagavulin being the greatest thing ever put in a bottle), which put a lot of people off. For a "mild" whisky that's truly excellent, I highly recommend Cragganmore. And if you get into Scotch, you'll want a copy of Michael Jackson's Complete Guide to Single Malt Scotch, which has good descriptions and ratings that match my experience of the whiskys themselves. Have fun!
posted by languagehat at 3:44 PM on January 3, 2005

Vodka on the rocks works well. I like Absolut Mandarin. A juice drink I had the other night that I quite liked and had a complex but mild flavor was called a Pom-tini and it had:

1 part pomegranate juice
1.5 parts vodka
1.5 parts grapefruit juice
0.5 parts Rose's lime
0.5 parts sweet and sour mix

Shaken and served in a martini glass (I tried it on the rocks, too).
posted by bz at 4:52 PM on January 3, 2005

For home, I like tawny ports- Taylor Fladgate is especially tasty, as there is little in the world like floompfing into my big leather chair, fire going, and a crystal glass of 20-year tawny to sip on. Tawny ports have a delightful taste, complex, lots of "hints" of various flavors like chocolates and coffees and nuts and berries, etc. It's like wine, if wine didn't taste bitter.

For going out, fuck you all. I'm a hetero male with enough testosterone to knock out a full grown bull, I like football and porno and books about war... and dammit, I order fruity drinks with 3 types of alcohol and 4 types of juice. And it's awesome- I get more buzz from one of my girly drinks than you do with your 8 belly-filling pints of piss-beer. It's because alcohol, excepting really expensive stuff, tastes like shit. It burns the throat, or tastes bitter, etc. Maybe I have tastebuds you all don't, but who cares? The whole point is to get buzzed and loose, and why would you do that having to make the bitter [beer or other alcohol of your choice] face the whole time?

BTW, the Surfer on Acid is an excellent, refreshing drink, and is not just jaeger, pineapple, and malibu- it also has peach schnapps and cranberry juice. And it's the bomb! Long island iced teas, "normal" as well as with midori or raspberry liquers are good too. I invented one drink (or thought I did, since I've since googled it) called the JaegerRita which is tasty- make like a margarita, but hold the salted rim and use jaeger instead of tequila. Anything with vodka is always good.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm gonna go smoke a cigar, play some poker, put on some Sinatra, then fuck a prostitute.
posted by hincandenza at 5:04 PM on January 3, 2005

hincandenza, people drink beer, Scotch, Bourbon, etc., because they like the way it tastes.

To me, a Muddy Frosty Nipple Screw tastes like moldy cotton candy.

This is why bars serve more than one drink.

However, I'm still going to think you're gay if you order a Blue Fuzzy Sex on the Sloe Comfortable Slide.
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:11 PM on January 3, 2005

I don't know where this business about drinking seasonally comes from. There are only two drinks I can think of that have seasonal connotations: mint juleps and egg nog. Everything else is fair game at any time.
posted by jjg at 5:41 PM on January 3, 2005

I've been pondering dipping my toes into single malts, but have little idea of whence to start.

Um, I'd try with a different body part...perhaps the tongue?

More seriously, try checking out this site and this site. Both are well-written guides to cocktails, and they'll give you a good idea of the connotations of various drinks.
posted by Vidiot at 7:17 PM on January 3, 2005

Way Late to the Party, but this is a great thread, and by coincidence I was in the midst of Silkworm's Firewater album when I started reading it. Also, see Whit Stillman's nice distillation of this theme in Last Days of Disco.

Safetyfork likes the whiskey or beer at the bars. At home, whatever you bring over is fine, but there will be beer in the fridge and whiskey on the shelf.
posted by safetyfork at 3:05 PM on January 6, 2005

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