Who gets to choose your booze? It’s an age-old question that has only gotten more complicated in the craft cocktail boom. When it comes to ordering, we can all get a little shy, so we figured we’d take it to the pros. We asked nine top mixologists: Should you let the bartender choose your liquor?
“No!!! Only if the bartender approaches me and asks what kind of mood I’m in and if there are any spirits that are not up for discussion.” — Warren Bayani, Chao Chao
“You can let the bartender choose your drink if you’re feeling adventurous; there’s nothing wrong with that. But you should know your liquor, or at least what you like and don’t like. If you are unfamiliar with, say, Mezcal or Scotch, and you don’t know, you might end up with something that really doesn’t suit you. If you know you love fruity rum drinks and whiskey sours, let them know that and you will probably get something you love. We want to make you happy but need a little guidance.” — Tonia Guffey, Dram Bar
“If you know the bar is of quality, let them choose. You may discover something new. Just because a well spirit is affordable, doesn’t mean it isn’t delicious. It takes more skill to find quality at a lower price point — if you trust the place, let them do that for you.” — Lana Gailani, Seamstress & Holiday Cocktail Lounge
“I always like to specify my liquor because well liquor can turn the drink in the wrong direction. Quality goes a long when when consuming alcohol. Educate yourself to know what you are ordering. Why do we pick one vodka over another. Is it just because we have been programmed to or because you actually like the taste? What’s the difference between a juniper-heavy London dry gin and an American citrus-forward style? Do you like bourbon or rye? Do you know why? These are all questions that as a consumer will help us make better choices. Don’t be shy to ask your local bartender on a slow night when they have some time about these questions. It will help both of you understand what you like to drink and help elevate your experience.” — Cody Goldstein, NYLO
“Most of the time, just trust me. Unless there’s a specific brand that you’re trying to support, the bartender will know what spirit will work best in your drink.” — Meghan Kelleher, Distilled
“If you are open to anything then yes; otherwise that’s a horrible idea.” — Gina Chersevani, Buffalo & Bergen at Union Market
“This one is simple. If you have a favorite spirit (unless it’s vodka) and you are having it neat or on the rocks, then by all means, specify. The exception here is if an establishment has paired a particular spirit with a handful of other ingredients for a house cocktail — let them use that! The reasoning is simple: The bartender usually keeps the ingredients for specialty cocktails together in order to expedite their making. If you want to switch tequilas in a house cocktail you’re a) never going to notice the difference and b) throw a wrench in the whole groove and c) potentially change the price of the drink.” — Tommy Warren, Bedford & Co.
“Absolutely. If you don’t do so first.” — Jacob Ryan, Four Pillars Brand Ambassador
“Depends on the bar. If they’re the kind of cocktail bar that prides themselves on Bartender’s Choice cocktails, then by all means, give the bartenders a little guidance (“I’m looking for a stirred, spirit-forward cocktail,” or “I’d prefer a citrusy refreshing drink”) and let them do what they do best. If it’s a very busy bar, try to help keep the service flow going and be a little more specific. “I’d like a refreshing gin cocktail.” — Joy Richard, Bar Mash