Wine & Spirits

Bartender Wisdom: Finding Your Drink

Why finding a cocktail is like finding a date—and how to get a bartender to be your matchmaker.

Bradstreet Crafthouse Bar
Photo by Katherine Harris

I like to think of bartenders as a dating service for people and cocktails. Follow these simple rules, and you and your drink should live happily ever after.

Never apologize for ordering a vodka martini instead of something from the specialty list. I’m quick to let people know that I’m more than happy to make them the best one they’ve ever had!  

Don’t feel you need to “convert” to the bartender’s favorite drink. It chaps my hide when a bartender suggests a personal favorite without asking the guest what he or she likes. Some bartenders try to persuade people toward what’s hot, and they do this with the best intentions, but there’s a big difference between politely suggesting and trying to force something on a guest who isn’t comfortable with it.

Bartenders are not mind readers, so give them a couple of clues about what you like and don’t like. It might be your feelings for a certain spirit or something as simple as the flavors you like the most: salty, sweet, bitter, or citrusy. You could be thinking you’d like a cocktail in a martini glass and assume we automatically know this, but we don’t. Offering up a few of your preferences, as opposed to just saying “make me your best cocktail,” will help us make you happy, because that’s really the most important thing!

Johnny Michaels is a DrinkMaker and creator of some of the best cocktail programs in town. Follow him on Twitter: @JohnnyPMichaels.