Learn to Love a Scotch and Soda
Okay, so it doesn’t have to be a Scotch and Soda – it can be a Jack and Coke, Vodka and Juice, or even an old Fashion or a Highball. If you haven’t noticed the common thread with these drinks and wondered when I am going to get to the damn point, then what I am trying to say is this: If you want a drink that is worth its money and worth drinking, keep it simple.
I have spent some time around bars in my life, but I have never really been a person to drink to excess and just wanted a good drink most of the time. I picked up odd jobs here and there with several bars and would always notice people wasting tons of money on sugary drinks with barely any alcohol to get them where they need to be. That is when a wise person told me, “If you want a good drink then never order anything with more than three ingredients.” This is very true…so I want to share some knowledge that I picked up over time.
First, a history lesson in why you shouldn’t buy sugary drinks: There are several back stories and myths about how cocktails came to be. Maybe it was in England or the good old US of A, but the first recorded cocktail recipe comes from a publication in 1806 in the US that really just called for some liquor and sugar water. These kinds of drinks became hugely popular in England when a tax was lifted on distilling and people could make and sell all kinds of liquor. But since no one except a few really knew how to make it, most of it tasted awful and had to be mixed with something to be drinkable. So the mix really was more to mask the taste, than to make a good drink. The same thing happened in the States during the Prohibition – where alcohol was outlawed so the alcohol that was made tasted awful and was (in some cases) poisonous – so you had to mix it in order to even drink the stuff. Again we had to mask the flavor of the alcohol to just make it drinkable! Nowadays bars kind of do the same thing. Most house alcohol is incredibly cheap (especially Vodka and Tequila) but they know that once you put five other things in there then you won’t taste the alcohol and so it won’t matter how crappy it is. Smart.
Know that bars and playing you for a sap – don’t be their fool! I have talked to several bar owners and bartenders and they all say the same thing about that sugary drink that is made with 52 kinds of juices and a cherry: mixed drinks are pure money makers. Bars spend the largest amount of money on the alcohol itself and every other juice and mixer is pretty cheap. For them, this means that the less alcohol in your glass is better for their budget. Pay special attention to “specialty drinks” at a bar. In most cases there are about 10 different kinds of juices and some liquors in there, but not much alcohol. And of course, they bump up the prices on those – so once again, more money, less drinky drinky.
Want to impress ANYONE? Ditch the umbrella: Don’t get a super fancy drink with all the bells and whistles. If you are male or female, you still don’t look attractive with half a pineapple and an umbrella and a small toy hanging out of your drink. Plus, if you want the bartender to continue making you good drinks, be your friend, and treat you well – then don’t pick the drink that takes them 10 minutes to make! If they have to muddle your drink on a busy night with 15 other patrons waiting, then you have just become their worst enemy. They will go out of their way to make sure that you get the last drink in the house and that it is watered down. Also if you are trying to impress the hot male/female bartender, then making them do extra work by ordering a drink that was made in the 1950s using purified coconut water doesn’t get you anywhere. They won’t think you are sophisticated, they think you are a pain in the ass. Remember that the bartender is the boss and they decide your night. If it is busy, then order simple, tip them well, thank them for putting up with the drunk idiot that stares at them constantly, and enjoy the rest of the great drinks they will make you from then on.
NOW, all of this advice does come with a stipulation. If you are having a fun night, the place isn’t crowded or you are at a kitschy restaurant and you’d like to have a sugary drink with a little alcohol, then sometimes it is just fun to get the drink with a shark toy in it. Enjoy, have fun, bring home the souvenir. But if you want to DRINK, then get the Pop and Scotch, toast the bartender and enjoy the night!