How To Order Cocktails (not) Like a Novice

standard May 19, 2015 2 responses


As is the case with most things in this world, there are rules. And, like it or not, there are some rules that go along with ordering a cocktail.

Sixteen year old me, with my Doc Martens, ripped jeans and Black Flag shirt would definitely salute thirty eight year old me with a black nail-polished middle finger if he heard me talking about rules.

But what that guy doesn’t know is that the rules, as they relate to cocktails, are OK. And the reason why they are OK? Because they guide you away from sounding like a total jackass when trying to impress the ladies (and bartender) at your local watering hole.

Here are a few tips for ordering cocktails like an expert, even though you (we) are a novice. As a bonus, I’ve added a beginner list of types of cocktails to elevate you to the upper echelon of cocktail ordering.

Tip #1: Name Your Liquor, FIRST.

This is THE rule of thumb. When you order a mixed drink, you say the type of liquor before the chaser.

Pass: Gin and Tonic
Fail: Tonic and Gin

Tip #2: Name Your Brand, FIRST

If you are married to a brand of liquor, you’ll also want to say it first. If you order by the type of liquor, for example, a Rum and Coke, you’ll likely get the “well” rum…or cheap shit. If you like that amazingly delicious Kraken Black Rum with your coke, let the bartender know.

Pass: Kraken and Coke
Fail: Rum and Coke

Tip#3: Make No Assumptions

You can order the same drink in 100 different bars and get 100 different variations. Some bartenders may use liquors. Some may use fresh juice vs. not-fresh juice. Any variable could change the drink making it not your drink.

If you like a drink to be made a specific way, let your bartender know EXACTLY how you want it made. If you prefer pickle juice in your dirty martini instead of olive juice, then tell your guy to let that pickle juice flow!

Those few tips should get you through the night, but if you really want to turn on the heat, add a few of the below terms into your booze-cabulary and you’ll be carried around the bar like C-3PO was on Endor. By Ewoks. No lie.

Types of Cocktails

Neat: The purest of all ways to order a cocktail, a “neat” drink is one liquor, poured from the bottle, right into a glass. No ice. No fruit. No mixer.


On The Rocks: In the world of super heroes, if “neat” is Batman, “on the rocks” is Mr. Freeze. Simply put, a drink served on the rocks is served with ice. I drink most of the cocktails I make on the rocks, because I love dilution. Crazy, I know.


Up: With this style of cocktail, we are taking “on the rocks” and removing the rocks. Instead, the drink is strained (chilled) and the cocktail is poured into a martini glass. Mostly you’ll find Martini’s and Manhattan’s served “Up”


Back: A “back” is a chaser, usually non-alcoholic. My favorite back is a Pickle Back. Now, some may say this is an amateur hour specialty, but goddamn if it isn’t the best tasting thing in the world. You order a shot of whiskey, usually Jameson, and follow it up with a shot of pickle juice. Sublime.


Dry: Ordering a drink dry specifies that the vermouth used in the cocktail be “dry” vermouth. A dry drink will always have the vermouth. A dry martini would be made with dry gin and dry vermouth.


Dirty: Dirty drinks feature some type of briny juice that aids acidity as well as a murkiness to the cocktail. Most commonly used when olive juice is added to a martini making it a “Dirty” Martini.


Perfect: containing a 50/50 split of both dry and sweet vermouth. A Manhattan is often ordered perfect.

Perfect Manhattan


Prolific Party Drinker. Last One To Leave. Sausage Maker. Pizza Eater. Cocktail Novice.

2 responses

  • Ok, I don’t know where to start….

    Carried like C3PO by the Ewoks on Endor? Dude, you should have written the Geek Cocktails Post.

    And Batman vs. Mr. Freeze? Please don’t make me choose… I’d probably have to go with the dark side…

    Finally…. a picke back? I think I may need to try that. No matter how messed up it sounds.

  • Nice read!

    Just one thought. When it comes to ordering a martini “dry”, I believe it refers to the amount of vermouth used, rather than what kind of vermouth. A dry martini has little vermouth, and a wet martini has a lot. (Unless you order a “perfect martini”, no bartender will use sweet vermouth.)

    Aaand now I’m thirsty.