Cocktail bar etiquette: 11 tips from Baijiu's cocktail expert
Once upon a time, young Chad Helm was at a classy rooftop event in New York, in a room full of acquaintances he wanted to impress. This particular event had a featured drink, which happened to be an Aperol Spritz, though young Chad didn’t know that.
He was mixing and mingling, Aperol Spritz in hand, oblivious to the type of drink he was enjoying but making a good impression otherwise.
As he walked up to the bar to get a second drink, he blanked. Unsure of what he was drinking--but sure he wanted another one--Chad stood at the bar in silence for just a few seconds too long.
A fellow event patron rolled his eyes and chimed in--perhaps out of pity or out of impatience--and told him it was in fact an Aperol Spritz. Cloaked in shame, Chad spent the rest of the night sheepishly wandering around the venue, hoping no one else could tell that he had no idea what he was doing.
Luckily, Chad’s cocktail bar etiquette has improved since then, but this is not a terribly uncommon occurrence. No matter how many cocktails you’ve consumed in your life, chances are, you’ll encounter a situation you’re not entirely familiar with.
Listen to André and don’t make the same mistakes Chad made
We’d love to help you avoid the kind of embarrassment Chad endured. If you’ve ever been unsure about how to behave or what to order at a bar, we’ve got the answers, thanks Baijiu’s cocktail expert and bar manager André Bober.
How to order cocktails like a gentleman
Whether you’re on a first date or meeting a boss, there are some general rules to follow to make sure you’re making the best impression possible at a cocktail bar. Here are André's tips to help you order with confidence.
1. Be confident, but not cocky
No matter what you order, order and drink it with confidence. If it’s not exactly what you were expecting, don’t let it throw you off. That being said, don’t pretend you know what you don’t know.
“If you’re new to the bar scene and you’re a little bit lost, just ask for advice, and chances are we’ll lead you in the right direction.”
2. Appreciate where you are, and order accordingly
When you’re at a cocktail bar, avoid the urge to order your old pub standard. It will either read as a lack of knowledge or a lack of adventure--neither of which is a good look. A lot of work goes into developing the drinks on the menu, and the folks behind the bar likely have a ton of skill. If there’s nothing on the menu you want, choose a specialty beer, a classic cocktail, or see if they can come up with something that suits your tastes.
“If you haven’t even looked at the menu yet, don’t walk up and order a Canadian.”
3. Don’t order something you might hate
If you’re not a big cocktail drinker, stick with something approachable. The last thing you want on a first date or a business meeting is to be making a sour face every time you take a sip. André recommends a whiskey sour or a mint julep if you aren’t sure what you like.
“A mint julep has a little bit of sweetness, and the crushed ice melts with the bourbon. You’re still drinking a spirit-forward cocktail and you can enjoy the bourbon, but it’s very refreshing.”
4. Sit at the bar
A table is good for parties over 3, but if you’re only meeting one or two people, choose to sit at the bar.
“The bar is really great because it can help break the ice. You can interact with the bartender, talk about the spirits behind the bar, and just have some fun.”
5. Don’t touch the bar tools
This may seem like a no-brainer, but don’t play with the bar tools. Not only is it unsanitary, it can also mess with the bartender’s workflow. No one wants to spend their evening with the annoying guy at the bar. And for heaven’s sake, don’t take anything that’s not yours.
“One time a guy was playing the bar tools and I asked him to stop. I walked away to put glasses in the dishwasher, and I came back and all my jiggers were gone.”
6. If you want a martini, order a martini. But if you’re asking for top-shelf liquor, don’t make it dirty.
A martini is a classy choice, but don’t ask for a dirty martini with a top-shelf gin or vodka. It’s a rookie mistake that shows you don’t really know what you’re ordering.
“Hendricks is meant for a shaken cocktail or tonics, not dirty martinis. Once you add in a bunch of olive juice, you won’t taste the difference anyways.”
7. Wait your turn
Don’t be snapping your fingers at a bartender trying to get their attention. It’s rude and it makes you look impatient.
“If you’re at a cocktail joint, it takes time to make some of these drinks. If it’s going to be delicious and worth your time, you might have to wait a couple minutes.”
8. Don’t be afraid of stemmed glassware
If you’re complaining about a drink looking too “feminine,” you’re going to end up looking like a chump. Glassware doesn’t have a gender. No matter what your cocktail is served in, drink it with confidence and you’ll have the rest of the guys in the bar wanting what you’ve got.
“There’s a lot of sexism in glassware. If I give a guy a coup or a glass with a stem, they can get pissed off. But guys were drinking out of these glasses before women were even allowed to drink.”
9. Don’t be a jerk
We know this is an obvious one, but we felt it necessary to include, especially after hearing some of the stories André has. Not only will an unpleasant demeanour make your bartender unhappy, it will also make whomever you’re entertaining for the evening uncomfortable.
“A gentleman is just a nice guy. Be nice.”
10. Don’t get hammered
Another obvious one, but also necessary.
“You’ve gotta keep an eye on someone once they hit six drinks. I’ve seen a guy propose to his girlfriend, and when she got up to kiss him she fell off her stool.”
11. When in doubt, stick with something classic
When you just don't know what to order, André suggests ordering a Boulevardier or a Manhattan.
“They’re all around great classic cocktails.”
Thanks so much to André and the Baijiu team for bestowing their insights upon us! We had a blast. Be sure to check them out in the Mercer Building on 104th Street if you're in the Edmonton area. Good times and good cocktails are guaranteed.