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Food + Drink

The Best Alcoholic Drinks to Order When You Have No Idea What You’re Doing

Figuring Out the Best Alcoholic Drinks for You Can Be Tricky!

When it comes to good alcoholic drinks to buy, you certainly have a few choices! Luckily for you, we know a thing or two about the best tasking alcoholic drinks. Bruce spent quite a bit of time (and money) out enjoying himself during his university days – to the point where he practically memorized the bar drinks list!

The most popular drinks at bars are usually the classic cocktails and simpler beverages. That said, we didn’t want to limit this guide to only the best alcoholic mixed drinks. This is because you might not only want something complex or sugary – and you might be at a party or at a place where ordering that kind of fancier drink isn’t possible!

For this list, we even wanted to include the best alcohol brands to make the drinks with and the basic drink recipes so you know what’s in your possible drink order! So, let’s break down the decision process to help you choose a drink that’s right for you – if you have no idea what you are doing!

Check Your Surroundings

One of the biggest things to consider when ordering at a bar isn’t what you like to drink. It’s observing what everyone else is ordering. The kind of establishment you are at matters. It’s important to remember where you are and order somewhat accordingly. A good bet is to check the drinks menu. You’ll very quickly understand what kinds of drinks they specialize in. You can even use an ultimate guide to understanding different drinks to get used to the different kinds!

If you are in a fancy NYC cocktail place, you wouldn’t order a beer. Likewise, in a dive bar or university town, you wouldn’t order a complicated drink or a martini. So, before you order – do a quick scan. What is everyone else drinking? It might be a good idea to follow the crowd if you have to order in a hurry!

1. Order the Local Beer

beer being poured into glass best alcoholic drinks

Beer, beer, and more beer! // Photo: Unsplash

Okay, and before you throw your hands up and say ” that’s a terrible idea!” – here the logic out. Obviously, if you know you don’t like beer don’t order a beer and move on to #2. But, if you DO like beer – and you’re in a place that does beer on tap, just ask for “whatever is local”. The bartender is either going to go to work pouring you a beer OR will ask you what you like with regards to flavors, beer style, etc. They may even let you sample, which is your best case scenario.

This is a good approach if you’re trying to impress someone (a date, a business meeting partner, etc.) because you’ll seem curious and/or more adventurous than if you just ordered the first beer you see on the tap label. The only place that this may backfire is if you are at a classic British pub and you end up with a warm cask ale that is dark and rich with flavor. Might not be what you are expecting! Even if you “like beer” this might be too much for you. But unless you are in the middle of rural England there’s a good chance you won’t run into this problem.

Another consideration for beer is how often they change the lines. If the bar is dirty, there’s a good chance they don’t check/clean their beer lines often. In this case, go for a bottle of beer. If the place only does by the bottle, consider a local beer by the bottle. Probably won’t be able to sample, so ask the bartender about it before committing.

2. Old Fashioned

clear glass with alcohol pouring in best alcoholic drinks

A favorite of Bruce’s – the Old Fashioned never lets him down. // Photo: Unsplash

Depending on the bar, an Old Fashioned is certainly a sophisticated but simple drink that says “I have an idea of what I am ordering”. An Old Fashioned is a whiskey-based drink and served with a few other smaller ingredients. Bruce really likes an Old Fashioned. They are made a bourbon or rye (Canadian) whiskey, some bitters, and sugar, and sometimes garnished with an orange peel for zest.

3. Whiskey Sour

A whiskey sour is a simple cocktail almost similar to an Old Fashioned – but not really. The base is whiskey (obviously) but then it’s a combination of lemon/lime juice, sugar (can be simple syrup), and shaken together. If you ever wanted to try some of these cocktails at home, you’d need a professional mixology set – but they make GREAT gifts for the drink enthusiast in your life.

If you are in a fancy place, they might go full-on with the foaming/frothing agent of the drink by adding a dash of egg white! What you’ll get is a sweet and sour drink, mild in strength, with a tasty finish.

4. Cosmopolitan

pink cocktail in glass with strawberry best alcoholic drinks

It may be pink – but men can order it, too. #mencanorderacosmoiftheywant. // Photo: Unsplash

The cosmopolitan, or a “Cosmo” by its nickname, is a popular drink typically ordered by women. This makes sense – it was made famous but the classic show “Sex and the City”. Now, the cosmo is linked to feelings of class, sophistication, but with a bit of sweetness and lots of flavors.

