For many of us, a formal and detailed introduction to the many kinds and types of liquor isn’t as pronounced as we’d hoped it would be. In fact, there’s a high chance our alcohol-drinking knowledge consists mostly of college memories and nights out with friends during our younger, more memorable years.
That said, a little education on the basics of liquor never hurt anyone; especially anyone wanting to go to the bar after a long time. Depending on who you’re with, not knowing enough drinks and alcohol slang can be embarrassing. Saying you want your beverage shaken after being asked if you prefer Gin to Vodka isn’t something you’d want to experience. So how exactly do you go about this hubbub?
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Asking questions doesn’t make you a fool
We’re all wired to want to look good and well-informed, but pretending to know things when you clearly don’t is way more distressing and shameful. You could feel stupid asking questions, but you’d look even more stupid when you respond to something wrong just because you didn’t get it.
Here are a few questions you should never ask or say to a bartender:
You didn’t fill my glass.
If it’s wine, it’s never going to be full. This is so your glass has enough room for it to move around, so you can smell it. The only time you’re ever going to see a glass full of wine is with Tyrion Lannister. And there’s a high chance that’s never going to happen in real life. What’s great about wines is that there are so many affordable options, and not all of them are incredibly expensive.
Do you have anything cheap?
Liquor is naturally expensive. Because drinks are generally part of gatherings, the idea is that you’re willing to splurge to have fun. Still, words are powerful and how you phrase your thoughts can make or break you. Asking, “what are your specials?” is always better than “what’s cheap here?”
While holding up a menu and pointing to the price of a drink you can afford, a classy way to navigate through the price department is asking, “Do you have drinks similar to this?”
Pick up the bar jargon
Yes, we encourage you to be brave in asking questions. But this doesn’t give you a convenient license to not do your homework at the very least. Here are a few words and phrases that may come in handy when speaking to a bartender or waiter at the bar:
On the rocks: consider this to be an idiom for ice, because on the rocks refers to ordering our drinks with ice. If for whatever reason you don’t want ice, “straight-up” is its opposite term.
Dirty: this isn’t filth per se, but olive juice. When you order a martini and you want your drink to have more olive juice, you call it a Dirty Martini.
Shooter: this talks about drinks meant to be downed in a single gulp.
Neat: similar to ‘straight up,’ but without being refrigerated, a neat drink is a drink that’s straight out of the bottle.
Well drink: this is a smart way of saying, “I don’t mind what liquor brand you serve me, just please give me the cheapest option and use that in my order.”
Back: this refers to a small glass with another beverage to help balance your main drink. This can be juice, water, or a soda.
A pro-tip is to search in advance what drinks the bar you’re visiting is serving. This may sound pretty basic, but knowing what liquor is available at a bar you’re going to, makes you look and feel cultured. Check out their beer, wine, and cocktail list. If something is unfamiliar, Google your way to a drunken night.
Don’t forget the basics
This can be overwhelming and possibly too much to take in all at once, so if you’re in the learning mood, feel free to copy-paste this on your phone’s notes section.
There is a wide array of beers to select from, depending on what temperature they’re brewed on, how they’re fermented and so on. Wine isn’t any different in that regions, grapes, and methods also help define a wine’s overall eloquence. There may be a lot to cover, so this article aims to provide you the basics at the bar. Check these out:
IPAs: this acronym stands for India Pale Ales. IPAs have a distinct, “hoppy” taste and can be very bitter to anyone who isn’t used to this kind of flavor. Everyone mostly says it’s an acquired taste, but people who’ve learned to love beer also love a good IPA.
Ciders: similar to beer but with fruit-like wine, ciders are fermented with yeast. This can be a treat to anyone who isn’t fond of wine or beer, simply because ciders are sweet. If this drink is too sweet for you liking, try snakebite—beer mixed with cider.
Merlot: anyone who knows wine knows merlot is a crowd-pleaser. It’s a juicy drink with strong hints of cherry and chocolate.
Cabaret Sauvignon: Still under the wine family, Cabaret Sauvignon carries a more aged, more aggressive flavor. Wine snobs may find the merlot a little too simple, so to anyone big on wine, this drink is a little more promising.
Wheat beer: in all of the beer family, wheat beers are typically easier to down because they’re not packed with the distinct beer flavor. Witbiers and hefeweizens are subtypes of this category and they get their labels from their brewing process.
Gin and tonic and whiskey soda: perhaps the most standard in this list are these ones. You can get whiskey with whatever soda is available or gin with tonic water. It’s pretty basic: fizzy drink + liquor. You can swap this out with generally any kind of liquor. Looking for Vodka? A Vodka Soda should do the trick. Want bourbon instead? A bourbon soda doesn’t disappoint, too. It’s really up to you.
More than anything else, drinking has become a strong facet in the equation of socializing; whether meeting with friends or out on a date, knowing your drink and what it’s made of never hurt anyone.