Photo: Christopher Winton-Stahle [Getty Images]
Bellying up to a packed bar can be very intimidating for some people. Even if you’re just ordering for yourself, you want to get it right because it’ll be pretty difficult to wade through the seemingly un-ending crowd to ask for a different drink. Plus, who wants to tell a bartender that they didn’t enjoy the drink that was prepared for them? If you panic and order a gin & tonic even though you don’t particularly care for the juniper-based spirit, you’re probably going to be fairly annoyed and defeated as you walk back to the table your friends somehow managed to post up in. And you’re probably just going to suck it up and drink it.
Stepping into a bar can cause serious social anxiety for some people. It can also make even the coolest person feel like the new kid in town when they screw up an order or go blank when a bartender asks them what they want. Since we want to help make your next trip to the bar easier, we asked some of our favorite bartenders to tell us what drinks to order to look like you’ve been there before and what we can do to look like coolest people at the people at the bar (as if that really even matters). Check out all of their answers below.
“A savvy guest knows where they are. Confidence is what exudes cool. Are you at BOA? Order the Barrel-aged Manhattan or a beautiful old Scotch and own that classic gentleman drink. James Bond started trends, so can you. If you happen to be at a Mexican Restaurant, order a special tequila that will blow your date’s mind. Try ‘Dos Artes Extra Anejo.’ or basically any Reposado Tequila in a snifter will do.At a dive bar? Order a nice Bourbon and a beer. You can’t go wrong with a beer and a shot. Bourbon is so highly regulated, they are all basically great.” – Tara Shadzi, bartender at BOA Steakhouse in West Hollywood, California
“Looking like an insider or friend of the bar is definitely the ‘coolest’ look. If you know your bartender’s preferred shot of choice chances are they’ll join you in a round (don’t be creepy and they might even buy yours). Being friends with your bartender is pretty cool. But christ’s sake don’t try to be the coolest person at the bar. That’s never cool.” – Jeff Donahue, partner at Leisure Activities in Chicago
“Being ‘cool’ is a state of being, so to ‘look like the coolest person at the bar’ we suggest consulting with your friends to have your order completely ready and then approach the bar with confidence and deliver the order quickly, confidently, with a smile and a thank you… good ordering manners always make a person look like a pro, hence the “coolest” and of course leaving a tip for good service is the final pro move.” – Christy Pope, co-owner of Midnight Rambler in Dallas
“Smoked cocktails are making quite a scene in the mixology realm, so I suggest our guests here at JW El Convento Cusco try the Smoked Chocolate Old Fashioned. The chocolate is actually sourced from the nearby Quillabamba region and the preparation alone, which takes about 10 minutes to complete, will have other bar guests hypnotized and asking about the drink. Not to mention, the look and feel of the cocktail once you take that first sip is a completely new experience.” – Freddy Poccori, head mixologist at JW Marriott El Convento Cusco in Peru
“This doesn’t exist. If you’re ordering something based on its cool-factor you need to reassess your values.” – Will Benedetto Cocktail Curator at In Good Company Hospitality in New York City
“Bourbon is trendier than ever, and one cocktail you should be drinking at the bar right now is an Old Fashioned. A beautiful, brown, spirit-forward cocktail sitting with a large, sexy ice cube is certain to draw attention. My favorite cocktail – and one that many might be curious about — is a Pisco Sour or any cocktail incorporating egg white. The attractive foam that sits on top is guaranteed to turn heads and provoke questions.” – David Bouchard, beverage director at THE REGIONAL Kitchen & Public House in Downtown West Palm Beach, Florida
“I think it’s cool when a woman orders a high end scotch. For someone looking to impress colleagues or dates, I would order a vintage Old Fashioned or a Sazerac, two classic cocktails that the average person wouldn’t necessarily know. (A vintage Old Fashioned is just unprocessed sugar, bitters, and bourbon, unlike the modern which has muddled orange and cherry.) My least favorite cocktails to make are modern Old Fashioneds and Mojitos.” – Andrew Babin, bartender at Public Belt at Hilton New Orleans Riverside
“The ‘Redhead in Bed’ – the color is vibrant with muddled strawberries and topped with Prosecco. When you see it, it’s bright and refreshing, topped with a fresh garnish – it looks great on the patio so anyone with it definitely looks cool.” – Danny Pro, bar manager at Jack & Ginger’s Irish Pub in Austin, Texas
“To be the coolest person at the bar ordering a classic scotch sour (with an egg white) would be highly effective. It tends to be an eye opener for less experienced imbibers and is the best way of drinking a cocktail they are most likely already familiar with, but maybe haven’t experienced. My guests always love when I introduce them to cocktail and explain to them why adding that egg white really makes this cocktail amazing.” – James Urycki, mixologist at Travelle Kitchen + Bar in Chicago
“Order a Negroni. It’s an easy pick-up for any bartender and shows you have some knowledge of what you’re getting into. It’s Italian and chic with a level of simple sophistication that we all have access to. I’m not particularly fond of bitter cocktails, but it’s just too suave and debonair to NOT have one.” – Mikey Diehl beverage director at Drexler’s in New York City