It’s the question asked at a million bars across the world at every hour all year long: “What’ll you have?” A person’s poison of choice is a very personal preference. And career bartenders will tell you it also says a lot about who a patron is and where their values lie. Sean, a longtime South Beach bartender who’s worked at various venues on and off the mainland, says he likes regulars who order the same drink each time they stop in. “They know what they like,” he says. “I respect that…even if they order Appletinis, Piña Coladas and Miami Vices every time.” But he and other bartenders around town do have their gripes. Ever order a drink because you heard it in a rap song or saw it in a movie? Don’t answer that. Either way, stereotypes are made to be broken, shaken and stirred. Don’t worry about what everyone else around you is drinking — when you shimmy up to the bar order what you really want. It’s not OK, however, to mix-and-match your preferences in one sitting. You want a cold beer, keep them coming. If it’s a wine and dine kinda night, don’t stray from the fermented grapes. Anyone who’s ever started off with rum, moved on to vodka, followed up with a few splashes of wine or champagne and ended with a shot of tequila for good measure will tell you they regret it, can’t remember half the night — and will never drink again. Long Island Ice Tea, anyone?
Don’t ask your bartender this: “What do you recommend?” Everyone’s taste is different. Do ask this: “Do you have a special drink you’ve created that’s not on the menu – I’ll have one of those.” This is the Holy Grail of orders for bartenders, most will happily mix you up a drink so good you’ll keep coming back for more.
Try to avoid asking: “What beer do you have?” The list is probably too long to recite in one breath. Do this instead: Quickly scan the beer on tap and the beer bottles displayed in the cooler behind the bar and see if any catch your eye.
Treat your bartender with respect. Look them in the eye when ordering and say thanks when the drink arrives. You’d be surprised how many people don’t do this. If the bar isn’t too busy, take the opportunity to introduce yourself and strike up a conversation. You may end up with the drinking buddy you’ve always dreamed of.