How To Order Drinks At The Bar Without Embarrassing Yourself

Dont Be Afraid to Ask Questions

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 The old standby applies here:

Photo by Unsplash The old standby applies here: don’t be afraid to ask questions. As an old colleague once said, “you might feel dumb asking questions, but you look dumber when you don’t get it because you failed to ask”. In my situation, a simple “What do you mean? I’ve never ordered a martini before” would have sufficed.

Unless they’re incredibly busy, most bartenders, like any experts, will be happy to share their expertise. Otherwise, they will probably have a menu and you can just read and point.

If you’re still worried about looking dumb, though, Thrillist for Yahoo has a list of a few of the dumbest questions you shouldn’t ask a bartender. Learn the answers in advance, and you won’t have to worry about it. Here are a few on their list:

  • Why isn’t my glass full? If it’s wine, it’s not going to be full. As they put it, “Because the only place you’re going to see a full glass of wine is in the hands of Tyrion Lannister.”
  • What’s good here? “This implies that other than their specialty rum punch bowls, everything else tastes like a snifter of mediocrity,” Thrillist says. You might be better off just asking what their most popular drink is or what they’d recommend. Some bartenders might just make you whatever is easiest, but it’s a fair enough question.
  • What’s cheap? Drinks can be really expensive, so this is a valid concern, but if you don’t want to embarrass yourself, a better question might be “do you have any specials?”

Wine can be complicated to order, too, and if price is your biggest concern, here’s what‘s Gwendolyn Osborn told us:

“Hold up the menu and say you’re ‘looking for a bottle similar to this one’ and point to the price rather than the wine. Sneaky, right? The sommelier should pick up on that signal and recommend wines in that price range. Note the word ‘should.’”

That said, there’s nothing wrong with mentioning a price range, either.


Stick to the Basics

There’s a lot of information to take in when you research, though. There are a number of different types of beers to choose from, depending on how they’re fermented, at what temperature they’re brewed and so on. Same with wine. Wine types vary depending on the grape, region and method.

It’s all very interesting, but in this post, we’re just trying to get you through ordering a drink. So here are a few basics to ask for.

  • Ciders: Ciders are fermented with yeast like beer but made with fruit like wine. They’re good if you don’t like the taste of beer or wine and they’re typically pretty sweet. Strongbow and Somersby are two popular options most bars will likely have in stock.
  • IPAs: India Pale Ales typically have a more “hoppy” taste because they’re made with more hops. If you’re not used to them, they will probably taste pretty intense and bitter to you, and a lot of people say it’s an acquired taste. They have become popular with the craft beer trend, so wherever you go, chances are, they have some decent IPAs you can order. Feral War Hog IPA and Gage Roads Sleeping Giant are two popular brands.
  • Wheat Beer: Wheat beers are easier to drink and typically don’t have a strong “beer taste”. Hefeweizens and witbiers are subtypes of wheat beers and they get their names from small differences in how they’re brewed. Popular brands include Blue Moon and White Rabbit.
  • Merlot: It’s one of the most popular red wines for a reason. It’s easy to drink. As Vinepair points out, Merlots are often described as “juicy with flavours of chocolate and cherry”.
  • Cabernet Sauvignon: A lot of wine snobs balk at Merlot because it’s too basic. They prefer Cabernet instead because it has a more aggressive, aged flavour. If you’re not a wine person, it might be an acquired taste.
  • CC and dry, or gin and tonic: This is pretty standard. You’ll get Canadian Club (or other whiskey) with dry ginger ale or gin with tonic water. The formula is basically liquor plus fizzy drink. You can swap this out with pretty much any alcohol. If you want a specific brand of alcohol, make sure to let them know, otherwise, they will assume you want the well. Beyond dry, you could also order your booze with soda or tonic water. The Kitchn explains the differences here.
  • Martini: If you’re going to order a martini, be prepared to let the bartender know if you what gin or vodka. Traditionally, they’re made with gin. They might also ask you if you want it dry. Dry just means they add less vermouth, which makes the drink a little more bitter. Want more vermouth? Ask for it “wet”. They might ask if you want it shaken in a cocktail shaker or just stirred. According to Business Insider, stirred usually results in a smoother drink. That covers the basics, but they have more martini-ordering tips here.

If you order a mixed drink with alcohol, they might ask what brand you want. Vinepair has a fun, interactive chart of the most popular liquors in the world, broken up by whiskey, vodka, rum, liqueur, tequila and cognac. You can also just ask the bartender or a friend for any recommendations, or when in doubt, just say you’re fine with the well, which is usually the cheapest brand.

Of course, no matter what drink you order, drink snobs are always quick to tell you shouldn’t have ordered that and suggest an alternative. You can politely nod and smile or take them up on it and try something new — you never know what you might like.

