“So, What’ll You Have?”

another option would be to get a hot british guy pretending to be a lame ibanker to buy your drinks but maybe you have to be drinking $20 cocktails for that not sureBars! So alluring. So inviting. So terrifying to the uninitiated, the cash-poor, the afraid-of-doing-something-wrong. When I studied abroad in Denmark, everything about the drinking culture was more relaxed. Kids are allowed to buy alcohol starting at age 15 and virtually the only drunks you see stumbling about or yelling on trains are rowdy visitors over the line from Sweden, about whom Danes roll their eyes.

Once my friends and I stopped at a supermarket for beer on our way to one of Copenhagen’s zillions of parks, where we planned to drink and watch farmers bring sheep in for nighttime grazing. The guy at the check out patiently scanned each bottle and placed it, clinking against its fellows, in our backpack, until the backpack bulged like Santa’s shoulder bag. Finally he looked up at me and said, “ID please?” I gaped at him with the suavity of Urkel. He grinned and said, “Just kidding, welcome to Denmark!”

Bars there provided menus with prices as well as lists of ingredients, which allowed me, as a young 19, to understand what I was ordering. Combinations of words I had heard all my life — whiskey-on-the-rocks, martini-with-a-twist — at last made sense, and I could see which ones were more expensive. For the cost of one Long Island Iced Tea, clearly a drink For Tourists Only, you could get two or three local Carlsbergs. Was the price of a Sex on the Beach worth the tawdry thrill of placing an order for one? Only if you were a teenager. I did try something with blue Curacao once, to see if it was worth it. (It didn’t get me laid, so, no.)

I tended to go simpler: a Salty Dog, a glass of wine. Even now, I don’t really have a go-to drink, and it can be a problem when I’m out and some waiter ambushes me, impatience in their eyes, pen in their hand. Lately my impulse has been to say “scotch and soda,” because when traveling last summer I had some killer scotch and got all starry-eyed about it and thought maybe I had found The One. Turns out most scotch is not as good as that was and yet expensive; the other night I had to pay $10 ($12 with tip) for a drink I grimaced at and left on the table.

Mike, when I complained about this, was less than sympathetic. “Well scotch is not a cheap drink. You should have done a vodka collins, or a gin and tonic,” he said. Meaghan concurred; she’s also a G&T type of gal. But I associate those with brunchy mornings outside! They’re a time-specific drink, like a Bloody Mary. What do you drink in the evening that’s not too pricey but good?

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51 Comments / Post A Comment

DalelyDale (#7,363)

I used to be a bourbon neat kinduva gal; however, recently I have switched to either vodka or gin and soda with a lemon or lime in the summer months and in the winter months I prefer bourbon and soda instead.

readyornot (#816)

@DalelyDale My standby drink is absolutely bourbon on the rocks. Used to be Jim Beam, then Maker’s Mark, and now even fancier than that. I do have a friend who says bourbon is scotch for the middle class, but I legitimately prefer some bourbons to some scotch.

I like gin drinks in summer and will have a martini, a gimlet, or a gin and tonic depending on my mood and my estimate of the bartender’s abilities.

DalelyDale (#7,363)

@readyornot Bartender’s abilities always factor in for me as well. As a Kentuckian, I am a tried and true bourbon fan. It’s definitely my pick over whiskey or scotch. As they say, all bourbon is whiskey, but not all whiskey is bourbon. I feel like me adding soda to my drinks now is me getting soft in my old age.

DalelyDale (#7,363)

@readyornot You should try Basil Haydens bourbon! It is a personal favorite of mine!

readyornot (#816)

@DalelyDale I like Basil Hayden’s!

clo (#4,196)

Moscow mule (vodka + ginger beer + lime) or Greyhound (vodka + grapefruit juice)

erinep (#4,236)

@clo yes! I have recently discovered the Moscow mule since it’s the neighborhood brewpub’s “house” cocktail, and wow those are tasty/dangerous.

clo (#4,196)

@erinep ha, right? i was introduced in a similar way and now it’s almost always what i order.

Heather F G (#6,074)

I have never heard of a Salty Dog but it sounds delicious. If you can do bitter, anything with Campari is awesome (Negroni, Boulevardier, Campari and soda… Campari & PBR is actually really good). I’m a HUGGGGE bourbon fan, so a Manhattan or old-fashioned always does the trick for me.

DalelyDale (#7,363)

@Heather F G Nothing beats an old-fashioned. I understand why you love them, Don Draper!

