So you think you know about cocktails. They have alcohol and you like them.
But there is so much more to it!
Technically a cocktail is a drink with sugar, water, spirits, and bitters. Though a more modern definition is a spirit a mixer, and bitters or other flavoring. Whereas a rum and coke is a highball, or just an alcohol and a mixer. They are called highballs because they are served in a tall, highball, glass.
Other ways to take your alcohol are neat (just the spirit, in a glass), “on the rocks” (just the spirit, over ice), straight (just the spirit, chilled), or up (in a stemmed glass- a martini “straight up” would be a chilled martini in a stemmed glass). A fun way to refer to a measurement of alcohol is by fingers. If you put your finger up to the bottom of the glass and pour enough alcohol into the glass to reach the top of the finger, it’s about one ounce of alcohol, then you can ask for one finger, two fingers, etc. If you are a jokester, you can put your pointer finger and pinky finger out and call THAT two fingers, ha-ha.
There are generally two designations of spirits: top shelf and well. Top shelf is the premium expensive liquor and well is the least expensive. It took me a couple of years of going to bars in college to figure out what well meant. Usually any happy hour specials will note that they apply to well drinks. And that is generally what you will get if you ask for a whiskey and ginger or whatever. If you have a preference, you will have to specify it, or the bartender may ask.
How to stock a bar
To create most basic cocktails, your home bar should have:
- Vermouth (both white and red)
- Mixers (should include plain club soda or seltzer, coke, 7up, ginger ale)
- Short glasses (rocks glass)
- Tall glasses (highballs)
- Wine glasses
- Stemmed cocktail glass (a martini glass)
- Champagne flutes
- Cocktail shaker
- Ice bucket/tongs
- Jigger (you can use a regular shot glass too)
Good beginner drinks
Highballs are a great introduction to drinker liquor because they are fairly sweet and diluted. Rum and coke, whiskey and coke, whiskey and ginger ale, 7&7 (bourbon and 7up), cranberry vodka, pineapple vodka, etc are all good choices.
When you want to move up to something a bit more sophisticated, whiskey sours and margaritas.
It’s also a great idea to have something fancy and mature in your pocket for when you might be taken out to a really nice cocktail bar. Of course, it’s great if they have a menu you can pick off of, but a Manhattan, Old Fashioned, or French 75 will impress.
Knowing what everything is and knowing what you like to drink is the cornerstone of drinking etiquette, but there are a few more tips to keep in mind:
- Don’t whistle at or snap your fingers at a bartender. Be patient and they will get to you.
- Have your order ready when they do get to you.
- Running a tab means that you hand over your credit card and they keep track of what you are drinking and then you settle up at the end of the night. Many bars have a minimum you have to spend to run a tab. When you run a tab, you add the tip at the end.
- If you are paying in cash, you pay when you receive each drink. Tip a dollar or two per drink each time.
- Don’t get belligerent. If the bartender cuts you off, accept it. Relatedly, just don’t get THAT drunk anyway (but these things happen, I know.)