2. Choose a Whiskey Type

Next, you will have to choose the type of whiskey you would like to drink. There are several styles of whiskey, with the most common being:

  • Scotch Whisky Made in Scotland. Typically made from malted barley or grain, double distilled, and aged in oak casks. It has a powerful flavor that is earthy and smokey. Often rich in vanilla and various fruits. The higher quality Scotch whiskies are usually best enjoyed with a dash of water.
  • Irish Whiskey Made in Ireland. Made from yeast-fermented grain mash or using a mash of malted cereals. Usually triple distilled and aged for three years in a wooden cask. It has a light, clean and smooth flavor compared to Scotch. Often quite delicate with a flowery aroma.
  • Bourbon Whiskey Made in the United States. Made from a mash that consists of 51% or more corn and aged in charred oak casks. It has a very sweet and smokey taste. Often consumed straight or mixed with cola.
  • Tennessee Whiskey The same as Bourbon but it must be made in Tennessee. The other major difference is that the whiskey is filtered through or steeped in charcoal before going into the barrels for aging. This process gives the whiskey a cleaner flavor.
  • Rye Whiskey Usually made in North American. Made from a mash that is at least 51% rye. It has a fruity and spicy flavor, making it ideal for cocktails.
  • Japanese Whiskey The Japanese are expert whiskey makers. They usually produce whiskeys from double malted or seated barley. They tend to be drier and smokier than Scotch whiskies.
  • Malt Whiskey Made from a mash that is at least 51% malted barley. Similar in flavor to Scotch whisky.
  • Wheat Whiskey Made from a mash that is at least 51% wheat. It has a sweet flavor.

Aside from the origin, some whiskies have several variations. For example, Scotch whisky can be:

  • Single malt (100% malt whisky with malt from one distillery)
  • Blended malt (100% malt whisky which has malt from multiple distilleries)
  • Blended whiskies (a combination of malt and grain whiskies blended together)
  • Cask strength (bottled from the cask undiluted, at a very high strength)
  • Single cask (the bottle was poured from one cask)

These variations will affect the flavor of the spirit and are worth considering when choosing between different whiskeys.

Some whiskeys will also specify an age, which is how long it has been aged in the barrel. For example, Glenfiddich offers a 12-year-old, 15 year old, and 23-year-old single malt Scotch whisky (among others). Some bars will have bottles of different ages, so if you want an older bottle, which is typically nicer but more expensive, you will need to specify it.

It can take some time to decide which style of whiskey you prefer, but that journey is a fun part of the whiskey-learning process. Read some of the reviews on our website to find whiskeys that have the flavors you like to taste in your drinks.


Shots need little explanation. Whether you’re celebrating a special occasion with a bunch of friends or just want to get some alcohol in you quickly, shots always get the job done. 


Shots are 100 percent alcohol. There are no non-alcoholic ingredients, so if you order a shot of tequila, you will just get tequila. Shots vary in size but they’re typically between one and two fluid ounces. 


Shooters(7) differ from shots because they contain both alcoholic and non-alcoholic ingredients. Some of these shooters may include juice, soda, or even whipped cream. 


Some people are firmly against chasers(8), but bars will usually offer you a chaser if you ask for one. If you drink a shot and it is too strong, you can go to your chaser, a second glass with something non-alcoholic to mitigate(8) the taste of the alcohol. Common chasers include cola, juice, and sometimes even water. 

Ex. Can I get a shot of Jager with a chaser please? 

Ex. Can I get a shot of Jager with some cola on the side please? 

HowToOrder Drinks At A Bar

Choose Your Drink 

When deciding what drink to order, make sure you do not stand directly at the bar. This will allow those who know what they want to place their order and prevents overcrowding. If you don’t know what you want, would like a recommendation, or have a question for the bartender then wait until he or she is not busy.  

When placing your drink order be prepared to answer questions as to how you would like it made and always have a plan B drink in case the bar doesn’t have what you asked for. 

Paying For Your Drinks 

There are several ways to pay for your drinks but regardless of how you choose, make sure you are ready when the time comes. If paying by credit or debit card, you can open a bar tab. The bartender will add your drinks to the bar tab and charge your card at the end of the night. Or, you can pay each time you place an order. There is also the option to pay with cash.  


Tipping is always important but even more so if you plan to become a regular. If paying with cash, tell the bartender to either keep the change or how much of the change to keep. This will save the bartender time from running back and forth with your change.  

If paying by credit or debit car, you can write the tip in.  

It is customary to leave a tip of 10-20% of the bill total. 

Whiskey Cocktails

There are dozens of whiskey cocktails available. T

There are dozens of whiskey cocktails available. They include the Whiskey Sour, Old Fashioned, Manhattan, Mint Julep, and Spiked Southern Tea.

The flavors of these cocktails can vary greatly, so you will eventually find one that you absolutely love. When ordering a whiskey cocktail, simply tell the bartender the name of the cocktail you are interested in drinking.

“With a Twist”

With a twist simply means adding a thin strip of citrus peel to the edge of the glass. This can help to accentuate some of the flavors in your whiskey.

A related option is “with a Lemon/Lime”, which will add a lemon or lime wedge to the side of the glass.

About Us

Stephen Morin

Hey guys, this is Steve, and I write some of the blogs on the global site. I currently live in Taiwan, and I love to hike, read, write, game, and study languages and travel. I hope you guys enjoy the blogs. If you ever have a blog suggestion, message me at Cheers!

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