You don’t have to ask someone if they’re a bartender to know they’re a bartender—all you have to do is listen to their drink order. “Most of the time, bartenders or those in the service industry will drink something that’s no fuss and easy,” says New York City bartender Cory Dixon. “They have a heightened sense of how much of a pain in the ass a muddled drink is, or how difficult a double shaken egg white cocktail can be in the middle of a rush. At the end of a long shift—the last thing they want to be is a problem.”
You won’t hear a bartender order a Mojito—but you also won’t hear them order a basic Vodka Cran. Here are five bartender-specific orders we can all learn from.
It’s no secret that bartenders love the bittersweet booziness of a classic Negroni. But the real pros aren’t satisfied with just any sweet vermouth, aperitif or gin. Industry insiders will often “call” their spirits. Only a bartender would know the perfect harmony that is a Negroni made with Plymouth Navy Strength gin, Carpano Antica vermouth split with Cocchi Torino vermouth, and Cappelletti instead of Campari. If they start to rattle off ratios (I, for example, prefer 1.5 ounces of gin to three-quarters of an ounce each of Campari and vermouth), you can be 100-percent certain that this customer in question is a bartender.
Next Level Martinis
When you overhear a particularly specific (or somewhat quirky) Martini order, you can bet that there’s a bartender behind it. These Martinis are Reversed for a low-ABV afternoon sipper, made with alternative vermouths like Chinato or dry sherry, or even called with an alternative base spirit like mezcal or Irish whiskey. These Martinis get a garnish of celery bitters in lieu of olives or cocktail onions. These are not your average Martinis, and you’d be smart to say “I’ll have what she’s having” when you hear one ordered.
Snaquiris—miniature, shootable Daiquiris—are a modern day bartender's handshake. Nothing is different or special about the Snaquiri aside from its size. Ordering a round of Snaquiris at a bar for your friends and the bartenders is like uttering a secret password. Except that we just spilled the beans so now everyone on the internet knows.
Miller High Life and Fernet (or Another Amaro)
Originating in San Francisco, this beer and a shot combo is the equivalent of a high-five between bartenders. While the O.G. SF order always includes Fernet, any member of the amari family will do. Miller High Life is the most common beer of choice because it’s light, crisp, crushable and dirt cheap.
Anything With Sherry
Sherry has yet to have its mainstream moment. While the fortified wine became somewhat trendy after the release of 2014’s “it” cocktail book, Sherry: A Modern Guide to the Wine World's Best-Kept Secret by Talia Baiocchi, it has primarily remained hip amongst a select group: bartenders. Though you might associate sherry with your dear old granny, bartenders see it as a substitute for vermouth in Martinis and Manhattans, or as a pre-dinner sipper to awaken the appetite. Bartenders up on their classic cocktails might order a classic sherry cocktail like a Cobbler, Bamboo or Fog Cutter. These drink are completely under the radar and worth a sip.
Bitters and Soda
When bartenders need a break from drinking (or are just in need of some post-shift refreshment), their go-to order is a Bitters and Soda. It’s easy to make (pour bubbly water into a glass, top with bitters, serve), cheap, and gives those around them the impression that they are drinking a cocktail. That’s a win-win-win.