It will make your server, and you, much happier
I hear a lot of strange things at work—from requests for cocktails that only exist on another bar’s menu to snippets of very personal conversations and the most horrible pickup lines imaginable during cringeworthy first dates.
Very few things top the charts, however, like people ordering drinks incorrectly.
I’m not talking about when people order odd combinations or something extremely esoteric. If you want a rye on the rocks with a splash of olive brine, have at it; I will most definitely even straw taste this combination before handing it over because, who knows, you might be onto something. I’m more talking about certain words in the world of alcoholic beverages that mean very specific things. When it comes to those items, it’s in everyone’s best interest to get on the same page.
Some of these are honest mistakes, and we all make them. Myself included—the first time someone ordered a chilled shot of tequila from me, I simply filled a shot glass with ice and said that it would probably take a minute to get cold. Luckily, the guest was nice enough to correct me.
I fully believe in paying it forward, and promise that I’ll try to be as nice as possible in the process.
Anytime someone asks for a “bourbon, straight up,” I want to pour the booze into a cocktail glass and hand it over.
Drinking spirits straight—as in with no mixers, no supplementary syrups, cordials, or garnishes—comes three ways: neat, on the rocks, or as a shot.
“Shot” and “neat” are arguably the same thing—a single spirit poured into an empty glass—although in many bars, 1.5-ounce glasses are used to serve “shots” because the idea is that the person who ordered it is going to knock it back in one gulp. Spirits ordered “neat,” meanwhile, are typically poured at 2 ounces in a standard down glass (more on this later) because these drinkers are likely taking their time with their beverage (yes, this is reflected in the price).
“On the rocks” means your spirit will be poured over ice.
When it comes to drinking, “up” refers to the kind of glass your drink will come in. Cocktails like Manhattans and martinis are, unless requested otherwise, served up: in a glass with a stem.
Straight spirits, on the other hand, are not served up. When you’re looking for a drink right in a glass straight from the bottle, you’re looking for that spirit neat. After ordering that Jameson you have been thinking about all day, a good bartender will ask, “Would you like that neat, or on the rocks?”
Help us help you: Save “straight up” for ordering martinis.
On that note, a martini is a cocktail proportioned 3:1 of gin or vodka and dry vermouth (or brine, if you like ’em dirty).
This is the sole definition of “martini”. A drink of any other ingredients that comes in a triangular-shaped glass with a stem does not, by virtue of its vessel, become a martini; a certain shaped glass does not a certain cocktail make.
Therefore, the only response to “what kind of martinis do you have?” is “gin or vodka.”
Flavored martinis—the appletini, razzamatini, and espresso martini—have worked their way so far into the vernacular of American drinking culture that many bars carry the ingredients to make them. The lack of Apple Pucker on the shelf doesn’t mean a bartender can’t make the drink that you desire.
Sounds like “blender” but has nothing to do with kitchen appliances.
Spirits, typically Scotch and rum, sometimes have “blended” varieties, meaning spirits of different ages and/or regions have been combined in one bottle to yield a very particular flavor and product. Johnny Walker, for example, is a commonly ordered blended spirit.
You can get a blended Scotch, neat.
No one, however, is going to put Scotch in a blender.
Champagne is a region in France and a method of fermenting and bottling effervescent white wine.
Champagne, everyone’s favorite celebratory libation, can therefore only truly come from the grapes grown in Champagne, France, and must be produced using the double fermentation used by vintners in that region. It is relatively expensive and therefore frequently only sold by the bottle in bars and restaurants.
You cannot order Champagne by the glass. There are several other varieties of sparkling white wine—cava and prosecco are the most common—that are often offered by the glass.
If dry, sparkling white wine is what you want, and you aren’t buying a bottle, do not insist on Champagne.
Copyright 2017 Haley Hamilton.
Terms of Service is licensed for use by the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism and media outlets in its network.
Haley is an AAN Award-winning columnist for DigBoston and Mel magazine and has contributed to publications including the Boston Globe and helped found Homicide Watch Boston. She has spearheaded and led several Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism investigations including a landmark multipart series about the racialized history of liquor licensing in Massachusetts, and for three years wrote the column Terms of Service about restaurant industry issues from the perspective of workers.