@Heather F G YES. An old fashioned is my go-to cocktail. I’ve had some bad ones but they’re usually pretty hard to mess up.

annecara (#1,914)

I usually drink wine or beer, but my other go-to is a vodka gimlet (vodka + simple syrup + lime juice [or just vodka + Rose's lime juice]). There is also a gin version, but gin disagrees with my tastebuds.

Allison (#4,509)

@annecara ooh, I want to try this.

annecara (#1,914)

@Allison It’s really good! Also really strong. Oddly, I’ve had it served in both martini glasses and rocks glasses in about equal amounts.

sir digby (#7,394)

@annecara I do the same, except with a decent tequila. On the rocks. I don’t know if it’s technically a tequila gimlet. Pleasant buzz and not too expensive, because I can’t usually handle more than 3.

swirrlygrrl (#2,398)

@sir digby Mmmmmm yes. In part because margs are usually way too sweet. Though both of these can be truly vile when someone does not actually use lime juice.

erinep (#4,236)

I tend to go with craft beer, but if I am in the mood for a cocktail and I know the place can make them correctly, I go with a brandy old fashioned sweet. Or a G&T.

flickafly (#4,808)

on the rare occasion that i drink, and if I’m somewhere that’s not a cocktail bar…whiskey and coke or a glass of a non-oaky white wine or a beer (not too hoppy and not a stout unless it’s less than 40F outside)

Liz the Lemur (#3,125)

Usually I go with whatever tap beer I’m in the mood for. However, this strategy works because I usually go to bars that have craft beer on tap. Otherwise usually go for a whiskey ginger or gin and tonic.

Allison (#4,509)

If it’s going to be a long night hanging at a bar/show I like what a learned from a friend: a beer and a shot. The shot gets you buzzed and the beer takes more than 3 seconds to drink. (a mixed drink only lasts about 30 seconds)

Moscow mules and Dark and Stormies (stormys?) are also good. Ideally someone would just hand me a nice bottle of tequila and an entire lime and let me go at it.

@Allison Yes for beer and a shot! It also helps if you’re watching caloric intake – a shot of whiskey is 70 calories and a 12 oz Guinness is 125 calories but takes awhile to drink compared to it’s light beer counterparts. Plus, even the dingiest, least reliable of bars usually has and cannot screw up a shot of Jack and a pint of Guinness.

Aconite (#6,401)

Dark and Stormy! A plus if they have Goslings rum.

LookUponMyWorks (#2,616)

Whiskey on the rocks (ok just one rock) in the winter or a robust red wine. In the summer: G+Ts, cider, bloody marys in the morning, or a great gin dirty martini with at least 3 olives. Yum.

appleaday (#6,367)

@LookUponMyWorks oo I also love all of those drinks. Particularly the dirty gin martini.

LookUponMyWorks (#2,616)

@appleaday Cheers!

sherlock (#3,599)

I went to a college in a dry town (hi Ester!), and as such was pretty ignorant of bar culture until I was much older than 21, even though I was no stranger to drinking. I still cringe remembering the first time I ordered a drink in a bar, with a bunch of coworkers from my internship. We didn’t look at menus or anything, so I asked for “a beer”, and was mortified when the waitress asked if I had anything more specific in mind . . . I blurted out “Heineken” which was probably not a terrible recovery, but man I must have seemed like such a dope.

annecara (#1,914)

@sherlock I promise, it happens to everyone. It happened to me like three months ago! I was so busy deciding if I wanted a 16oz or 20oz that I neglected to tell the waitress which beer I actually wanted in the glass.

@sherlock Hi Sherlock, whoever you are! :) I have had the SAME EXPERIENCE which is why I don’t like to order beer. One time a waitress asked me what kind of beer I was in the mood for and I said, “Something not too hoppy?” and she went whooping down the length of the place, laughing to her coworkers that I had used the word “hoppy,” while I melted down in embarrassment.

Allison (#4,509)

@Ester Bloom hoppy is a perfectly cromulent word

Lily Rowan (#70)

@Ester Bloom That waitress was a dick. “Not too hoppy” is a totally legit thing to say!

@fo (#839)

@Lily Rowan

Indeed. Hope Ester’s group stiffed her (like 10%) for being an irredeemable a-hole.

soogee (#689)

@sherlock I also always manage to embarrass myself at bars! I say, “vodka and soda,” they say, “what type of vodka?” And then I struggle with how to ask for whatever is the cheapest without sounding like an ass.

Lily Rowan (#70)

@soogee “Well is fine,” is your answer! “Well” is the cheap stuff.

soogee (#689)

@Lily Rowan You rock! I’ll definitely use this from now on.

