Two expert mixologists weigh in on the cocktails you should avoid when going out on the town.
It’s your money, and you should spend it however you please, but there are a few things to consider when ordering a drink at a bar. Some cocktails contain far more alcohol than a customer might think, while others are pure sugar bombs. If it’s busy, asking for a time-consuming tipple is a sure-fire way to annoy the bartender. Keeping these factors in mind and with the help of two excellent New York City bartenders, we’ve rounded up 10 drinks you should never order at a bar.
1. Long Island Iced Tea
“This is a drink with a bad reputation because of its strength,” says Sean McClure, the beverage director for the Ivory Peacock in New York City. And it’s true. Vodka, rum, gin, tequila, and triple sec all in one cocktail might seem like a good idea if you’re trying to get the best bang for your buck, but it ultimately has far too much alcohol for one concoction. However, if you insist on ordering it, McClure advises that you get just one, otherwise “you’ll end up in trouble.”
2. Ramos Gin Fizz
While Trevor Easton Langer, the head bartender for New York City’s Bar Calico, agrees that “it’s your money, do what you want with it,” he also points out that customers “should be situationally aware” and that a labor-intensive tipple like the Ramos gin fizz — which requires egg whites and lots of shaking — can “slow down the entire service.” If it’s a quiet night, go for it, but “when it’s busy, time is money.”
This one comes with a few caveats. If you’re in Cuba, where the mojito originated, order the drink. If the bar has all the necessary tools and is frequently running through fresh mint, then yes, absolutely. Otherwise, the key herb required for this cocktail has a limited shelf life and carries bacteria when spoiled. And, just like the Ramos gin fizz, it’s a time-consuming cocktail that requires muddling, so keep that in mind, too, if you want something delivered quickly.
4. Frozen Drinks
Sure, they’re nice and refreshing on a hot day or seem to be the appropriate choice while you’re lying on the beach, but frozen daiquiris, coladas, and the like are usually packed with juices and mixers. If you’re trying to limit your sugar intake, these icy cocktails aren't ideal. Plus, the overbearing sweetness tends to mask the taste of alcohol, and you could end up drinking more than you intended to.
Let’s be frank, we’re not in the ‘90s anymore and our drinks should neither taste like a Jolly Rancher nor look like a radioactive substance. Unless you’re at a fancy bar where the Appletini is made with fresh Granny Smith apples, it’s time to leave these in the past.
6. Bloody Mary
While a few bars have transformed this perennial brunch favorite into an evening cocktail, the majority have not. “The mise en place is probably not even on the bar if you’re ordering this outside of brunch hours,” says McClure. So avoid ordering a bloody mary at any other time, unless you see it on the menu, otherwise you’ll likely get a drink with an awful pre-made mix or a very irritated bartender.
7. New York Sour
Like the Ramos gin fizz, the New York sour is another laborious drink that shouldn’t be ordered if the bar is slammed. The cocktail is topped with a red wine float that can become a total mess when not properly poured. It also requires a fruity red wine, like a shiraz or malbec, and won’t taste how it’s meant to if the bartender doesn’t have the right vino on hand.
8. A “Surprise”
If you tell any good bartender to “surprise” you, they’ll follow that request up with questions about what spirit or flavor profiles you enjoy. If you can properly convey what you like in a drink, great. Otherwise, don’t expect them to be mind readers.
9. Curdled Shots
If you’re thinking of ordering a "cement mixer" or an "alien brain hemorrhage" at a bar, just don’t. "They are just gross and belong in a college dorm,” McClure admonishes. (They also have an exceedingly unpleasant texture.) Whether you're at a classic dive bar or a coveted cocktail establishment, leave the pranks at home.
10. Flaming Shots
In the age of Instagram, fire certainly has a wow factor, but it’s also dangerous. McClure admits that the visual effects of flames are cool in cocktails, but he has also seen people burn themselves on shot glasses that inevitably absorb the heat. Steer clear.
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