Food & Drink

Cocktails That Need to Be Retired, According to Bartenders

Published On 04/04/2016 Published On 04/04/2016
old fashioned
Sara Norris/Thrillist

Great bartenders know the best drink is whatever the customer wants, but that doesn't mean those same bartenders can't possess an irrational hatred of copper mugs and energy drinks. Be it because a cocktail has gone out of style or was never good to begin with, some drinks have simply outlived their welcome on some menus. 

To find out which draw the most industry ire, we asked some of the nation's most respected stirrers and shakers to tell us the drinks they'd like to see retired. RIP Harvey Wallbanger. We knew you all too well.

Naomi Tomky/Thrillist

Moscow mule

"A cocktail I would like to see put out to pasture is the Moscow mule. It had its time on menus and everyone had stolen at least one copper mug. There are a host of more flavorful ginger-forward cocktails for people to enjoy." -- Merlin Mitchell, Green Russell (Denver, CO)

"Can we please say goodbye to the Moscow mule? It is more worn out than that "Happy" song by Pharrell. And the only thing worse than a Moscow mule, is a poorly made Moscow mule -- which seems to be the norm. That's nice that you have a cute little copper cup, but so does every single other bar in town. The only thing more obligatory than a Moscow mule is avocado toast.” -- Cory Harwell, Simon Hospitality Group (Las Vegas, NV)
 

The layback shot

"Bartenders, please retire the layback shot directly into a patron's mouth, at least in a public bar! This bit of business inspires zero confidence that we are in a professional establishment that excels in the fine art of congenial adult imbibing." -- Dale "King Cocktail" DeGroff

Drew Swantak/Thrillist

The Old Fashioned

"As much as it pains me, I think it might be time to give the Old-Fashioned a time out. These days it's like the solid, decent guy who has been repairing air conditioners or doing people's taxes or whatever for the last 30 years and then wins the lottery. Suddenly, he's got an ugly, expensive new wardrobe, he's blinged out, he's ditched his wife for a girlfriend 20 years too young for him, and and is that coke in his mustache? Man, you've changed. The Old Fashioned used to be a simple, steady, and, above all, reliable drink. Order it 'without the garbage' and you'd get a little sugar, bitters, ice, and whiskey. Period. Order an Old Fashioned these days and you don't know what you're going to get. Mezcal, fernet, and passionfruit bitters? Three-month-old craft 'whiskey,' fig syrup, and salt? Gin? It needs its old friends to pull it aside and remind it that it used to be better than this; that it had a life and these people aren't its real friends. -- David Wondrich, author of Imbibe! and Punch
 

The 20th Century

"I can't think of anything that makes me cringe more than the awkward and clashing flavor profile of gin, dark chocolate, and bright citrus. Sure it's balanced, but it's also disgusting. There are so many quality spirits out there that have their own complex flavor profiles. It's now the 21st century, get with it people..." -- Justin Lavenue, 2015 North American winner of the Bombay Sapphire Most Imaginative Bartender Competition, The Roosevelt Room (Austin, TX)

Flickr/Noelle Chun

Harvey Wallbanger, Blood and Sand

"When I think about cocktails that need to be retired, the first one that comes to mind is Harvey Wallbanger, which is made with vodka, Galliano, and orange juice. I think Galliano may be the only liqueur that I just cannot get behind. I'm a fan of literally every other herbal liqueur, except that one. Order one sometime and let me know what you think. Or don't, and just trust me.

"The second cocktail that needs to disappear is the Blood and Sand, which is Scotch, Cherry Heering, sweet vermouth, and orange juice served up. It was originally named after a bullfighting movie from the early 1920s. The orange juice isn't bright or acidic enough to balance the cocktail. It can be saved with different variables added to the original recipe, but by itself, it's just blah.” -- Kris Rizzato, bar manager at Bankers Hill Bar + Restaurant (San Diego, CA)
 

Shots of Fireball

"Not a cocktail as such, but I would like to see an end to shots of Fireball. I am a fan of cinnamon and I like using that flavor in drinks, but 'cinnamon' in Fireball is so grossly manufactured that you can barely call it that. I am also annoyed by the misconception that it is even whiskey. I can make you a cinnamon-flavored whiskey shot if you ask for it, but it’s not going to have fake cinnamon in it and it will have actual whiskey." -- Nicholas Bennett, Porchlight (New York, NY)

Flickr/CORSIWORLD

Jager bomb

"Energy drinks basically taste like carbonated ass. So why anyone would add Jager to that is utterly beyond me. -- Joaquin Simo, Pouring Ribbons (New York, NY)
 

The bartender's handshake

"The bartender's handshake, which is a shot of fernet, needs to be retired. It's great after a big meal or in moderation, but it’s been the 'cool' thing in the industry for way too long. Does anyone even like the taste? Just saying what everyone's thinking!”  -- Ran Duan, 2014 North American winner of the Bombay Sapphire Most Imaginative Bartender Competition, The Baldwin Bar at Sichuan Garden (Woburn, MA)

Flickr/Maxine Guilbot

Vodka soda

"Although the term 'cocktail' might be a bit of an over-reach, it is time for the vodka soda to go. If you find yourself after-hours at a house party, by all means pour away. However, if you are sitting in an establishment staring across a bar top preparing to order one, maybe it is time to broaden your horizons, or question the establishment you find yourself currently sitting in. The old saying 'If it's worth doing, it's worth doing right' damn sure applies to drinking! There is a universe of ingredients out there and life is too short. Use them! All it takes is doing something as simple as throwing a  splash of fresh-squeezed ruby red grapefruit juice, a hint of ginger liqueur, and stepping that soda gun seltzer up to Topo Chico and you are playing in a whole new league. Life is too short. Get out there and create your own take on a way too long-poured drink. Enjoy the retirement life, vodka soda." -- Mark Yawn, bar manager at Ranch 616 (Austin, TX)
 

Long Island tea

"I think it is time for the Long Island tea to kick rocks. With basically no distinct flavor and simply far too much booze from all over the map, its only purpose is not nearly a worthy one. Also, any variation of it should also be laid to rest. RIP LIT." -- Ryan Baird, bartender trainer at Jack & Ginger’s and St. Genevieve (Austin, TX)

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Dan Gentile is a staff writer at Thrillist. The drink he'd like to see retired is ice water served in a chilled pint glass. Follow him to freezing to death at @Dannosphere.

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