Bourbon and ginger (bourbon + ginger ale). One time I impressed some older, male colleagues (they’re my dad’s age) by ordering one at a cocktail hour. And it’s a delicious drink!

NoName (#3,509)

@Virginia Purvis@facebook I’m a rye and ginger drinker. Same genus, different species.

Joanne (#7,392)

Hennessy and (really good quality) ginger on the rocks. Not a drink I would ever have expected to enjoy, but I got one for free at an event and now it’s my go-to evening drink. It tastes like Christmas!

Push It Along (#6,502)

My mixed drink of choice is a mojito. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to find a mojito that’s less than $10 in and around DC. So, I usually go with my 2nd choice: Dark and Stormy. It’s hard to go wrong with rum, ginger beer, and some lime.

tw0lle (#4,354)

This really depends on where you are. If in a pub, I wouldn’t order a glass of wine. If in a wine bar, I wouldn’t bother with cocktails. And so on.

But in a regular old bar, I usually go with gin & tonics, since even a crappy gin & tonic is usually palatable…if it’s a REALLY gross bar and I don’t want beer, then vodka/cranberry since it’ll just taste like medicinal Ocean Spray.

nutmeg (#1,383)

Jameson and Ginger Beer! A bartender once told me a bunch of people had been ordering it lately and it is my go-to drink order now. It’s decent if you have it with ginger ale (at cheaper bars- make sure you specify ginger beer instead of ale) and it’s phenomenal if you order it somewhere that makes their own ginger beer. I don’t like whiskey sodas or super-sweet drinks and I hate spending $8-$10 on a whiskey sour to find out it tastes like especially-acidic orange juice concentrate.

Of course, beer is always safest to me if I know what there is on tap/bottle and I know if I trust the bar’s tap lines. Jameson and ginger is if I don’t know the beer list or can’t read the taps and have to make a quick decision.

garli (#4,150)

It’s super bar/bar tender specific. If I know the margaritas aren’t made with a sugary mix I’ll do that. If I know there’s a beer on tap I want that’s fine too. (I am super over hoppy beer, but if you don’t want that just steer clear of IPAs). House wines you need to be careful of.

When it’s hot (like now) I just stick with vodka soda with a lime. Boring and refreshing.

spottedwren (#4,437)

Summertime, I like something really refreshing, so I usually go with a Greyhound (vodka and grapefruit juice) or a vodka and soda (if I am in a bar where clearly grapefruit juice is not going to happen).
Winter, a good glass of red wine will do it. I like a lot of different wines, but if I am somewhere where wine comes in “red” or “white” I’ll order a Moscow Mule (ginger makes everything better and has a warmth to it) or Malbec because it is rarely offensive.

pterodactylish (#2,321)

Get a Manhattan. It’s all booze and you’ll only need one drink, compared to two wines or beers for the same buzz. This assumes you can stop yourself at just one Manhattan, which I most certainly cannot.

@pterodactylish : Every part of this comment is correct. Also, with rye rather than bourbon, because then even a poor bartender can’t make it sticky-sweet.

RiffRandell (#4,774)

I am a cider and beer drinker, but also go for G&Ts or a vodka orange soda. Tasty and hard to screw up!

Julie (#5,374)

I don’t go to bars or drink much anymore (not that I ever went to a lot of bars or was much of a drinker to begin with), but my go-to cocktail is a screwdriver. I don’t think I’ve ever paid more than $6 for one. Sometimes I’ll go with a hard cider, but that’s usually if I’m at a bar to watch hockey. Otherwise, it’s a screwdriver.

@Julie Screwdrivers have been a no-go for me ever since I got drunk off of two of them at a high school party and tried to talk to the boy I had a crush on about God.

Julie (#5,374)

@Ester Bloom Ha! I have to admit that I have an extremely low tolerance and that sounds like something I’d do after two screwdrivers now, at the age of 29.

tossit (#4,570)

Rum and coke: only if they have certain types of rum, Bacardi is not one of those (unless of course I’m already drunk and I don’t notice the brand haha)

If not, Black Label on the rocks!

chic noir (#713)

Light cranberry juice and vodka. Just a little sweet but enough alcohol to clear your allergies.

Try knobs creek whiskey.

DebtOrAlive (#5,233)

Bulleit (bourbon, not rye, OBVS) on one rock. Unscrewupable.

If I trust the bartender? Bourbon sidecar w/ Maker’s, no sugar.

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