Best Drink

Great bar staff can endlessly discuss cocktails, and interested customers are a blessed relief to them. Servers love nothing more than receptive customers – customers love nothing more than engaging servers. Dialogue makes everyone happy. Unless bar staff hear the dreaded: “What’s your best drink?”. It is deceptively infuriating, surprisingly common and universally loathed. This seemingly innocent question makes hospitality staff immediately regret every life decision leading to that moment.

Here’s why:

I.What is meant by best? Best for what exactly? Best for getting you drunk? Best for refreshment? Best to pair with Beef Bourguignon? Best to warm your cockles? Best to drown your sorrows? It is an impossibly vague question, yet demands a definitive answer.

Conclusion: One wouldn’t ring up a local radio show and request their best song.

II. Although the question is impossible to define, it is usually interpreted as: “What is your (the server’s) favourite drink?” Thus implying: “What am I likely to like?” It is completely irrelevant what the bar staff like, they’re not drinking it.

Conclusion: One wouldn’t go into McDonald’s asking: “Hi, I’ll eat whatever burger you like best!”

III. Another potential interpretation is: “What is the best quality drink?” or “I want your ultimate drink?” This is almost guaranteed not to be required. If the bar staff return with a Magnum of 1990 Krug and a £750 bill most customers would collapse.

Conclusion: One wouldn’t walk into an estate agent as a first-time buyer and ask: “I want your best property!”

IV. If bar staff handle this request professionally, clarifying the enquiry with: “I’ll tailor something to your tastes, what flavours do you like?”. It invariably elicits the soul-draining: “I like something fruity!”. The realisation that Um Bungo in a Martini glass would surpass anything is profoundly depressing to a mixologist. Undeterred, the tenacious server may endeavour with: “What is your favourite spirit?” This generally provokes the ever helpful: “I like vodka!”, the same as saying: “I like nothing!”

Conclusion: One wouldn’t stride into a Chinese restaurant proudly proclaiming: “I want the most flavourful, exciting dish possible…using mainly Tofu!”.

These respectable questions may navigate the potentially murky waters of libation decisions:

I. Ask for a recommendation built around the primary tastes of sweetness, sourness, bitterness or saltiness.

II. Ask for a recommendation built around a particular spirit, but not vodka as it’s tasteless except for impurities or negligible nuances depending on the cost. Regardless, these subtitles will be lost in conjunction with most mixers.

III. Ask for a recommendation built around a particular flavour(s).

IV. Ask for a recommendation built to pair with a foodstuff.

V. Ask for a recommendation built around a particular texture or length, such as something: sparkling, creamy, long or short.

VI. Ask for a recommendation built around a particular price point, but demanding the cheapest or most expensive of anything is cringeworthy.

What is the best drink?

Not the ‘best drink’

Money

Do not, under any circumstances, frantically fidget at a busy bar waving money around. Please, you will look stupid. Not just stupid, but the worst kind of person. The worst kind of stupid person. Your server is there to prepare drinks and facilitate good times, not to provide lap dances (unless they genuinely are there to offer lap dances, in which case I retract my earlier statement).

Believe it or not, servers will give you the benefit of the doubt that you own money. Maybe not to warrant a mortgage, but at least enough for a round of drinks. You do not need to display it as evidence. They are not thinking: “I would serve him next, but I am not convinced he will be able to pay”.

Nobody needs to flash notes in the mistaken belief they are somehow discreet. Your presence alone alerts servers to your drinking requirements. A bar is not an auction house, and servers are not auctioneers. They are not surveying a sea of blank faces, looking out for a suavely raised card.

If this money waving sounds familiar, next time open your eyes to the swathes of people who were at the bar before you dragged your knuckles to the front of it. You were more than likely waiting because others had been waiting longer. You didn’t miraculously turn invisible; nobody had a vendetta against you, and the server’s had good eyesight.

The infuriation this caused was illustrated by a manager of a high-end cocktail bar in Leeds, who suffered from a customer waving £20 notes around. He responded by calmly taking it from his gesticulating palm, dropped it in a blender, and coolly served £20 worth of confetti in a Collins glass. I sincerely wish he asked him if wanted ice.

Admittedly there is nothing more infuriating than being ignored by servers. Especially over louder, bolshier customers who are all elbows, mouth or silicone implants. In Concert Square this is likely to be all three. I suggest bars directly serve the quietest most polite person next. If only libraries served alcohol, I’d have somewhere to go mid-week.

Bar Etiquette Money

Queueing is never fun

Bigotry

Do ladies’ and gentlemens’ drinks exist? In our politically-correct, social-justice fuelled world, judgement on gender is fraught with whispering contempt. Non-binary is so 2017. The very concept is viewed with suspicion amongst the chattering classes. Gender is now seen as a fluid construct – socially defined – open for interpretation. Curiously, marketers promote alcohol brands on very clear, traditional lines. Advertisers have no qualms in appealing to their gender specific target market, and nobody seems to mind (yet).

It puzzles me how many women quite happily order a 568ml bottle of Magners, yet when presented with an ice-filled pint glass e.g. the appropriately sized vessel for the volume of liquid, are staggered by the (imagined) insinuation they are anything short of a lady par excellence. Men are equally adapted at tripping into gender-based angst; my favourite cringe-inducing request was for: “a Cosmopolitan, but not in a gay glass”.

My initial liberal, live and let live political outlook breaks down on closer inspection too. Whatever two consenting adults get up to in the privacy of their bedroom is just dandy with me – especially if I’m invited. However, a man ordering a Sex On The Beach? No, I am sorry. I have minimal levels of decency. I have a moral compass somewhere, and that is simply unethical. Although when females order the same monstrosity, it is merely disappointing – as opposed to downright perverted. Conversely, when a lady asks for the cheapest pint, truth be told, it raises a judgmental eyebrow. However, when a man wants the same, nobody bats an eyelid (I’m just silently disappointed). Call me old-fashioned, but picturing men giddily enjoying creamy cocktails and women belching phone numbers in lager infused gas feels like a step backwards. The reverse seems like the status quo; to disagree means never having been to the Costa Del Sol.

Curiously, it’s specifically budget drinks which lock us into clearly defined camps. Typically, males aggressively down cheap pints of lager and females get lippy from screw-top Chardonnay followed by Pinot blush. Paint stripper vodka is sufficiently androgynous to be fair game for any substance abuser. Follow the rules and one’s behaviour is normalised; at worst, frowned upon. Switch camps and you’ve the same social standing as Operation Yewtree targets.

I don’t believe beverages are the last bastion of bigotry. It’s a question of quality (not expense). A quality drink breaks down boundaries of gender. While sipping a premium pour, marketing nonsense fades from consciousness and we forget ourselves. The product itself connects us together through taste – stirring emotion – without words. Brits of all genitalia ownership love cheap booze, but we can come together at the altar of quality, without fear of discrimination or ridicule. A chap shouldn’t feel shame for  enjoying sparkling wine; Similarly, a lady by simply ordering a Manhattan makes barman fall in love.

We all drink whatever we can afford and prefer, and it’s snobbish to dictate otherwise. However, we should drink better, not more and not necessarily more expensive. There are no such things as girly or manly quality drinks – just bad ones.

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What’s your tipple?