What should I order at a bar?

I love fancy cocktail bars, but there’s nothing like the comfort of a dive. Worn in barstools, dishes of peanuts that aren’t artisanal, and a predictably stocked bar all make dive bars homey and amazing. A standard Bar with a capital B generally comes with a standard liquor supply. That’s to say you’ll see the same bottles over and over again no matter which dive bar you go to. Just because these bottles are commonplace doesn’t mean they’re good – or bad. We decided to test our tastebuds (and wallets) and see which oft-stocked bottles are (and are not) worth drinking. We’re recommending (or warning you against) bottles based on if they taste good when you take their price into account, and if they do well in no-fuss cocktails available at any bar. Read on to find out what’s worth ordering at a dive bar.

1. Grey Goose

What should I order at a bar?In part because of the cameos Goose has had in lots of hip hop songs, the vodka has become emblematic of luxury drinking. Why? I couldn’t tell you. Although vodka is neutral in general, I find Grey Goose weirdly dull and bitter at the same time. It’s also too expensive. Not worth it.

Should You Drink It?

Nope. There’s no reason you should pay that much for “eh” vodka.

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2. Beefeater

What should I order at a bar?Beefeater is a fairly inexpensive British gin that has widespread popularity in cheaper bars. In the US, its ABV clocks in at a gentle 80 proof. Beefeater is a great for-value gin. Although it isn’t super complex, it’s very mellow and has a nice citrus overlay. It’s also a great gin for a classic Gin & Tonic, which you can order at any bar. If you can’t order a Gin & Tonic, then you’re not in a bar, you’re in a pet store, or something.

Should You Drink It?

Yes. You should absolutely order a G&T with Beefeater.

3. Jack Daniels

What should I order at a bar?I never saw as much disappointment in my father’s eyes as I did when I told him I’d kicked back a few Jack & Gingers at a party – not because I’d been drinking, but because I’d shown very poor taste. I used to think of drinking Jack as a triumph because it burns going down. But decent whiskey shouldn’t have that sort of burn (you know, the toxic kind).

Should You Drink It?

No. Do not drink Jack under any circumstances. The cheapness is not worth the pain.

4. Captain Morgan

What should I order at a bar?A hoity-toity rum this is not, but Captain Morgan has a nice bit of spice and flavor, making it ideal for a $3 Rum & Coke. Again, it’s not fancy, but it’s definitely a good B+ rum that has a suitable standalone taste.

Should You Drink It?

Yes. You can enjoy Captain Morgan in a two ingredient drink.

5. Makers Mark

What should I order at a bar?Makers Mark is only a bit more upscale than Jack, but it’s infinitely better tasting. Though it doesn’t have the super rich taste and layered body of some other bourbons not found at a dive bar, it’s a lot smoother, sweeter, and more palatable than Jack. In fact, it’s downright good.

Should You Drink It?

Absolutely. Have a Makers and cola instead of a Jack & Ginger.

6. Jose Cuervo (Gold)

What should I order at a bar?Do you think you hate tequila? Jose Cuervo might deserve credit for that bitterness. This is hangover in a bottle. It’s far too sweet, too fake, and too reminiscent of bad college decisions. It’s also not cheap enough to justify using it to get drunk efficiently.

Should You Drink It?

Not enough nopes in the world.

7. Skyy

What should I order at a bar?The first time I went to Vegas, I saw that bouncers were bribing hoards of women (myself including) to attend certain clubs with drink tickets. Sweet! I thought. Until I realized the tickets were only redeemable for Skyy vodka. Skyy isn’t horrible, but it’s so boring it’s almost offensive. Nevertheless, it’s at the right price for a mixing vodka.

Should You Drink It?

Why not?

8. Tanqueray

What should I order at a bar?I actually like Beefeater better than Tanqueray. Tanq is a little more expensive and, in my opinion, a bit harsher. Tanqueray 10, a variation of the original Tanq, is far sweeter and a little more balanced and less in your face with the juniper that its predecessor. When it comes to two ingredient cocktails, I find Beefeater more suitable than Tanq. The super dominant flavor takes over a simple soda mixer. Use Tanqueray in a craft cocktail instead.

Should You Drink It?

Not in simple cocktails.

9. Pinnacle

What should I order at a bar?Pinnacle comes in a lot of different flavors, several of which are often stocked at a single bar. I beg you not to drink it. In fact, I beg you to never drink flavored vodka, period. You’d be better off mixing actual whipped cream with vodka than drinking Pinnacle Whipped.

Should You Drink It?

Please don’t.

10. Kahlúa

What should I order at a bar?
Courtesy of Kahlúa

Kahlúa is probably one of the few liqueurs you’ll see at a dive bar (besides Baileys). Coffee plus booze is generally an A+ combination in my book, and Kahlúa is no exception. It won’t give you a mouthgasm, but it’s not super saccharine either. If you’re not afraid to look silly, Kahlúa is a fine thing to order.

Should You Drink It?

As much as your pride allows you to.

11. Fireball

What should I order at a bar?I only tried Fireball recently, and my first reaction was nausea. It tastes like hot tamales – the candy, I mean. However, I found myself inexplicably wanting to drink more (though I assure you, I disliked it). This leads me to believe Fireball has chemically addictive properties similar to those found in sushi. I would advocate drinking Fireball at a very dimly lit bar as opposed to in the cold light of day or in the quarters of your own home.

Should You Drink It?

Probably not.

Header image via Flickr / Mimis Upstairs Bar