Mark Yocca / Supercall
Food & Drink

10 Signs the Cocktail Bar You Just Walked into Is Legit

You Yelped, you Instagram-stalked until your thumb cramped, you even asked real people, and now, you finally decided on a bar for the night. But will it actually live up to your expectations? You can tell the second you step through the door. You just have to know what to look for. Here, 10 signs that the bar you’re in is actually great.

Mark Yocca / Supercall

The Ice Is Almost a Work of Art

Clear as glass and faceted like a gem, good ice is more than just beautiful. Better ice means your drink will stay cold longer, and it’s also less likely to contaminate your cocktail with any off flavors.

There Are No Martini Glasses in Sight

There are lowballs and coupes and highballs and footed cordial glasses and maybe even an ornate tiki mug or two, but there are no V-shaped cocktail glasses. Why? Because this is a good bar where you don’t have to worry about spilling your Martini all over your shirt.

Mark Yocca / Supercall

You See a Bartender or Bar Back Juicing Fresh Citrus

That’s a clear sign that you won’t be getting any sour mix in your Daiquiri or Margarita.

The Bartenders Are Actually Willing to Talk to You

Even if the decor is gorgeous and the drinks are spectacular, a bar can be terrible if the bartender rubs you the wrong way. But if the bartender is friendly and actually interested in getting you the best drink possible—asking for your preferred brand of spirit or what you normally drink—that can turn an OK bar into a terrific bar.  

There’s No Branded Swag

This bar actually has its own identity. It’s not kitted out with the same neon signs and branded napkins as every other bar on the block. It’s decorated with care and personality—and there’s no risk of you being bombarded by “shot girls” or, even worse, “test tube shot girls” pushing their product.

Mark Yocca / Supercall

The Glasses Are Chilled  

Here’s a sign that the bar is willing to go that extra step to make sure your drink is pristine and perfect. A chilled glass keeps a drink extra cold for longer and, let’s face it, that little bit of frost just looks great.

You Can Actually Hear Your Friends Over the Music

Much like a rude or unavailable bartender, a blaring soundtrack can ruin a perfectly good bar. You didn’t show up to drink with your friends and not say a word, nor did you come to drink and shout.

The Menu Includes Both a Vodka Drink and a Drink Made with an Obscure Spirit

Do not confuse a pretentious cocktail bar with a good bar. A good bar respects vodka drinkers just as much as pisco drinkers or sotol drinkers.

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The Cherries in the Garnish Jars Are Dark Red, Not Neon

Look into that jar. Is it glowing? You should probably back away from the bar—or at least stick to beer.

The Place Is Clean (But Doesn’t Smell Like Bleach)

Here’s what a bar should smell like: nothing—with maybe a hint of citrus zest. It shouldn’t hurt your nostrils to breathe, and it certainly shouldn’t remind you of the locker room at a public pool.