For many Americans, nothing quite evokes nostalgia like a simple meal at an iconic U.S. chain restaurant. The only thing that could enhance a favorite childhood order of a blooming onion or ultra-processed cheese-topped nachos is as an equally calorie-fueled, kitschy cocktail that many of us came to discover upon turning 21.

If you haven’t splurged on a chain restaurant cocktail, we’ve got you covered. We asked 10 bartenders to share their favorite drink order at popular national chains, and while some unabashedly admit their order is a guilty pleasure, others consider it a tradition they find comfort in. Read on for their suggestions.

The best chain restaurant cocktails, according to bartenders

  • Frozen Mudslide at TGI Fridays
  • Fishbowl-sized Margarita at Texas Roadhouse
  • Miami Vice at Red Lobster
  • Blue Long Island Iced Tea at Buffalo Wild Wings
  • Japanese Old Fashioned at P.F. Chang’s
  • Perfect Margarita at Applebee’s
  • Blue Ocean Punch Bowl at Benihana
  • Presidente Margarita at Chili’s
  • Margarita at Buffalo Wild Wings
  • Lobsterita at Red Lobster

“TGI Fridays Frozen Mudslide. It’s a staple and no matter where you go; if it’s listed on the menu or not, you can always order this classic up for a phenomenally cold sip. There’s nothing better than that vodka, coffee liqueur, Baileys, a scoop of vanilla ice cream, and a chocolate syrup-laced glass. Not only does it look like a work of art, but it tastes so delicious, too. I tend to order this on its own or with an appetizer (usually loaded potato skins, skip the bacon). Sometimes they are cheaper during happy hour (we love a deal). And there’s no guilt with this pleasurable drink.” Pamela Wiznitzer, beverage consultant, New York City

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“To me, nothing says guilty pleasure like a fishbowl-sized Margarita from Texas Roadhouse (or my favorite local chain Guayabitos Mexican Restaurant), with, of course, a foreign plastic tube filled with the liquor that balances out the copious amounts of sour mix. Maybe it’s the nostalgia of my childhood seeing people’s eyes light up with the newfound sense of confidence they seem to possess after finishing one of those bad boys. Nothing to me really has a place in my heart as being required to use two hands to take a drink from a potential aquarium. A fishbowl Margarita can solve most problems that one finds themselves in during happy hour. I generally cannot help myself and get this monstrosity often. Nothing seems to go with every food, but a Margarita comes close.” —Zach Shirley, bar manager, The Swag, Waynesville, N.C.

“Having lived my teen years in Florida in the ‘80s, I will tell you I will CRUSH a Miami Vice at Red Lobster. Frozen, creamy goodness to wash down too many Cheddar Bay Biscuits and drawn butter on every form of crustacean. Sometimes you crave as many calories as a linebacker while dreaming of Don Johnson.” —Kimberly Patton-Bragg, beverage director, Palm&Pine, New Orleans

“Buffalo Wild Wings’ Blue Long Island Iced Tea. This drink is particularly special because often a Long Island Iced Tea can come with an air of the infamous or the notorious, but when I started bartending I learned a rule: When you see a blue drink, you order the blue drink — no questions asked! This is how I came to connect with my first BWW Blue Long Island. Nothing makes you feel out of the stress of the city and like you’re truly off the clock like a blue cocktail in a pint glass. I am very public with my love for the drink; however, I definitely would consider it a guilty pleasure. As a longtime cocktail bartender, I deeply care and love cocktail technique and house-made ingredients, but sometimes you don’t need the frills. The ease and pleasure from getting a giant yet simple pour-over drink just hits the spot. —Annie Howard Shaner, bartender, Abe’s Pagoda, The Wayland, Midnights, NYC

“P.F. Chang’s Japanese Old Fashioned, containing Mars Iwai 45 Japanese Whisky, bitters, pure cane sugar, [and] smoky aromatics. The smoky nature of this take on an Old Fashioned perfectly cuts through the rich and spicy flavors of the dishes on their menu. It particularly pairs well with Chang’s Spicy Chicken.” —Melissa Waugh, bartender, KR Steakbar, Atlanta

“The Perfect Margarita from Applebee’s with their spinach dip is my guilty pleasure. I go once a week as my getaway because it’s quiet and nobody knows me. They serve it to you pre-batched in a shaker so you can pour it at your leisure. The combination of the salt from the chips complements the Margarita so well, I don’t even put salt on the rim (just a pinch in the drink itself).” Thandi Walton, head of beverage, Thompson Buckhead, Atlanta

“Benihana’s signature Blue Ocean Punch Bowl (recommended for two but they only provide one straw, so you draw your own conclusions). Described on the menu as “a tropical blue concoction with RumHaven, New Amsterdam Pineapple Vodka, sake, blue curaçao, and tropical fruit juices,” this violently blue drink strictly adheres to Benihana’s unwritten theme of “more is more” with flavors of pineapple, orange, lemon, and coconut (each as bright and artificial as the drink’s hue) and served in a literal fishbowl. Finishing this saccharin monstrosity proves an almost herculean task, but one to which I return each February (Valentine’s Day at Benihana is a tradition for my partner and I).” —Laura Unterberg, head bartender, The Fox Bar & Cocktail Club, Nashville

“The Presidente Margarita at Chili’s. When I first turned 21, we would go and drink Margaritas at Chili’s and eat endless amounts of chips and salsa. The touch of brandy helped me fall in love with the Presidente Margarita above all others. I’m typically a “two-ingredient” drink kinda gal, so getting something beyond that is out of the norm for me.” —Caitlin Lapinel, bar manager, Osaka Ramen, Denver

“The Margarita at Buffalo Wild Wings. What makes it special is getting a solid version of a classic cocktail at a place that is mostly known for beer and wings. And a classic Marg pairs perfectly with chicken wings. Don’t get a spicy Marg, ‘cause that becomes too same on same. But a classic, tart, well-made Margarita will cut through the fat and spice of those chicken wings on any game day.” Adam “George” Fournier, U.S. Bartender of the Year, 2021 World Class Sponsored by Diageo, Los Angeles

“Lobsterita from Red Lobster. It’s made with Sauza Gold Tequila, triple sec, and strawberry. What I love about it is the balanced and refreshing flavor — the sweetness of the strawberry, complementing the tartness of the triple sec, compounding with the boldness of the tequila. I get it as a dessert every time I happen to find myself at Red Lobster.” —Bash Hovian, director, BASH the bartender, Los Angeles