As unofficial cultural overlord Bill Murray taught us, there are actually a few useful ways to deal with the eternal repetition of “now”: learn piano, rethink your views on 19th century French poetry, reconnect with high school friends. By the end of the day, if America’s Sweetheart Andie MacDowell isn’t in love with you, well, you can always try again.
But what do we do when it comes to the entirely non-supernatural, mind-numbingly mundane repetition of alcoholic beverages? What’s the cure for the unspoken, year-long Groundhog Day that is the repeat drink order? And no, we don’t mean sweet vermouth on the rocks, with a twist (Though it does remind us of Rome. The way the sun hits the buildings in the afternoon…) We mean drinks like rum and coke, Chardonnay, vodka soda, etc. The liquid crutches we all lean on when bar menus either intimidate—“craft gin infused with foraged citrus peels,” “house-made garam masala tincture,” etc.—or noise/crowd levels force quick decisions. By your 347th whiskey rocks, you might feel like you’ve lived this Happy Hour one too many times.
Since there’s no symbolic rodent for any of us to kidnap in protest, we figure we might as well address the problem head-on, find ways to jostle ourselves out of a few of the most common drink orders—lest we find ourselves in a Sonny and Cher-scored beverage hell of our own making.
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Jameson on the Rocks: This one’s easy. Really. Ask for another Irish Whiskey (here’s a good list). Get wild and go Canadian, or if you and your bank account are up for it, try a Single Malt Scotch. Wildcard option: Añejo tequila, oak-aged, often good for sipping, built on an entirely different flavor profile backbone than whiskey.
Chardonnay: Strategies here vary. If you’re at a giant sports bar with one or two whites and one or two reds, choices won’t be plentiful. In that case, and if you’re a determined white wine drinker, just try the other option—once. Chances are, if it’s a sports bar, you’ll get something far less flabby/oaky (though possibly erring on the side of insanely acidic Pinot Grigio). If you’re at a wine bar with some decent wine selection, ask for a Pinot Gris that’s gone through malolactic fermentation. If it’s a good wine bar, they’ll know what that means. (And if you read this, so will you.)
IPA: Ah, IPA lovers, how to wrest that bottle of hyper-hopped beer from your pine-loving hands? IPA is an easy choice, especially at a bar you may not be entirely familiar with, because you’ll know (roughly) what you’re getting. But IPAs are also palate-busters, often higher ABV and more expensive. Slow your night down with the balanced malt and hops of an American Pale Ale. Flavor profiles are a bit more evenly divided here, with plenty to mull around the tongue. Alternate option: ask what’s on the draft list, go for something seasonal.
Rum and (Diet) Coke: Coke is actually a fairly good mixer for rum, but if you like rum, give it a chance to show its stuff beyond the realm of the Real Thing. We say go for a Daiquiri, a classic rum vehicle that—despite over-sugared interlopers—is actually a very simple, very drinkable concoction (light rum, lime, sugar). If you prefer dark rum, you can actually try a daiquiri that way. Note: don’t let anyone put Sour Mix into your drink. Ever.
Vodka Soda: A favorite low-calorie, super simple option where your favorite middle or top shelf vodka gets a bit of a spritz. But if you go the way of the Gimlet (which can be Vodka or Gin), you’ll get added flavor without a huge uptick in calorie counts. Just a couple tablespoons of Rose’s Lime Juice and some fresh lime will give you as refreshing and bright a drink, and probably earn you a couple points with a bartender tired of making vodka sodas.
Gin and Tonic: The G&T—no reason (like any of these drinks) not to love and lovingly rely on it. But also no reason to keep the juniper bite of gin in perpetual battle with the quinine bite of tonic. If you can handle the flavor profile of the G&T, you can probably take on a classic Gin Martini, which again might earn you bartender cred, but more importantly, will reintroduce you to decent gin and the endless liquid possibilities contained in a single night out.
PBR: Or some other sh*tty macrobeer. You’re that guy/gal, and that’s fine. We all are, sometimes. But every night out shouldn’t feature you holding a can of something mass-produced and two-toned. If you’re more comfortable with an affordable can, that’s probably not a problem anymore, since plenty of craft breweries are getting into the more efficient (more affordable) can game. When in doubt, Butternut’s Porkslap is usually priced a buck (or so) above PBR, and gives you more bang for your buck with its English Pale Ale malt-style flavor profile.
Margarita: Another easy pleaser, and definitely on the classic drink order list, but not a constant go-to, not least because a lot of bars will just douse some low-rung tequila with sour mix and maybe pass it by a bottle of Triple Sec. If you like a Margarita, try a Paloma—tequila, grapefruit juice and club soda (or, if it’s there, Jarritos grapefruit soda), and a lime wedge. A long drink – meaning you can sip it for a while – refreshing, with plenty of bite and bonus points Vitamin C.
Vodka Cranberry: Another “easy” two-note drink, with bracing astringent cranberry juice masking some of the harshness of well vodka. But it’s been a long day (endless, really) and don’t you deserve better? You do, which is why you should order a Cosmopolitan. Disregard any and all Sex and the City references. Cosmopolitan cocktails are good: vodka, lime juice, cranberry (but not so much that you’re drowning in juicy sugar), and Cointreau. Take a sip and before you know it, you’ll want to go save the neighborhood kid who keeps climbing that stupid tree…