A cosmo is made of vodka, Triple Sec, and cranberry juice with a bit of lime juice. That’s why it has a pinkish color when served. It’s sweet and sour like many other popular cocktails and served in a tall glass (like a martini glass). These are classic bar ingredients for a cocktail bar to have on hand so feel comfortable ordering it if you are out for nicer drinks.

5. Gin and Tonic

clear cocktail in glass with limes best alcoholic drinks

A gin lover’s simple classic… don’t forget that thick slice of lime! // Photo: Unsplash

This is a classic cocktail anywhere you go. No, seriously. Gin is so widely available as a liquor that as long as there is tonic water nearby, a bartender can toss together a gin and tonic. The ingredients are as it sounds: gin and tonic water. The differences come in the different kinds of gin that might be available.

A classic gin and tonic can be made with Bombay Sapphire or Gordon’s Dry Gin, but the gin scene in many cities has exploded in recent years. There are all kinds of other gin types and styles out there now so be sure to ask what kinds of gin are on hand and if they have any suggestions. Oh, and in case you weren’t already aware, gin tastes heavy of pine needles given the spices it is distilled with. Some hate it – others love it!

6. Screwdriver

This one is pretty simple and definitely available at most places you will go to. A screwdriver is the cocktail name for vodka mixed with orange juice. There are slight additions or variations but a “Vodka and OJ” is what you are going to get. It’s quite sweet, can be made strong, but is generally a simple taste packed with citrus. It’ll be orange – that’s for sure.

7. Rum and Coke

dark cocktail in glass on table best alcoholic drinks

A classic sweet treat with lots of possibilities. // Photo: Unsplash

Ah yes, a university student classic. A Rum and Coke – or Cola if you don’t want to use the brand name – is just what it sounds like: rum and coke. There are variations to the drink that come mainly from which rum is used in the drink. A classic rendition is with a cheap light rum like Captain Morgans’ Spiced. A more upscale place might have a dark rum like the Kraken Black Rum on hand. This dark rum has a higher percentage of alcohol and will really bolden up that regular rum and coke if you want it to!

8. Martini

green apple martini on wooden table best alcoholic drinks

An apple martini or appletini done right// Photo: Unsplash

Martinis are serious business and should come with a disclaimer. If you are going for it make sure you have a little bit of an idea. Some are made with vodka, but they can be made with gin as well – the classic wide-brimmed glass is a signature. They can be stiff and strong or sweet and fruity – it really depends.

You might be used to what James Bond drinks (a “Vesper” Martini) or something with olives in it. Those are classic renditions of the vodka or gin (or both together) martini. We showed a picture of an appletini, a martini made from vodka, and any combination of apple liquor, apple cider, apple schnapps, or otherwise.

9. Margarita

blue margarita in salted glass with lime best alcoholic drinks

A margarita, done right, can look pretty sophisticated!. // Photo: Unsplash

For the sake of completion, we had to include something with tequila on the list since it is a popular alcohol and a good base for a number of popular drinks and cocktails. A margarita is an example of such a drink.

Any decent cocktail bar is going to be able to do up a proper one: tequila, a liqueur (usually Triple Sec), lime juice, and a salted rim. However, cheaper bars might be able to make you one by cheating and using a “margarita mix” which is a pre-mixed combination liquid that they can just pour over ice and finish up nicely. Still tastes good!

10. Wine

wine glasses in hands cheers best alcoholic drinks

Did someone say it’s wine o’clock? // Photo: Unsplash

Yeah, wine seems pretty obviously – BUT you have to be careful. We almost didn’t put this one on. Wine might seem like an “easy out” to order a drink but if the place you are at has an extensive wine list you are going to be overwhelmed quickly. First, you have to decide on whether you like to drink red or white. Then (if applicable) you have to decide on the type of wine, the year, country of origin, and more.

In general, wines have simple tastes (but, yes, with differing aromas) so if you just need a drink in your hand a glass of wine isn’t a bad option. If you panic and want to just get a glass of wine, asking for the “house wine” can seem cheap but at least you made a choice without getting too deep into questions. If you are at a wine bar, however, the staff are trained to help you decide to go with the process and be honest. You’ll likely end up with a wine you like!

And there you have it – 10 of the best drinks to order when you have no idea what you are doing! In the end, there are so many we didn’t mention: White Russian, basically any Daquiri, Mojitos, and a hundred more “mixed drinks”. We wanted to keep the list simple and practical for lots of different drinking establishments you might find yourself at! What do you think? Did we miss a classic? What do you usually order? Get in touch and let us know!

As always, Stay Curious (and Thirsty),
-B&L

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The best drinks to order when you don't know what you're doing