There are a lot of reasons to order a cocktail instead of a beer, but one thing beer has in its corner is consistency. Sure, some taps are skunkier than others, but for the most part, your favorite beer is your favorite beer everywhere you go—especially if it’s handed to you in a trusty bottle. Cocktails on the other hand, can be a bit more of a risk. Here are seven places you can order a cocktail, but probably shouldn’t.
While there are some safe(ish) cocktails to order at a dive bar, a good rule of thumb is be to stay away from them entirely. More often than not, a dive bar is a cheap place to buy cheap booze and get a cheap buzz after work. Cocktails and all their garnishes and ingredients cost the bar money, so you can’t expect the freshest lime in your Margarita. Even though they are right there staring up at you from the menu, resist the urge and grab your favorite pilsner or IPA instead. Anything more than a Boilermaker is probably going to be less than satisfactory.
Any Sporting Event
The concessions stands at arenas have one mission and one mission only: to rip you off. And that doesn’t mean they’ll simply overcharge you and hand you a solid cocktail in return―it means they’ll overcharge you and stiff you on the booze as well. Not to mention, with all due respect to those working concessions, they’re not exactly trained bartenders slinging Honey Deuces your way at the US Open. Minimize the damage to your wallet and grab yourself a tall boy.
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Ordering a cocktail at a biergarten is like ordering a burger at a pizzeria; yes, the option is there, but it is strongly ill-advised. The place has its specialty right there in the name: bier (German for “beer”). Even if it were Ein Koktailgarten (not a real German word), ze Germans aren’t exactly known for their mixed drinks. They are, however, known for their German liqueurs, so if you happen to have some insider info on the bar’s selection, you might fancy yourself a tiny glass of Kuemmerling after your meal.
Chain restaurants have all run the numbers, kind of like casinos. Everything on their menu is calculated to a T to make sure they are getting the best value out of a barely passable take on any given classic cocktail. That means your Old Fashioned is going to be made with less than stellar whiskey, your Margarita is going to be shaken with a pre-made mix instead of fresh ingredients, and your bright blue fishbowl cocktail is going to be mostly sugar. But if you’re one to throw caution to the wind, at least stick to one of these safer chain restaurant cocktail options.
Unless you’re trying to channel your inner Dude from The Big Lebowski, don’t order a White Russian or any other cocktail from a bowling alley. Not only is the quality of the cocktail destined to be low, but your buddies waiting for you during your turn are going to be pissed when you come back from the bar with a single plastic cup instead of a pitcher of beer for the whole lot. If you don’t want them changing your name on the scoreboard to “Pretentious Loser,” best buy into the aesthetic and come back with a hardy pitcher of something everyone can get behind: whatever’s on-tap and cheap.
You might think Bill and Mary’s wedding is the perfect time to try out some cocktails you’ve never had at the open bar, but think again. Open bars tend to be thinly stocked, so any drink order more complex than a standard two-ingredient cocktail whose contents are right there in the name is probably going to be either impossible to make or stitched together with the wrong ingredients. Order your Gin & Tonics and Whiskey Gingers without fear, but don’t let yourself be turned off from Jungle Birds forever just because your open bartender threw some rum in a Shirley Temple and hoped for the best.
Despite all of your favorite cocktails that have “Irish” compounded into their name, few of them are authentically Irish. The Irish Breakfast is merely an excuse to drink in the morning, and ordering an Irish Car Bomb in a real Irish pub will get you punched squarely in the face. How can you know if it’s safe to order a cocktail in the Irish pub you entered? There are a few questions you can ask yourself: “Am I in Times Square?” “Is that the Unicorn Song I hear playing?” “Did the guy next to me order a Car Bomb and live to tell about it?” If you can answer yes to any of these, then just order a crappily poured Guinness and a shot of Jame-O and enjoy your bullsh*t Irish pub for what it is.